Yoshikatsu NINJO

仁城義勝 | 木のうつわーありがとう、仁城さん!

3 - 25 January 2021

11:00 - 18:00 closed on Tuesday
Yoshikatsu NINJO will join us on 9 - 14 January.

Clients who are unable to visit the gallery in person can see a collection of Ninjo’s classic vessels in the VIEWING ROOM starting Sunday, January 3, 2021. Please have a look and feel free to contact us if you wish to make a purchase.

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For guests wishing to inquire more about exhibition pieces or works from our permanent collection, we invite you to send an email and schedule a consultation via ZOOM.

This autumn a letter from Ninjo arrived. “My physical strength is declining. I will stop working and retire at the end of this year.” A 40 year long career comes to an end. And we’d like to share with you the path that Ninjo took in pursuing a life as woodturner. With heartfelt applause we will open the new year with Ninjo’s final exhibition. Alongside his classic work we will present the naive and uncertain shapes of his youth as well as rarely seen larger bowls and dishes.

“Facing the wood and using it to turn bowls is a deep journey into my own heart. It is not my aim to create special or interesting forms. Inside each piece of wood I try to discover the shape of a bowl that might touch our hearts. That is my work.”

“I don’t have a clear image of the final shape when I begin turning the wood on the lathe. I carve in response to the wood. Through this conversation with the wood, the shape gradually materializes.”

“I let the wood guide me as I carve. From there, the form emerges little by little. I often have the feeling that it’s not my hands but rather the wood that directs my blade. I just leave it to the wood.”

“I have no desire to make something distinctive or express my own style. Rather it’s about what remains when one puts aside all of one’s own ideas about creating something special and rejects the desire to express an original style.”
(Yoshikatsu Ninjo)

“There is nothing superfluous in this work. It perfectly suits the hands and gently meets the eye. It is so quiet that in daily life you often do not realize that it is here. There were many things like this in Kyoto’s olden days.”
(A visitor during the exhibition at Fujita Art, January 2001)

“This is a bowl made by subtraction. By removing all unnecessary elements, it appears to have grown naturally by itself.”
(A visitor during the exhibition in the atelier of the woodturner Stefan Fink in Hamburg, Germany, September 2002)

“The moment when the baby’s mouth and the mother’s breast find each other: the mother’s breast is the first repository of food a baby’s mouth touches and it becomes the child’s earliest memory. I keep this in mind when I work.”
(Yoshikatsu Ninjo at Gallery Ishu, November 2006)

”The tree’s life is what allows me to make wooden vessels. That is both a source of inspiration and a heavy responsibility, at the same time.
(Yoshikatsu Ninjo at Gallery Nichinichi, November 2007)

“Turning wood into bowls and dishes means scraping off and paring down the life of a tree.”
(Yoshikatsu Ninjo at Gallery Nichinichi, January 2009)


Ninjo Yoshikatsu was born in the turmoil of the Pacific war in Korea in 1944. His father was a wooden sandal maker. After finishing junior high school in 1960, Ninjo lived a restless life, moving from one place to another and doing all sorts of jobs, including working as a metal filer, an assistant at a publishing firm, a salesman, and often as a seasonal harvester. He went to night school to get his high school diploma and began reading Buddhist texts and Nietzsche.

In 1974, following a friend’s recommendation, he began an apprenticeship in the wood turning workshop of Konishi Hisao in Shogawa (Toyama Prefecture). After finishing the apprenticeship, he worked in a lacquer workshop from 1978 to 1980 in Akita (Akita Prefecture), where he learned the basic skills of lacquering.

In 1980 he started his own workshop in Kurashiki (Okayama Prefecture), and in 1988 he achieved a long-hoped-for dream and moved to the countryside and set up his workshop in a village near Ibara (Okayama Prefecture).

Ninjo works alone. He carves and lacquers the wood himself. Central to his work is the liveliness and the character of the wood and not the lacquer. Ninjo’s works are well-received in one-man exhibitions in galleries all over Japan. Chefs praise his bowls for their functionality and the clarity of their forms. Artists and designers in Japan love them because of their reduced aesthetics in which wood, lacquer and craftsmanship achieve an incomparable unity.

Clients who are unable to visit the gallery in person can see a collection of Ninjo’s classic vessels in the VIEWING ROOM starting Sunday, January 3, 2021. Please have a look and feel free to contact us if you wish to make a purchase.

We will also show rare works from Ninjo’s younger days as well as pieces from his studio collection. These will be sold exclusively at the gallery.

In addition, on Wednesday, January 13, in cooperation with Kyoto Seika University, we will present a discussion online with artist Toshihiro Komatsu and writer Yuji Yonehara on the theme of beauty. We will ask Ninjo, a man who has pursued purity and simplicity in his life and work, how we can understand such a concept created and defined by the human perspective.

“I never understood what people mean when the say, ‘Beautiful!’”

Yoshikatsu NINJO (woodturner)
Toshihiro KOMATSU (artist / professor at Kyoto Seika University)
Yuji YONEHARA (writer / director of the Traditional Industry Innovation Center, Kyoto Seika University)

January 13, 2021 (Wednesday)  18 : 00 – 19 : 30 (Japanese Time)
Live streaming on YouTube> Watch streaming here
Organized by the Global Education Center of Kyoto Seika University

YouTube link