8th May 2024

Kosen Kiln's Workshop: A Magical Mystery Tour of Nabeshima Celadon

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Nestled amidst the lush greenery of Okawachiyama, just a fifteen-minute drive from the town center, lies Kosen Kiln's workshop, a sanctuary where the art of Nabeshima celadon is meticulously preserved and passed down through generations. On this special occasion, we were warmly welcomed by Kawasoe Takahiko, the kiln master, who graciously opened the doors to his world of exquisite craftsmanship.

The kiln's current location holds a poignant story of resilience and adaptation. Once situated higher up the hill from the Kosen Kiln Gallery, it was tragically struck by the devastating flood of 1973. Undeterred, the kiln was relocated to its present site in 1974, where it has continued to flourish as a beacon of artistry.

While the kiln itself is not open to the public, we were granted a rare privilege to step into this hidden sanctuary and witness the intricate processes that bring Nabeshima celadon to life. Join us as we embark on a captivating journey into the heart of this time-honored tradition.


  • Celadon Glazing
  • Medaka Series
  • Firing at Kosen Kiln

Celadon Glazing

Kawasoe introduced us to two significant minerals pivotal to Nabeshima celadon. The first one, known as Amakusa stone, is a key ingredient in Arita ware. The discovery of this mineral in 1616 marked the beginning of Japan's pottery history. This stone, ground into a fine clay, becomes the canvas for the porcelain body, which transforms into a pristine white porcelain upon firing.

The other mineral, essential for making celadon, has a slight yellowish hue rather than blue or green, and has been mined in Okawachiyama since the Edo period (1603 CE–1868 CE). It is said that Okawachiyama, the site of Nabeshima ware, is currently the only place in Japan where celadon stone is mined and used exclusively as a natural raw material to produce celadon wares.

This stone is crushed using a device called a stamp mill and mixed with well water to create the glaze.

The task of applying the glaze was performed by Takahiko's father, Kawasoe Torataka. He applied the glaze both on the inside and the outside. While white porcelain requires only one coat of glaze, celadon needs two: "You apply the first coat, let it dry in the drying room, and then apply the second coat inside," Takahiko explained. "Doing it all at once would increase production, but it wouldn't yield the fine celadon color. The glaze must be applied thickly."

As a result, even the same designs in white and celadon porcelain differ in the thickness of their glaze; the white being thinner and crisper, while the celadon feels robust and warm.

Medaka Series

Next, we were shown the popular Medaka Rice Fish series. The pairing of the translucent celadon hues with the lively and elegant illustrations of medaka rice fish swimming effortlessly captures the essence of Kosen Kiln. The painter's confident brush strokes swiftly bring the sprightly fish to life, embodying a poised yet delicate charm indicative of masterful craftsmanship.

However, this series comes with its challenges. Plates with a flat bottom and no foot often crack after painting and firing.

"While this issue does not arise with mugs or other designs," Kawasoe explains, "the Medaka series' unique plate shape seems particularly susceptible to cracking. We are currently investigating the cause, and this remains a significant challenge in the production of this series."

Even for Kawasoe, a seasoned master of Nabeshima celadon, the art form's complexities present ongoing difficulties, underscoring the delicate and intricate nature of this craft. Yet, it is precisely these obstacles that enhance the mystique of Nabeshima celadon, emphasizing the extensive knowledge and skill needed to produce such exquisite creations.

View Medaka Rice Fish Series

Firing at Kosen Kiln

This is where the kilns are fired twice a week, utilizing both a large and a smaller kiln. Originally, only the larger kiln was in use, but about two years ago, as production increased, the smaller kiln was repaired and both are now operational. All firings are done manually.

"Depending on the season, the pressure adjustments vary. Nowadays, most kilns are automated, but because we deal with celadon, we must make adjustments based on the specific conditions at the time," Kawasoe explains.

The dishes are tightly stacked up for firing, their orderly arrangement almost sculptural in beauty. The items intentionally designed to have kannyu are placed towards the top.

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Further back in the room, there is also a smaller kiln used for prototypes.

"Whether it's creating original pieces for MUSUBI KILN or tackling other projects, having a test kiln allows us to work quickly, which is one of my strengths," Kawasoe happily shares.

Stepping into Kosen Kiln, we witnessed the enduring beauty of hand craftsmanship. The artisans, deeply attuned to the nuances of Nabeshima celadon embrace the challenges with unwavering passion, their dedication evident in every glaze, every stroke, and every adjustment.

Their work, a testament to the delicate balance of artistry and technical expertise, defies automation. It is in this simplicity that lies the true complexity and allure of Kosen Kiln's artistry.

As we held a piece of Kosen Kiln's Nabeshima celadon, we felt not merely an object but a story, a legacy of passion, perseverance, and artistic brilliance. It is a tangible reminder of the exquisiteness that emerges when human hands and minds collaborate with the elements, transforming humble clay into objects of timeless elegance and enduring value. 

We believe that anyone who experiences a piece from Kosen Kiln will immediately recognize and appreciate its distinct charm.

View Kosen Kiln Collection