Three generations of pottery situated in Kita Arashiyama, Asahikawa. Its products are characterized by vessels with vivid colors using crystalline glazes, reminiscent of Hokkaido‘s landscapes.


Vessels depicting Hokkaido‘s landscapes.

Drawn inside the vessel is scenery of Hokkaido. This one shows a city dotted with lights under the night sky. Kotaro left Asahikawa after graduating from high school and learned ceramic crafting in Tajimi, Gifu, one of Japan’s most renowned ceramic production area, as well as sculpture in Tokyo. He says that it was only when he returned to Asahikawa at the age of 30 that he discovered the charms of Hokkaido that he had not been aware of when he had lived there. Traditionally, the surfaces of ceramics produced in Taisetsugama feature landscapes of Hokkaido. In Asahikawa, whose tradition of ceramics is still in the early development stage, Kotaro thinks about artists’ individuality as well as what Hokkaido-like ceramics could be.

Vivid colors drawn on bodies white as snow.

One of the most distinctive features of Kotaro’s vessels is their vivid colors. Landscapes in different seasons that are unique to Hokkaido – such as the spring where the entire grassland are covered with field mustard flowers or the winter where a setting sun colors snowy fields purple – are drawn abstractly on their surfaces. The products impress with the beautiful, bright bands of colors drawn on warm white bodies. Such use of colors is apt to give too much of a pop feeling, but a technique called crystalline glaze, that has been passed down in Taisetsugama, adds depth to his works. Not simply aiming for conformation, he also carries the spirit of Wabi, which can be seen in the natural distortions of the forms that he creates by changing the rotation speed of the potter’s wheel.

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Kotaro Bando

Born in 1973 in Asahikawa to a family of craft potters, Kotaro familialized himself with ceramics since an early age under the influence of his father and grandfather. After graduating from high school in Asahikawa, he enrolled at Tajimi City Pottery Design And Technical Center to learn ceramics crafting. Afterwards, he studied at Nippon Art College and entered Tokyo Zokei University to learn sculpture. Currently, he is engaged in ceramics crafting as the third-generation successor of Taisetsugama. Originally interested in home decorating, Kotaro decided to pursure ceramics crafting after noticing that vessels could be a key element of the ambience of a room. While keeping to Taisetsugama’s traditional crystalline glaze techniques and themes of Hokkaido ‘s landscapes, he introduces his own interpretations into his every day vessels such as tea cups, coffee cups and sake sets.

Upon returning to Asahikawa, I was impressed the most by the color shades of its landscapes.
I hope my works convey the ambience of Hokkaido in the color of a setting sun reflected on a surface of snow, or in the fresh green of the spring.




Crystalline glaze

Crystalline glaze reminiscent of snow and ice in Hokkaido‘s winter is one of the most distinctive features of Taisetsugama, a kiln passed down over three generations. Crystals form as a result of glass molecules in the glaze, bonding together during firing. Crystalline glaze is technically demanding and various conditions have to be met, including proper preparation of the glaze, the temperature of the kiln, and the duration of firing. Through trial and error, Taisetsugama manages to constantly produce crystalline glaze using the glaze prepared by their first-generation potter, Toko. There is no guarantee that crystals will always form on parts coated with glaze; this accident of nature greatly enhances the appeal of vessels by Taisetsugama.


Characteristics of Kotaro’s works—the lustless ivory body—represents the warm snow on sunny days of Hokkaido. These semi-porcelains bodies become tight and solid after firing, but they have a slight water-absorbing property and the texture softer and rougher than clay used in ceramics. Another of its characteristics is its ability to produce great colors once painted or pigmented with color glazes, which supports the impressive use of colors on Kotaro’s vessels. The procelains can be used in microwave ovens as well.

Asahikawa is a city that prospered as an army garrison during the Meiji era, and the need for bricks for construction promoted its culture of ceramics. Opened in 1970 by Toko Bando, Taisetsugama is the oldest kiln in Kitano Arashiyama. It has since succeeded by the current (second and third) generation potters—Toyomitsu and his son Kotaro. Their works are inspired by the climate of Hokkaido, which is visible in their themes of Hokkaido landscapes and crystalline glazes reminiscent of snow.

Asahigaoka, where Taisetsugama is located, is roughly 5km northwest of the city center of Asahikawa. Toko Bando, who had worked at Asahikawa Ceramics Laboratory, chose Asahikawa as the place to open his new kiln due to the mysterious atmosphere he felt there. Since then, Asahigaoka has become home to many kilns, establishing a reputation for its ceramics and gaining the name “Kitano Arashiyama.” The workshop of Taisetsugama features a gallery and a garden with a gazebo, where visitors can admire the works amidst the nature of Hokkaido.


2-9 Asahigaoka, Asahikawa City, Hokkaido