Chojiro (unknown-1589) was a leading ceramist during the Azuchi-Momoyama period. He was the founder of Raku ware, and the first Raku Kichizaemon family which is one of the Senke jissoku (the Ten Artisans of the Sen Family).
His father was an ameya (candy craftsman, written as '飴屋', '飴八', and '阿米也') from Ming, and his mother was a 'bikuni' (female Buddhist disciple). It is still not altogether clear about his birth except that he is thought to be from quite a low class.
His oldest work that still exists is Nisai shishizo (an image of a lion in two colors, owned by The Raku Museum) inscribed with 'Spring in 1574 by order of the emperor, created by Chojiro'. According to the research in 2005 by 15th Kichizaemon and others, a part of this work was first applied with Ryokuyu (green glaze) or covered with Hakudei (white clay) for Keshogake (cover the pottery with white clay to show better coloring of glaze), then Nisaiyu (two colored glaze) or Sansaiyu (three colored glaze) was applied. This was a similar technique as Kanansansai used in Southern China. While there is an opinion that this work is a tomebutagawara (a kind of roof tile), there is also an opposing view because of the shape of its bottom, and it remains inconclusive.
According to a record on posterity, 'Sonyumonjo' in 1688, he got married to the granddaughter of Sokei TANAKA, and later set up a studio for creating ceramics with Sokei, his eldest son, Tanaka Syozaemon Somi, and his second son, Kichizaemon Rakujokei who became the second head of Raku Kichizaemon family later.
From a record in existing Chakaiki (records of tea parties), it was assumed that Chojiro met SEN no Rikyu through Sokei during the Tensho era. His specific method of hand forming without the use of a potter's wheel was acknowledged by Rikyu who liked works with deformation more than fine Chinese tea bowls which were the mainstream domestic chakai (tea party) until that time. He later started supplying Rikyu tea bowls to order.
He passed away in 1589.
Nisai shishizo (inscribed in 1574): Owned by The Raku Museum
Red Raku tea bowl, 'Muichibutsu': Owned by Egawa Museum of Art, an important cultural property.
Black Raku tea bowl, 'Koto'
Black Raku tea bowl, 'Oguro': Owned by the former Konoike family, currently in a private collection, an important cultural property. Red Raku tea bowl, 'Ichimonji': Owned by former Donno MASUDA, currently in a private collection. Black Raku tea bowl, 'Shunkan': Owned by Mitsui Bunko, an important cultural property.