With a four-hundred-year lineage of master-ceramicists, the Matsubayashi clan and its family-owned pottery studio, Asahiyaki, have carried on the pottery tradition of Uji, Kyoto for sixteen generations. The time-honored techniques, paired with the water quality of the Uji river and the local soil composition, have combined to bring the world’s attention to this region’s very fine clay. Sixteenth generation Yusuke has recently succeeded his father, Master Hosai Matsubayashi, and continues his ancestors’ design legacy and cultural heritage. Inspired by the region’s tea ceremony culture, Asahiyaki ceramic works celebrate the tea-tasting experience, including designs for performing traditional tea rituals with contemporary appeal.
The clay of ASAHIYAKI is composed of sediment laid by the Uji River centuries ago. Now gathered from nearby locales, the clay is mined and stored by the studio for half a century before use. Over the years, exposure to rain and wind ages the clay, and the components contained in it change as if the clay were alive. The clay used for pottery today was mined by the artisans’ ancestors and the clay mined today will be used by future generations. As the core of their artform, ASAHIYAKI honors their soft clay characterized by a high degree of water absorbency and a low level of heat conductivity, ideal for tea ceremony pieces. Using a variety of kilns, each of which results in different effects on the skin of the clay, ASAHIYAKI’s unique aesthetic is largely derived from the kiln-process. Natural properties of the clay and special firing techniques in their centuries-old hand-built kiln, create the characteristic mottling effect consistent throughout their body of work.
Since their inception, the kiln-masters of ASAHIYAKI have worked in concert with Uji-region Tea-masters to create storied pieces that both honor and contribute to Japanese cultural heritage. ASAHIYAKI is numbered among the Seven Enshu Kilns, a list of Japanese pottery kilns whose ceramics were favored by Kobori Enshu, the Japanese tea ceremony master from the 16th/17th century. Through cultural changes, the rise and fall of the popularity of the tea ceremony, and the fluctuations in economic prosperity, ASAHIYAKI adapted to continue their work.