Once we know the general context in Japan, we should have a look on what happened in what is today Ishikawa Prefecture. It has been the domain of the Maeda family for almost 300 years and therefore the different Lords who succeeded there had a very important influence and we can even say that they have established, organized, promoted and to some extent supported the development of Kutani.
In the middle of the 17 century, what is to day Ishikawa ken was separated in several fiefs controlled by different Lords. The southern part, which included the cities of Kaga, Daishoji and also Enuma gun with the Suizaka and Kutani villages, was the domain of Yamaguchi Munenaga also called Genban. Munenaga was a Samurai who participated in the Japan Korean war under Hideyoshi.
The eastern part was the domain of Maeda Toshiharu who was Lord of Arako in Owari (today Aichi Prefecture). Maeda was fighting for Oda Nobunaga. He had a revenue of 5.000 kokus, it was therefore a very small fief. Toshiie is the 4th son of Maeda Toshiharu. He is born in 1538 in Tomita village, Umibe-gun, Owari. Toshiie became at 13 years old a ’kosho’ or a page for Oda Nobunaga and as such received a revenue of 125 kokus. He was a very aggressive fighter and at each battle was rewarded by additional revenue granted by Nobunaga. In 1568 Toshiie income had grown up to around 1000 Kokus. In 1569 Toshiie was nominated by Nobunaga Lord of Arako and replaced his father. In 1581 he received Noto Gun and built the Nanao castle. At that time Toshiie had almost 200.000 Kokus. But Nobunaga died in 1582 and Toshiie continued to fight aggressively.
In 1583 Toshiie received Kanazawa city and a part of Ishikawa Gun for his loyal service to Hideyoshi to whom he had become a close friend. He then moved from Nanao castle to Kanazawa and became the first Lord of Kaga. In 1595 he got the north part of Etchu (Toyama Prefecture), his revenue was now 835.000 Koku. Maeda Toshiie was getting very powerful not only because of the size of his domain but also by his location, very close to Kyoto court.
At that point the most powerful Lords in Japan were Hideyoshi and Ieyasu. Toshiie was getting older and it seems he made a good choice when he accepted to make some compromise with Ieyasu. In fact they decided in 1595 to seal up some alliance in order to avoid any conflict. As a result, Toshitsune the son of Toshiie, who was only 3 years old was engaged with the 5 years old daughter of Hidetada, the son of Ieyasu. During 6 generations both families continued to marry their children. Finally the 12th, 13th and 14th Tokugawa Shogun were descendant of both families.
Toshiie died of sickness in Osaka on March 3rd 1598 at the age of 62 years. We should recognize that Toshiie was a very strong warrior and he has almost completely built by his own force and willingness the Kaga Han, his successors on the opposite tried to develop the industry and the art. Maeda Toshinaga, his son succeeded his father as the 2nd Lord of Kaga and completed the expansion of Kaga Han.
On August 3rd 1600, Maeda Toshinaga attacked and defeated Yamaguchi Munenaga who died in his Daishoji castle. At that time Daishoji and Enuma gun became the domain of Maeda. On September 15, 1600, Tokugawa Ieyasu attacked his rivals at the Sekigahara battle. Maeda Toshinaga was fighting with Ieyasu on his side. Ieyasu defeated completely his opponents.
Maeda was rewarded additional land and became one of the most powerful Daimyo in Japan who controlled what is today Ishikawa and Toyoma Prefectures and had a revenue of 1.195.000 Koku. But the confidence between Ieyasu and Maeda seemed very limited as Toshinaga had to send his mother as a hostage in Edo as a proof of his obedience to Ieyasu..
In 1605, Maeda Toshinaga retired in the Toyama castle. His brother, Toshitsune succeeded as the 3rd Lord of Kaga. Toshitsune was found of tea ceremony, he had a special teacher named Enshu Kobori (1579-1647). Enshu was the son of the governor of Fushimi (sajibugyo and fushimibugyo) and was very famous at end of Momoyama beginning of Edo period for his knowledge and his culture. Enshu had been a student of Oribe. He was a master of the tea ceremony and promoted a lot the use of ceramics for the tea ceremony. It is also well accepted that he influenced strongly the development of Japanese ceramics. Enshu had served directly under the Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu as the authority on tea ceremony related affairs. Toshitsune, under the guidance of Enshu, was very positive and active in promoting culture and trying to develop Kaga Han.
Unfortunately Kaga Han suffered 2 disasters, the castle burned out twice, first on November 24th, 1620 and then in April 14th, 1631.
In 1628 Toshitsune tried to develop Suizaka kiln which had been started by Yamaguchi Munenaga 20 or 25 years ago, to manufacture tea ceremony wares. He brought for this purpose potters from Seto.
Beginning of June 1637, Maeda Toshitsune decided to establish branches of his Han in Hirado and Nagasaki. These ports were the only ways to import or export goods to or from Japan. At that period Japan was completely closed to foreigners except for some very limited trade with Holland through these 2 ports. Therefore having a branch office in these places was quite an advantage for the purchase of goods.
On June 30th 1639, Maeda Toshitsune decided to retire and moved to Komatsu castle. He was succeeded by his 1st son Mitsutaka ( 1613 - 1645) who became the 4th Lord of Kaga. Toshitsune also decided to split Kaga Han in 3 parts and to create Daishoji Han in Enuma gun and Toyama Han in Etchu Ken. He then established accordingly his 3rd son Toshiharu (1618 -1660) as the 1st Lord of Daishoji Han and his 2nd son Toshitsugi as 1st Lord of Toyama. Toyama Han had a revenue of 100.000 kokus, Daishoji Han 70.000 kokus which increased slowly to reach 100.000 kokus in 1821. Toshitsune will die of sickness in Komatsu castle on October 12th, 1658, he will be 66 years old.
Daishoji Han was established mainly to promote economic and industrial development in Kaga Han. Accordingly Toshiharu established his office in Daishoji castle in December 1639. Goto Saijiro Sadastugu, son of goto Saijiro Yoshisada, left Kanazawa and followed Toshiharu to Daishoji. Sadatsugu was in charge of the development of mining activities.
Kaga Han had a branch office in Nagasaki. The Kaga representative, Hanawa Ichirobe, was responsible for the purchase of goods. Nagasaki was famous at that time, all merchandise to be exported to foreign countries had to transit here, and therefore market activities were very important. In 1640, Mitsutaka who liked foreign products and specially ceramics was the first in Japan to import Delph pottery from Holland through the East India Company. It is the period when East India Company started buying ceramics for European market. More than 2 million pieces were exported from Arita and Imari to Europe.
In 1640 Goto Saijiro Tadakiyo who was the son of Goto Saijiro Sadatsugu discovered good clay around Kutani area. In 1644 Maeda Toshiharu instructed Tsuchida Seizaemon to negotiate with Kutani Mining who had find some ore deposit in Kutani village. Goto Saijiro Sadastugu and some investors were involved in the mining activities. At that time Toshiharu instructed also Goto Saijiro to start ceramic activities in Kutani.
Mitsutaka died in Edo on April 5, 1645, he was only 31 years old. He was then succeeded by his son Tsunanori as the 5th Lord of Kaga until 1723.
We suppose the first Kutani kiln opened in 1655 under the leadership of Goto Saijiro and may have produce the so called Ko-Kutani wares.
Toshiharu 1st Lord of Daishoji died on April 21 1660 at the age of 43 and was succeeded by Toshiaki (1637-1692).Toshiaki, 2nd lord of Daishoji Han was succeeded by Toshinao (1672-1710).
On July 14, 1693 the Daishoji castle burned out. Two similar catastrophes also occurred in Edo. the great fire in Edo in 1698 where a big part of the city was destroyed and the great Kanto earthquake in 1703 where 150.000 people died. All Daimyos were then requested to finance the reconstruction of the city and of the Shogun palace.
At this period Kaga and Daishoji Hans were in a terrible financial situation, owing to the isolation policy of the Bafuku which resulted in a general deterioration of the living standard. This together with a poor administration and family quarrels between the 2 Hans brought a catastrophic situation in the Hans which even led to riots in Kaga by oppressed farmers. This situation lasted for around 70 years. In addition, on April 10, 1759 Kanazawa city burned out and more than 10.000 houses were destroyed.
In general the 2nd half of 18 century has been terrible, flooding, pleague, severe famines, Kyoho in 1732-33 and Temmei in 1783-88. It is believed that almost 1 million people died in the last decades of the 18 century.
In 1806 Kaga Han was still in a bad situation and any proposal to reduce the debt was welcome. In order to give some job to his people, the 9th Lord of Kaga, Maeda Toshikore (1785-1836), decided to restart pottery activities as his Han was depending only on the import of wares from other part of Japan. He called a specialist from Kyoto, Aoki Mokubei, who was quite famous already at that time.
In 1807, Mokubei requested the help from one of his former student, Honda Teikichi who was potter in Arita, to built a new kiln in Kasugayama, a mountain closed to Utatsuyama in the suburb of Kanazawa. On January 15, 1808, the Kaga castle burned down again, this became a terrible financial loss for the Kaga Han. The loss was so big that the Tokugawa government authorized the Kaga Lord to stay in Kaga city instead of going to Edo for his alternate attendance. But the Han could not recover easily and it was decided to sell the Kasugayama kiln to private investors. The kiln operated without great success and after the departure of its leaders it closed down around 1820.
At almost the same time one other venture started in 1811. Hayashi Hachibei borrowed money from Maeda Toshikore 9th Lord of Daishoji in order to establish the Wakasugi kiln. As the production was growing-up quite well, Lord Maeda decided to take the kiln under his protection and the name was changed to Wakasugi Tokijo.
But Toshikore wanted to stimulate much more the production and decided to have a direct control of the kiln through the Sanbutsukata Office a sort of Ministry of Industry. He decided also to establish some protectionism measures and he prohibited the import of ceramic wares from outside his Han.The system seems to have worked as the kiln prospered a lot and many other kilns started to open. This is the beginning of Kutani revival.
Among the others private ventures which started at that time was also the Ono kiln which began production in 1819 and received support from the Prefecture Officials in 1822. The kiln prospered quite well and Lord Maeda Toshikore took this opportunity to expand business in his Han. He decided in 1834 to give protection to the kiln. This kiln has operated up to Meiji revolution.
The Kasugayama kiln was reopened in Kaga Han in 1822 under the name of Minsan kiln by Takeda Shuhei son of Samurai Himeji and student of Lord Maeda.
On the other hand, the famous Yoshidaya kiln which opened in 1824 and which was managed by a rich merchant always had financial problem until its closure in 1831. In fact the kiln had been built in Kutani village which was a bad choice and had to be moved after only one year of operation to Yamashiro. In order to do this, Yoshidaya borrowed money from the Daishoji Han. But the expenses had been too big and the kiln could not recover its financial situation, especially after the simultaneous death of the 2 leaders of the Yoshidaya family.
The kiln was reopened in 1835 and became Miyamoto kiln. The kiln recovered and became prosperous until around 1848. At the death of the leaders the activities fall down and in 1854 it closed. Few years later Daishoji Hanbutsusansho which was a sort of Chamber of Commerce absorbed the kiln and it is still today in operation as Juraku kiln, after having changed name several time.
In 1848 Toshihira, 11th Lord of Daishoji Han asked Yamamoto Hikoemon to open a kiln in the village of Matsuyama. The production of this kiln was dedicated to the Han which used it essentially for its own usage or for officials gifts for the Han. But in 1863 it was privatized and started production of some-tsuke and ordinary Kutani.
In 1860 Toshika 14th and last Lord of Daishoji instructed Kisaki Manki who was working at the Kisaki family kiln to improve his technic by learning akae painting from Eiraku Wazen.
In 1864 Kaga and Mito Han started fighting, and in January 1868 Toba Fushimi battle took place, at that time Kaga was on Tokugawa side but slowly changed side, it is the beginning of the revolution and the end of the Tokugawa government.
In July 1871 the system of Han is suppressed, Daishoji Han is replaced by Daishoji Ken same for Kaga Han which became Kanazawa Ken. Maeda Toshiaki, 14th Lord of Kaga became mayor of Kanazawa. Toyama Han became Shingawa Ken and Noto, Nanao Ken.
In September 1871 Kanazawa Ken absorbed Daishoji Ken, Maeda Toshiaki then had to move to Tokyo. In September 1872, the name of the Prefecture is changed to Ishikawa Ken. Also Nanao Ken is absorbed by Shingawa Ken and Ishikawa Ken. In 1876 Ishikawa Ken absorbed Shingawa Ken and a part of Fukui Ken. Then to complete the changes, in 1883 Ishikawa was split in Toyama Ken, Ishikawa Ken and a small part went back to Fukui Ken. This is the situation we have today.