In Arita, the birthplace of Japanese porcelain, the Tsuji House has a 350-year history and superb technique for making white porcelain. Since the generation of the one hundred eleventh Emperor Reigen(1664), the Tsuji House has been taking orders for tableware from the Japanese Imperial Household. The House of Tsuji was the first kiln to make white porcelain tableware for imperial use. This distinction can be seen by comparing the other porcelain painters in Arita such as Kakiemon and Imaemon—Kakiemon House is called "the kiln of the common people" and Imaemon House is called "the kiln of the feudal domain," but Tsuji House is called "the kiln for the Imperial Household."
In the Meiji Era, the Tsuji House continued to make white porcelain tableware for the Imperial Household, to whom they supplied nearly all of their work. Therefore, there was no sign on their works, and only a few pieces were sold to private citizens as they were very difficult to purchase. Tsuji ceramics from this era are therefore extremely prized by collectors.
Working for the Imperial Household requires consistent creation of the best porcelain. Compared with "Somenishiki" (porcelain with blue underglaze and enamel overglaze), "Sometsuke" (blue underglazing with cobalt oxide) requires delicate and demanding craftsmanship because the porcelain painters must obtain all artistic effects through the use of a single color, cobalt blue. Sometsuke porcelain has fascinated people all over the world for centuries, and it accounts for a significant percentage of the world's collected porcelain and ceramics due to its popularity. However, very few porcelain painters produce Sometsuke ware at present. Of those who do make Sometsuke, the fourteenth Tsuji, Hitachi Tsuji, is recognised as a superb artist who crafts traditional arts to perfection.
The third generation of Tsuji, Kiuemon, were peerless, and supplied excellent white porcelains to the Japanese Imperial Household. Kiuemon Tsuji won praise from Emperor Reigen. Through the second master of the feudal domain, Mitsushige Nabeshima, Tsuji determined to become the kiln to produce porcelain for the Japanese Imperial Household, and received a special lantern with a pattern of the Imperial Chrysanthemum crest. The lantern was placed in a high position to light up the kiln covered by a hanging screen.
In 1706, the fourth generation of Tsuji, Kiuemon took an order of direct porcelain supply to the Japanese Imperial Household. As per the Emperor's wishes, Kiuemon accepted an official position of Hitachi-Daijyou, and was honoured with an Imperial message and an Imperial cup.
In 1750, as a special command from the emperor, the sixth generation of Tsuji was given orders for porcelain directly from the Imperial Household. He was honoured with an Imperial message and an Imperial cup.
In 1832, the ninth generation of Tsuji, Kiheiji was given Shishindenz, a hanging picture that shows the Emperor's main hall for formal ceremonies and official work.
In 1844, the tenth generation of Tsuji was given Oshitone, the emperor's framed throne, from Emperor Koukaku. It has been kept at the House of Tsuji as an heirloom.
In 1871, the eleventh generation of Tsuji, Katsuzo, resigned the official position of Hitachi-Daijyou as a result of reformation in the Japanese system of government. He was given an Imperial cup. In 1874, Tsuji was ordered to produce all tableware used in the Japanese Imperial Household. Katsuzo made the first western-style white porcelains in Japan, and supplied them to the Imperial Household.
In 1879 the Tsuji reserved a title of "Purveyor to the Imperial Household" for this emperor's generation. This Tsuji concentrated on making high-class porcelain art and tableware for the Imperial Household. In these years, he sent his arts for exhibition inside/outside of Japan, and received prizes several times.
The first Hitachi Tsuji never neglected his work and study. His work was applicable to fine art, and he put the traditional technique of Somenishiki (porcelain with underglaze blue and overglaze enamels) to practical use of new and fully worked-out designs. His work won wide admiration in the field of art.
The fourteenth generation of the Tsuji House, Hitachi Tsuji the 14th, made Western-style tableware with a rose pattern for the first time after World War II. The Emperor and the Empress of Japan have used them. He accepted an order with honour, making an arabesque pattern on Sometsuke plates with the Imperial Chrysanthemum crest.
In Spring of 1990, Hitachi Tsuji the 14th made a cup for the coming-of-age ceremony of the Imperial princess Norinomiya.
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