In the latter half of the 17th century, the Hizen Nabeshima feudal clan established official kilns in Okawachiyama, a village within the Imari region of Saga Prefecture. The kiln would become known for its exquisitely high quality Imari Nabeshima ware, often given as a formal offering to a feudal lord or noble. Such was the pride that Okawachiyama took in its skills that the village came to be known as “The Village of the Secret Kilns” for its dedication to preserving the exclusivity of its techniques, never showing or lending them to outsiders. It was in this proud tradition that Hataman Touen was founded in 1926, at the dawn of the Showa era.
The company was established under the name “Mansho-gama” by Mantaro Hataishi, and has continued to operate under his descendants for over 90 years. While carefully protecting and nurturing the techniques they have inherited, they have also actively engaged in the development of new products and technological innovations. Under Haruyuki and Masahiro Hataishi, the second and third generation leaders, the company established a strong reputation under the “Hataman” brand for its beautiful, high-quality “sansui-e” (landscape) paintings which evoke the rich natural scenery of Okawachiyama.
In the 1990s, the fourth-generation leader and current president Shinji Hataishi began to develop dolls and perfume bottles for the company’s offerings. Their products became popular for their ease of handling and for their delicate portrayal of the natural beauty of Japan. He is currently working with his son Shuji, the next generation’s leader to develop the next stage in the evolution of Nabeshima porcelain.
Hataman Touen creates many unique and original products in three distinctive families. “Iro-Nabeshima” are the most traditional, characterized by elegant and subdued colors and delicate patterns. “Sukashi-bori” have translucent patterns carved into a soft white surface. The third is “Cuir,” which means “leather” in French, and is a completely new expression of porcelain characterized by a texture, luster, and touch reminiscent of the grain of leather.
One of Hataman Touen’s best-known works, the perfume bottle, was conceived about 20 years ago as an innovative project that took the company beyond the boundaries of tableware. The elaborate construction of the cork is extremely difficult and shows the true value of top-notch handiwork. The stunning design and the level of perfection achieved in the painting, with each element painstakingly and individually rendered, is truly awe-inspiring and illustrates the dignity and grace of Hataman Touen’s creations.
Shuji Hataishi, the fifth generation in the company’s leadership, sees the potential in sharing the traditional beauty of Nabeshima ware and has been promoting it through various initiatives that utilize the company’s unique painting techniques. In 2016, Hataman Touen participated in the “2016/Project” celebrating the 400th anniversary of Arita ware. They have also developed new products exhibited in international trade fairs such as the Milano Salon (Salone del Mobile.Milano) and others. Their branding strategies and digital technologies have blazed new trails as well, such as a 2019 initiative in which Shuji reached out to younger people through a groundbreaking collaboration with skateboarding brands.
According to Shuji, “Drawing a picture is drawing words.” Whether with pictures or with words, what is important is the way in which one communicates. We look forward to further creative ideas from Hataman Touen, which has kept its spirit of progressive challenge for generation after generation.