Broadcast on November 5, 2015
Available until March 31, 2029
Two crabs cling to the edge of a roughly hewn ceramic bowl coated in brown glaze. Every detail of the crabs is perfectly realistic but they, too, are a part of the bowl. It was created by Miyagawa Kouzan, a ceramic artist who made his name in Kyoto while young and then relocated to Yokohama. Ceramics were one of Japan’s representative exports in the latter half of the 19th century and their makers were required to hone their skills to the ultimate in order to send out products that would impress the world. The reckoning came at the great exhibitions then being held in the West. Kouzan’s reputation was cemented by his extraordinary decorative sculpture-like high-reliefs called “takaukibori”, including the crabs we see here. This is the story of a craftsman who shouldered the weight of national prestige on the boundaries of the traditional and the new, Japan and the outside world.