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Shōji Hamada

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Hamada at the University of Michigan, 1967 or 1968
Thrown, combed tea bowl by Shoji Hamada

Shōji Hamada (濱田 庄司, Hamada Shōji, December 9, 1894 – January 5, 1978) was a Japanese potter. He had a significant influence on studio pottery of the twentieth century, and a major figure of the mingei (folk-art) movement, establishing the town of Mashiko as a world-renowned pottery centre.[1] In 1955 he was designated a "Living National Treasure".


Hamada was born in Kawasaki, Japan, in 1894, and was named Shoji (象ニ).

After finishing his studies at the elite Hibiya High School, he studied ceramics at Tokyo Institute of Technology, then known as Tokyo Industrial College[2] with Kawai Kanjirō under Itaya Hazan. As the sole students in the school interested in becoming artist-potters, Hamada and the slightly elder Kawai were soon friends, touring the city in search of inspiration.[3][4] They worked together in Kyoto at the former body of the Kyoto Municipal Institute of Industrial Technology and Culture[5] where they experimented on glazes using various minerals. They were acquainted by Yanagi Sōetsu and Tomimoto Kenkichi while visiting potteries and exhibitions.

Hamada was deeply impressed by a Tokyo exhibition of ceramic art by Bernard Leach, who was then staying with Yanagi Sōetsu, and wrote to Leach seeking an introduction.[3] The two found much in common and became good friends, so much so that Hamada asked and was granted permission to accompany Leach to England in 1920 when the latter decided to return and establish a pottery there.[2]

Pottery in Mashiko[edit]

Having spent three years in St Ives with Bernard Leach, he returned to Japan in 1923 and traveled to potteries and stayed at Tsuboya in Okinawa Prefecture for weeks, then eventually established his workshop in Mashiko, about 100 km (62 mi) north-east of Tokyo. Here, he built his own pottery and committed himself to using only locally sourced materials, not only in the clay he used, but also the glazes he created and the brushes he manufactured himself from dog hair and bamboo.[6]

In 1955 the Japanese government designated him "Living National Treasure", the first time for someone from the field of crafts. The previous year on 29 May 1954, the Cultural Property Protection Act had been amended, and a new Preservers of Important Intangible Cultural Properties (Jūyō Mukei Bunkazai Hojisha) designation was passed the bill in November for its criteria and approval details.[7]

Following Yanagi Muneyoshi, Hamada was enthusiastic about folk art movement in Japan. When Yanagi died in 1961, he succeeded as the second director of the Japanese Folk Crafts Museum, and in 1977, he opened his own museum at his home, Mashiko Sankōkan (present Shoji Hamada Memorial Mashiko Sankokan Museum),[8] and exhibited his collection of folk crafts from Japan and abroad.

Hamada Shoji was very supportive of young artists who moved to Mashiko such as his student Shimaoka Tatsuzō, and Kamoda Shōji, and was also important in establishing Mashiko as a destination for day tourism. He provided housing and hosted workplace for visiting potters from abroad as well.

Hamada died in Mashiko on January 5, 1978.

Preserving local architecture[edit]

Shōji Hamada Memorial Mashiko Sankokan Museum

Since he moved to Mashiko, Hamada bought, relocated, and refurbished traditional farm houses, stone warehouses, and nagaya-mon gatehouses of Edo period unique to southern Tochigi Prefecture on his property. The first was his residence in 1930,[8] followed by others he used as workshops and for entertaining guests and apprentices, with the last one used since 1942 as his workshop. In 1989 his residence was donated to and rebuilt at Mashiko Museum of Ceramic Art, or Ceramic Art Messe Mashiko,[8] after the house was designated a cultural property of Mashiko.[9] The museum is still open today and visitors can view Hamada's studio, living quarters, and various craft collections.[8]


Throughout a lifetime dedicated to making pottery he achieved international recognition and his works have been collected by museums across the world. Hamada’s influence was felt not only in his native Japan, particularly in Mashiko, but also in the West. In the United Kingdom and the US, his style and philosophy became well known amongst studio potters, and he was revered as the archetypal "Oriental" potter.

A square plate with iron pigment brushwork by Shōji Hamada

Today Hamada's works attain high prices at auction.[10][11] In the UK, examples of his work can be seen at the York Art Gallery.

A young Sardar Gurcharan Singh met him and further developed his style of pottery in India.[12][13][14]

Awards and merits[edit]


Further reading[edit]


Hamada's own works[edit]

  1. Hamada, Shoji; Yanagi, Muneyoshi (1966). Shoji Hamada. Tokyo: Asahi Shimbun Publishing Company.[† 1]
  2. Hamada, S. (1969). The Works in Shoji Hamada, 1921-1969. Tokyo: Asahi Shimbun Publishing Company.[† 1]
  3. Hamada, S. (1977). Hamada Shoji Ten [Hamada Shoji Exhibition] (in Japanese). Tokyo: Nihon Keizai Shinbunsha.[† 1]
  4. Hamada, S. (1972). Okinawan pottery. Okinawa: Ryukyu Telegraph and Telephone Public Corp. OCLC 84482222.
  5. Hamada, S.; Serizawa, Keisuke; Tonomura, Kichinosuke (1972). Sekai no mingei [Mingei of the World] (in Japanese). Sugano Yoshikatsu (photograph). Asahi Shimbun Publishing Company. OCLC 703795769.[† 2]
  6. Hamada, S. (1974). Mujinzo [Limitless]. Asahi Shimbun Publishing Company. With time table by Mizuo Hiroshi, pp. 336–341[† 3]
  7. Hamada, S. (1976). Kama ni makasete [As the Kiln Goes]. Nihon Keizai Shinbunsha. OCLC 703789746. With time table by Mizuo Hiroshi, pp. 185–204.[† 4]
  8. "Shoji Hamada Memorial Mashiko Sankokan Museum". Jnto Japan.[† 1]
  9. "Hamada, Shoji". Encyclopedia.com. The Gale Group Inc. Retrieved 29 October 2017.

Works by others[edit]

  • Leach, Bernard (1940). A Potter's Book. Soyetsu Yanagi, Michael Cardew (introductions). London: Faber and Faber. OCLC 1942788.[† 5]
  • Leach, Bernard (1960). A Potter in Japan, 1952–1954. London: Faber and Faber. OCLC 922076982. 246 pp. Ill., ports.; 21 cm.[† 6]
  • Peterson, Susan; Green, Richard (1974). Shoji Hamada: a potter's way and work. Tokyo; New York: Kodansha International, distributed by Harper & Row. ISBN 9780870114649. OCLC 456509609. 239 pp. Ill. (some col.); 27 cm.
  • Leach, Bernard (1990). Hamada, Potter. Warren MacKenzie (preface), Janet Darnell Leach (foreword). Tokyo; New York: Kodansha International, distributed in the US by Kodansha International/USA. ISBN 9780870112522. OCLC 2401330. 232 pp. Ill. (some col.); 26 cm.
  • Birks, Tony; Digby, Cornelia Wingfield (1990). Bernard Leach, Hamada & Their Circle. Peter Kinnear (photographs). Oxford: Phaidon Christie's. OCLC 123753963.[† 1]

Exhibition catalogs[edit]

  • Kawai, Kanjirō; Hamada, Shōji (1929). Beaux Arts Gallery (ed.). Exhibition of stoneware pottery by Kanjiro Kawai (of Kyoto, Japan). London: Beaux Arts Gallery. OCLC 913358760.[† 7]
  • Hamada, Shoji; Leach, Bernard (1990). The Quiet Eye: Pottery of Shoji Hamada and Bernard Leach. Monterey, CA: Monterey Peninsula Museum of Art; San Francisco Craft and Folk Art Museum. OCLC 733070373.[† 1]
  • Anderson, Laura; Hamada, Shoji; Picasso, Pablo; Prieto, Antonio (1993). From the Fire, Three Exhibitions in Clay: from the Prieto collection. Palo Alto, CA: Palo Alto Cultural Center.[† 1][† 8]
  • Six master potters of the modern age: an exhibition celebrating the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Leach Pottery. Babcock Galleries. 1995. OCLC 225128578.[† 9]
  • Hamada, S.; Wilcox, Timothy (1998). Shoji Hamada: Master Potter. Translated by Kikuchi, Yuko. London: Lund Humphries Publishers in association with Ditchling Museum. ISBN 9780853317289. OCLC 716255305.[† 1][† 10]
  • Hamada, Tomoo; Hamada, Shōji; Hamada, Shinsaku (2015). Into the Present: The Ceramic Art of Tomoo Hamada, Including Works by Shoji and Shinsaku Hamada. Boston, Massachusetts: Pucker Gallery. OCLC 913507820.[† 11]

Audio visual materials[edit]


  • Mashiko village pottery, Japan, 1937 [videorecording]: pottery-making in Japan.1 videocassette (VHS) (22 min.): si., black and white; 1/2 in. Shows the pottery techniques used by Mashiko potters. From the 1850s, these potters produced utilitarian ware for local markets, but the post-war period saw a change with the influence of renowned potter, Shoji Hamada. Held at University of Tasmania & Edith Cowan University. Edith Cowan University Library
  • The Potters' Society of Australia presents Shoji Hamada [videorecording]. Sydney: Closed Circuit Television, University of New South Wales, 1965. 1 videocassette (VHS)(50 min): sd., black and white; 1/2.Famous Japanese artist potter, Shoji Hamada demonstrates his unique techniques. Held in The University of Sydney. University of Sydney Library.
  • The Potters' Society of Australia presents...Shoji Hamada [videorecording]. Kensington, NSW: University of New South Wales. Audio Visual Unit, (198?)1 videocassette (VHS) (55 min.): sd., black and white; 1/2 in. Held in University of Newcastle. University of Newcastle Library
  • Shoji Hamada [videorecording]: a demonstration by Shoji Hamada.Audio-Visual Unit, UNSW, 1984. 1 videocassette (VHS) (48 min.): sd., black and white; 1/2 in. Held in Southern Cross University. University Library Lismore.
  • Shoji Hamada [videorecording]: a potter's way and work / written and narrated by Susan Peterson. New York: Weatherhill Press, 1995, c. 1996. 1 videocassette (VHS)(027 min.): sd., col.; 1/2 in.


  • Three potters throwing. [Motion picture]. Research & Education Dept, American Crafts Council, 1958. 20 mins: si. color; 16 mm.[† 12]
  • Fingers and Clay. 1 film reel (11 mins): sd., black and white; 16 mm. Producer, Malcolm Otton; director, editor, Christopher Cordeaux; script, J. Hawes; photographers, Edward Cranstone, Tom Cowan; sound, Gordon Wraxall.[† 13][† 14]
  • The art of the potter. [Motion picture] / Sidney Reichman and David Outerbridge. New York : Phoenix Films, 1977. 2 reels, 50 mins: sd., col.; 16 mm.[† 15][† 14]


  • Shoji Hamada [Pottery] [slide]. Tanyard, Wilts: Slides for Potters, [197-]. Held in The University of Melbourne. 23 slides: col. & + guide (Set 19). The University Library.[† 16]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Shoji Hamada (1894-1978)" (PDF). Arizona State University. Retrieved 2017-10-09.
  2. ^ Reprint, Hamada, S.; Serizawa, Keisuke; Tonomura, Kichinosuke (2012). Sekai no mingei [Mingei of the World] (in Japanese). Sugano Yoshikatsu (photograph). Nihon Tosho Center. ISBN 9784284502832. OCLC 779138648.
  3. ^ Reprint in paperbackHamada, S. (2000). Mujinzo [Limitless]. Kodansha bungei bunko. Kodansha. ISBN 9784061982161. OCLC 674842709.
  4. ^ Reprint.Hamada, S. (1997). Hamada Shoji: Kama ni makasete [Hamada Shoji: As the Kiln Goes]. Ningen no Kiroku. Nihon Tosho Center. ISBN 4820542931. OCLC 675393250. With time table, pp.161-177.
  5. ^ Translated into German, Japanese, and Spanish. Reprint in hardback. Leach, Bernard (2015). A Potter's Book. London: Unicorn. ISBN 9781910065167. OCLC 930816596.
  6. ^ Reprint. Leach, Bernard (2015). A Potter in Japan, 1952–1954. London: Unicorn Press. ISBN 9781910065174. OCLC 927982934.
  7. ^ Held between 9–27 July 1929.
  8. ^ Held between 17 January-25 April 1993. Works exhibited also included by Howard Kottler, Bernard Leach, Harrison McIntosh, Paul Soldner, Peter Voulkos, Beatrice Wood, Robert Arneson, and F. Carlton Ball.
  9. ^ Exhibition lasted between 15 September-14 October 1995, with works of Bernard Leach, Shoji Hamada, Warren MacKenzie, Shimaoka Tatsuzō, Randy Johnston, and Matsuzaki Ken.
  10. ^ Exhibitions held at
  11. ^ Exhibition held between 16 May-12 July 2015.
  12. ^ Shows potters Shōji Hamada, Antonio Prieto, and Peter Voulkos throwing pots.Held in University of New England. Dixson Library.
  13. ^ Pottery making as an artistic craft. Australian students and the Japanese master potter Shoji Hamada demonstrate techniques involved, and typical creative work is shown.
  14. ^ a b Held in www.sl.nsw.gov.au State Library of NSW
  15. ^ Presents the work of English potter Bernard Leach and Japanese potter Shōji Hamada. Shows each potter demonstrating and discussing his craft, beginning with the digging of clay through its firing in a kiln.
  16. ^ Slides for Potters
    • a. Bottle 1963. Slab-built, salt glaze.
    • b. Bottle. 1963. Slab, "Kaki" ash glaze.
    • c. Bottle, 1963. Tall slab-built, "Kaki".
    • d. Vase.1963. "Kaki" glaze, wax resist.
    • e. Pot. 1963. Flattened, iron brushwork.
    • f. Bottle. 1963. Tall rectangular wax resist.
    • g. Pot. 1963. Flattened, block glaze trail.
    • h. Bottle. 1963. Curved slab, wax resist.
    • i. Bottle. 1963. Thrown square brushwork, salt glaze.
    • j. Bottle. 1963. Slab, panelled decoration.
    • k. Bottle. 1963. Rectangular, finger sgraffito. Pot.


  1. ^ Organization, Japan National Tourism. "Mashiko | Tochigi Attractions | Travel Japan | JNTO". Travel Japan. Retrieved 2021-09-04.
  2. ^ a b Bernard, Leach (1975). Hamada, Potter. New York: Kodansha International Ltd. p. 34. ISBN 978-0870118289.
  3. ^ a b Leach, 1990:93
  4. ^ "Kawai Kanjiro". Eocene Arts. Retrieved 2017-10-09.
  5. ^ Kyoto Municipal Institute of Industrial Technology and Culture
  6. ^ Riddick, Sarah (1990). Green, Richard (ed.). Pioneer Studio Pottery: The Milner-White Collection. Lund Humphries Publishers Ltd. ISBN 0853315906. OCLC 214380411.
  7. ^ "Nihon dento kogeiten enkaku—Showa 29-nen (1954)" [History of traditional Japanese craft exhibition: 1954 (Showa 29)] (in Japanese). Japan Kōgei Association. Retrieved 2017-10-09.
  8. ^ a b c d "Hamada Shoji Kinen Mashiko Sankokan" [Shoji Hamada Memorial Mashiko Sankokan Museum] (in Japanese). Retrieved 2017-10-09.
  9. ^ "Shoji Hamada's House". Mashiko Museum of Ceramic Art. Retrieved 2017-10-09.
  10. ^ "Hamada Shoji: past results". Christie’s. Retrieved 2017-10-09.
  11. ^ "Shoji Hamada, prices and estimates". Retrieved 2017-10-09.
  12. ^ https://icaf.org.in/team-members/padma-shree-sardar-gurcharan-singh/
  13. ^ https://scroll.in/reel/1047039/a-documentary-revisits-legendary-studio-potter-gurcharan-singhs-journey-of-utility-and-beauty
  14. ^ https://theaidem.com/the-lotus-and-the-swan-a-television-documentary-by-nirmal-chander/
  15. ^ "Hamada Shōji" [Hamada Shoji] (in Japanese). Retrieved 2017-10-09.

External links[edit]