'Perfectly Imperfect': Tsukamoto Showzi (1946)


 As a young boy, Tsukamoto saw a red-lacquered iron plate samurai armour at Hikone Castle in his ancestral hometown of Hikone, Shiga-Prefecture. The armour was decorated with urushi (natural resin collected from the lacquer tree, a plant native only to Asia). The bright red color and sheen of the surface was his first encounter with the urushi that eventually led him towards Kintsugi.


At the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music (Tokyo, Japan), Tsukamoto studied metalwork, urushi, and maki-e (a lacquer decoration technique in which pictures, patterns, and letters are drawn with urushi on the surface of lacquerware, and then metal powder such as gold or silver is sprinkled and fixed on the surface of the lacquerware).


In his twenties, while in University, Tsukamoto began pursuing the “Samurai Tea Ceremony(buke sado),” which is tea ceremony in the style of samurai. During one of the tea ceremonies, he encountered a tea bowl that left a lasting impression.  


It was a work of art named “Seppou" ('snow peak'), which was restored in Kintsugi using the gold maki-e (Japanese lacquer art) technique on an imperfect Raku style tea bowl that had been cracked during firing in a kiln. This extraordinary artwork was made by an artist named Hon'ami Kōetsu in the 17th century. The first tea master incorporating Kintsugi into the tea ceremony (sado) was Oribe Furuta, a warlord and tea master of the 16th and 17th centuries.  And Hon'ami Kōetsu was a disciple of his tea ceremony (sado).


Tsukamoto has been studying and refining his skills for more than fifty years, using the “Seppou" (snow peak) tea bowl, which is the ultimate form that represents the spirit of Wabi and Sabi, as his role model for Kintsugi. He is now recognised nationally and internationally for his authentic Kintsugi using the traditional maki-e technique with urushi.