Raku Kichizaemon (樂吉左衛門)

Kichizaemon RAKU is a name inherited from generation to generation by the leader of the Raku family of chawanshi (tea bowl maker) who makes Raku-yaki ware, which is one of the Senke jissoku (Senke's ten designated craftsmen families). As of 2007, the fifteenth (1949-, succeeded in 1980) is the leader. There were various opinions on the genealogy especially around the beginning. Today, the consensus opinion announced in 1955 by the fourteenth (Kakunyu) is accepted officially. The following description also follows this opinion.

Donyu the 3rd and the leaders following Donyu the 3rd are given a name called Nyudo-go (nyudo: lay-monk, go: pseudonym) which includes the Kanji of "入" (Nyu) when they are retired. They often called by these names after they have passed away. Incidentally, the names Donyu, Tokunyu, Seinyu, and Kakunyu were given after death.


Chojiro, the first leader of the Raku family was born between the father Ameya from China who was the originator of the Raku-yaki and the mother who was a bikuni (female Buddhist disciple). He brought out the expertise to create tea bowls covered with kuroyu (black glaze), which became a synonym for the RAKU family.

After Chojiro's death, Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI gave a golden seal with one kanji character "樂" (raku) derived from the characters of Jurakudai (name of Hideyoshi's residence) to the grandfather of Chojiro's wife Sokei TANAKA. This was the origin of the Raku family. It is thought that as Sokei had the same family name of TANAKA as SEN no Rikyu, he had a close relation to Rikyu.

Although Sokei and his first son Somi (Chojiro's father in law) involved deeply in the creation activity of the Raku family, Jokei RAKU the second son of Sokei became the second leader of the RAKU family because it was thought to be a delicate matter that Sokei and Somi had a friendly relationship with Hideyoshi of the previous administration. After that Jokei took the name Kichizaemon for the first time. The relation with the Edo bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) was good due to intercession by Koetsu HONAMI, and a koro (incense burner) made by Jokei was buried in the grave of Hidetada TOKUGAWA at the Shiba Zojo-ji temple.

The leader was succeeded as the third by Donyu the first son of Jokei. Donyu, also called Nonko or Nonkau, was an expert of Raku-yaki and is even said that he perfected the technique of glaze. Incidentally, except for Chojiro, Donyu, who took the name "Kichibe", was the only leader who did not take the name Kichizaemon.

After that, successive leaders up to the fifteenth of today have created various works

Successive leaders

The first Chojiro (?-1589)
The second Jokei RAKU (1561-1635)
The second son of Sokei TANAKA (regarded as a lieutenant of Chojiro). He began to make tea bowls of large and distorted shape, and to use white glaze called koro-yu (glaze of incense burner). He had a relationship with Koetsu HONAMI.

The third Donyu RAKU (1599-1656)
The first son of the second. The name was Kichibe, later Kichizaemon. Also called "Nonko." His specialty was the brilliant style using various glaze including vermilion and yellow, which was completely different from that of the first and the second. It is considered that the style was influenced by Koetsu HONAMI.

The fourth Ichinyu (1640-1696)
A son of the third. The name was Sakube, later Kichizaemon. His specialty was the style having brilliance with a quiet tone; he created the style referring to the works of the first leader as a role model and bringing in the technique of his father.

The fifth Sonyu RAKU (1664-1716)
A son of Sanemon KARIGANEYA, adopted by the family of his wife, who was a daughter of the fourth leader. The name was Heishiro, later Sokichi. Succeeded the name Kichizaemon at the age of 28. He accelerated a recursion trend toward the style of Chojiro.

The sixth Sanyu (1685-1739)
The second son of Kahe YAMATOYA, adopted by the family of his wife, who was a daughter of the fifth leader. He has an established reputation about tea bowls of 'Koetsu-utsushi' (replica of Koetsu's work). His representative work is the Sanyu Nihyaku (two hundred) series created in 1733.

The seventh Chonyu (1714-1770)
The first son of the sixth. Under the circumstance that the Sado population was increasing while extending even to townspeople, he created many works other than tea bowls including kogo (incense container) and hanaire (vase). His representative work is the Nichiren Statue (possessed by the RAKU family).

The eighth Tokunyu (1745-1774). The first son of the seventh. In 1852 at the time his father retired, he succeeded the name. But after his father's death, he transferred the head of the family to his younger brother because of his sickliness and took a name Sahe when he retired. After that he had continued creation but died young at thirty. At his Nijyugokaiki (the 24th anniversary of one's death), the name Tokunyu was given and became accounted in the successive leaders officially.

The ninth Ryonyu (1756-1834)
The second son of the seventh. He was called the "excellent craftsman ever since the third, " and his specialty was artful formative design by paddle carving. In 1825, he retired and moved to Ishiyama, Omi Province, then took life easy.

The tenth Tannyu (1795-1854)
The second son of the ninth. In 1811, he succeeded to the position of family head. He visited the Kishu Tokugawa Family with the ninth grand master of Omote Sen-ke, Ryoryosai and contributed to construct the Kairakuen kiln. After that he also contributed to construct the Nishinomaru oniwa yaki (the western enclosure terrace kiln) and Minato Goten Seineiken kiln. For these merits, he was bestowed a kanji character "Raku" from Harutomi TOKUGAWA in 1826. It is said that his style was artful and gorgeous with introducing the style and design of the Oribe-yaki (Oribe ware), Iga-yaki (Iga ware) or Seto-yaki (Seto ware).

The eleventh Keinyu (1817-1902)
The third son of Naohachi OGAWA, a sake brewer of Chitose village, Minami kuwada county, Tanba Province (present day, Chitose-cho, Kameoka City, Kyoto Prefecture). He was adopted by the family of his wife, who was a daughter of the tenth leader. In 1845, he succeeded to the position of family head. In the doldrums of Sado after the Meiji Restoration, he contributed to maintain the family business by efforts such as to offer works to the nobilities of former-daimyo.

The twelfth Konyu (1857-1932)
The first son of the eleventh. In 1871, he succeeded to the position of family head. He left few works in his youth because Sado was on a decline, but he made many woks in his last years. It is said that his specialty was in bold paddle work. After he retired in 1919, he took life easy staying in the family residence in Kyoto or the country house in Ishiyama, Shiga Prefecture.

The thirteenth Seinyu (1887-1944)
The first son of the twelfth. He studied glaze and technique most eagerly among the successive leaders, and also studied kaden (hereditary learning) of the RAKU family. He published a magazine "Sado Seseragi" (stream of Sado) during 1935 to 1942 to present achievement of these studies.
In his last years, as the Pacific War began, his first son the successor was called up for military service, and it became difficult to continue studies and making pottery due to insufficient supplies
He died in such a stagnating condition.

The fourteenth Kakunyu (1918-1980)
The first son of the thirteenth. In 1940, he graduated the department of sculpture of the Tokyo School of Fine Arts (present Tokyo University of Arts). After graduation, he was called up for military service. When he came home alive in 1945, his father had already died in the previous year and Sado was on a decline. After 1960, in the period of economic boom, his work gained affluence. It is said that his specialty of steric design by using the theory of sculpture is unique among other successive leaders. In 1978, he set up the Raku Museum based on the historical materials inherited by successive leaders. In the same year, he was designated as the Living National Treasure by the Agency for Cultural Affairs. Although his further activity was expected, he died suddenly two years later.

The fifteenth Kichizaemon RAKU (1949-), present leader. Real name is Mitsuhiro. Graduated Kyoto Prefectural Suzaku Senior High School, then the department of sculpture of the Tokyo University of Arts. Studied at the Rome Academia in Italy. Succeeded the name in November, 1981. He has received various prizes from home and abroad, and also received high evaluation as a "ceramic artist" not as just a craft worker. In 1997, he received the Oribe prize.

[Original Japanese]