30 April 2024

Reviving Tradition: Kawasoe Takahiko's Vision for Nabeshima Ware

During a visit to Okawachiyama, the home of Imari Nabeshima ware, Team Musubi ventured into the Kosen Kiln gallery and cafe. Established in the first year of the Heisei era (1989 CE–2019 CE), the building features a traditional tile roof and white walls, common in this region. The building has a charming exterior, characterized by its many large windows, which provide a view of the stunning products displayed inside. Behind the modern, graphic design items, traditional pieces like celadon and colored Nabeshima ware can be seen, further enhanced by seasonal decorations and flowers arranged in between.

This visit provided us an opportunity to speak with Kawasoe Takahiko, the master of Kosen Kiln, about the kiln's celadon, its path to rejuvenation during a business downturn, and the future of Nabeshima ware.


  • Kosen Kiln and Celadon
  • Path to Renewal
  • The Future of Nabeshima Ware
  • Kosen Kiln Gallery & Café Kosen

Kosen Kiln and Celadon

The Kawasoe family, founders of Kosen Kiln, have been craftsmen specializing in decorative ornaments and glaze research for generations. The kiln was established in 1963 by Takahiko's grandfather, the late Kawasoe Tameo. Driven by a strong desire to popularize Nabeshima celadon, Tameo dedicated over a decade to developing celadon glazes. Differing from his grandfather, Takahiko began researching and developing celadon anew after 56 years.

"Celadon has a low yield and is difficult to bring to market compared to white porcelain," Takahiko explains. "While it is prized in tea ceremonies and ikebana, and as unique art pieces, making celadon a viable business for the general consumer presents challenges. That was my grandfather's achievement with our kiln. We don't mass-produce, but we've made it viable through medium-scale handmade production."

Despite challenges like cracking during firing, the increase in production has enabled the creation of high-quality celadon wares for everyday use. However, Kawasoe acknowledges the behind-the-scenes struggles involved.

Path to Renewal

"Back around 2016, our company was in a very tough spot. Having always been a craftsman, I believed quality products would suffice, but we needed a rapid turnaround," Kawasoe recalls. At this critical juncture, Kosen Kiln was selected as one of three companies to receive consulting under the "Saga Prefecture Souvenir Development Support Promotion Project." The support from this project kickstarted their branding efforts, leading to the launch of the "KOSEN" and "Nabeshima Kosen Kiln" brands and a new website.

Now, with the business more stable, Kawasoe is focused on establishing the culture of Nabeshima ware.

"As much as our craftspeople strive to produce quality items, if making a living from it isn't viable, it's all for naught," he remarks. "That's why I stopped production at one point to study business management seriously, which finally allowed us to confront the issues facing our production area."

The Future of Nabeshima Ware

As the current chair of the Imari Nabeshima Ware Cooperative, Kawasoe is mindful of the many challenges facing rural Japan, such as economic downturns, population decline, landscape preservation, and nurturing the next generation. Despite its history as a former feudal kiln and a unique manufacturing culture, he feels Nabeshima ware has not fully leveraged its potential.

"Nabeshima ware, while now a traditional craft, originated as a way for our ancestors to use local resources and skills to earn a living. The fact that 31 potters were brought here to create incomparable crafts in a secluded environment set up by checkpoints is fascinating," he says.

"In this region, we aspire to center our efforts around the globally esteemed Nabeshima ware, focusing on nurturing craftspeople and exploring beautiful ways of living and working that originate from craft-making. I believe this area has the potential to serve as a benchmark for rural regions in Japan, proving that such accomplishments are indeed possible."

Kawasoe Takahiko, who understands both craftsmanship and business management, envisions a future for the people of Okawachiyama where art of pottery-making and life harmoniously intersect. As times change, as long as there are people who cherish these thoughts, the history and tradition of Nabeshima ware will continue to be passed down.

Kosen Kiln Gallery & Café Kosen

Lastly, we want to highlight the Kosen Kiln gallery and their cafe, named "Café Kosen." The pale jade-colored walls, echoing the hue of celadon, house an impressive array of products, offering the joy of choice.

With a desire for visitors to truly use their products, the cafe serves drinks and desserts using Kosen Kiln porcelain. Through the windows, guests can appreciate the stunning mountain scenery, creating a truly immersive dining experience.

Team Musubi enjoyed a brief respite on the warm benches outside, the nostalgic atmosphere soothing our travel fatigue.

And let's not forget the medaka fish, the kiln's signature motif, swimming contentedly in the water bowls—promising another visit to Kosen Kiln.

View Kosen Kiln Collection