The Otaki-Okamoto Shrines are in the city of Echizen, a region known for washi papermaking. The upper shrine stands near the peak of Mt. Daitoku while the lower shrine is situated at the mountain’s foot. The current main sanctuary (honden) and worship hall (haiden) of the lower shrine are a nationally designated Important Cultural Property. The main sanctuary is a complicated compound structure that combines a one-bay sanctuary with flowing roof, a hip-and-gable-roofed worship hall with a tsumairi gabled approach, and a kohai step-canopy with undulating gables. The Okamoto Shrine is dedicated to Kawakami Gozen, a kami revered as the goddess of papermaking. As Japan’s only kami of paper, she acts as the guardian for people working in the paper industry throughout the country.
The special exhibition at the Otaki-Okamoto Shrines will include displays in the precincts of the lower shrine, the Juichimen Kannondo hall dedicated to the Eleven-Headed Kannon, and the area leading to the upper shrine.
Iwano Ichibei IX
Iwano Ichibei IX is a preeminent Echizen washi papermaker and Living National Treasure known for his Echizen hosho paper—a heavy, smooth type of washi prized by artists for use in printmaking. From the base materials to the papermaking process, Iwano maintains an uncompromising level of craft for each sheet of paper. He usually stays behind the scenes, exclusively producing washi for artists. However, for this exhibition, Iwano’s handmade paper decorates several dozen stone lanterns within the shrine precincts. The combination of the stone lanterns and Iwano’s washi produces an enigmatic sense of texture.
Born in 1933 in Echizen, Fukui Prefecture. Iwano learned the traditional art of handmade washi papermaking from his father, Ichibei VIII. He has devoted his life to making authentic hosho paper composed of 100% kozo mulberry fiber. In 2000, he was conferred the title of Living National Treasure, a title also held by his father.
Kaneshige was born into an illustrious family of Bizen ware potters. His works incorporate the earthen, unglazed ceramics characteristic of traditional Bizen ware as well as original innovations. In addition to inheriting the aesthetics of his father, Kaneshige Sozan—the younger brother of Kaneshige Toyo, who is known for reviving Momoyama-style Bizen tea ware—Yuho has expanded the expressive possibilities of Bizen ware with a playful touch. While Kaneshige is primarily known for tea ceramics, in recent years he has begun making large sculptures and exploring new horizons of spatial expression. These objects are a clear extension of Kaneshige’s approach to tea ceramics—a unique achievement.
Born in 1950 in Okayama Prefecture. After studying sculpture at Musashino Art University, Kaneshige Yuho began working as a potter under his father, Kaneshige Sozan. He has received numerous awards, including the Japan Ceramic Society Gold Prize. In 2019, Kaneshige was designated an official practitioner of Bizen ware, an Important Intangible Cultural Property of Okayama Prefecture.
Kuwata’s works straddle the categories of “craft” and “contemporary art,” demonstrating a breadth of expression that defies borders. His works range from tea bowls and coffee cups to giant sculptures. They can be easily combined and exhibited indoors or outdoors to produce unique spaces. Kuwata fearlessly uses vibrant colors and irregular forms, deftly creating an original, pop-art-infused world of expression. His art is wonderfully free.
Born in 1981 in Hiroshima Prefecture. Kuwata graduated from the Tajimi City Pottery Design and Technical Center in 2007. His original visual language—realized through the creative application of traditional ceramic techniques—has garnered international acclaim. His works are included in the permanent collections of the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa and the Art Institute of Chicago.
Among the artists contemporizing Kutani ware, Muta’s works stand out for their strength of expression and individuality. Muta’s ceramics are both shaped and decorated by her own hand. Her creations range from practical-use plates and tea bowls to decorative sculptures and three-dimensional works of art. In recent years, Muta has begun creating larger works, including pieces that interact with their environment or are paired with textiles or other materials. Muta’s art is daring and adventurous. Her works frequently draw on themes from classical motifs such as guardian lions (shishi) and dragons, reinterpreted and intricately depicted in her unique style. Muta’s works are characterized by their rich detail.
Born in 1981 in Tokyo. Muta graduated from Goldsmiths, University of London in 2008, and the Ishikawa Prefectural Kutani Ware Technical Training Institute in 2012. Her ceramics explore contemporary views of nature, incorporating overglaze renderings of plants, animals, mythical beasts, and adaptations of traditional motifs and designs.