15 March 2023

What is Kutani Shoza Style?

The Shoza style is a fine and gorgeous style of painting that uses Western-style paints in addition to the traditional Kutani Gosai (red, green, yellow, purple, and navy blue) to create detailed and vivid pictures, and then applies gold on top. This style of painting is called Saisiki-kinrande−multicolored design with integrated gold−. The delicate and graceful Shoza style, which incorporates all kinds of Kutani ware decoration techniques, is a sight one will want to forever gaze at. It’s highly regarded by people and has made a name for itself worldwide as "JAPAN KUTANI. "


KUTANI Shoza (1816-1883) opened a studio in Terai Village, Nomi County, in 1841, and specialized in painting on clay purchased from other kilns–never owning his own. Around 1865, he was the first to introduce Western-style paints imported to Japan, and succeeded in producing the unique tone of maroon, a color that had never existed before, as well as a variety of colors such as green, yellow, navy, blue, purple, and light green. He even mixed these colors together to create intermediate colors. The Saishiki-kinrande, with its wide variety of colors, was beloved by people from abroad, and was exported in large quantities as a trade item in the first half of the Meiji era (1868-1912).

KUTANI Shoza applied this method of painting to a variety of patterns when decorating the base of pottery. His ability to incorporate the good qualities of Mokubei, Hachiroemon, and other styles into one work is truly a skillful technique. He expressed a variety of colorful paintings and gorgeous patterns delicately and realistically, and added gold to the surrounding Akae-style to make them even more beautiful.

Although he sometimes painted Chinese-style landscapes, Shoza seemed strongly drawn to images of farmers working in rural areas. Some of his masterpieces depicting farming and tea-picking scenes in the style of Yamato-e (Japanese painting inspired by the Tang dynasty) are highly regarded as masterpieces to this day.

Kutani ware today has inherited wonderful characteristics from its history–expanding further and creating a world of beautiful colors that are hard to resist. This includes five-colored paints originating from Ko-Kutani, the Western paints that came from the West at the end of the Edo period, and the Kinran-de technique inherited from EIRAKU Wazen. Please see below stories to learn more about the history of Kutani ware.