Shoji Hamada was born in 1894 and was introduced to art at an early age by a relative who was at the Tokyo School of Fine Art. In 1912 he saw some of Leach's work while out for a wild night in the Ginza. The following year (i.e. when he finally recovered!) he enrolled at the Ceramics Department of the Tokyo Advanced Technical College. After he graduated he mooched around for a while hanging out with the likes of Kanjiro Kawai and Kenkichi Tomimoto. Oh, and Bernard Leach, of course.
In 1920, (after Bernard Leach had discovered him in the suitcase - see above), the pair of then raided the British Museum to study early British slipware before heading off to St. Ives where they spent the next three years setting up the pottery (and trying to find a parking space).
Hamada returned to Japan after the Tokyo Earthquake in 1924 (well, I suppose it was better than returning just before it!), although he also continued to travel the world with lecture tours and expeditions. He often returned to England and the Leach Pottery, so much so that his regular contact with Bernard Leach led to him being suspected of being a spy during WW2. (Well, it's obvious, isn't it? Who can forget that 'day of infamy' when Japanese forces wiped out most of the American ceramics industry at Pearl Harbour!).
Post-WW2 Hamada continued to flit about the world, picking up a number of gongs in the process. Apart from the usual honourary doctorates and things of that ilk he was one of the first four Japanese to be awarded the title of Living National Treasure in 1955. (Actually, he was a British National Treasure but we sold him to Japan like we've done with all our other national treasures!).
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