Tanaka Sokei (田中宗慶)

Sokei TANAKA (1535? - year of death unknown) was a ceramic artist in the Shokuho era (Oda-Toyotomi era). It is regarded that Sokei was the business partner of Chojiro and they produced Raku ware at the request of Rikyu. It is said that he was deeply involved in the establishment of the Kichizaemon RAKU family.

Although accurate years of birth and death are unknown, at least the year carved in the 'Sansai Shishi koro' (censer with three-colored lion) made in October 1595 tells that he was 60 years old at that time.

Since the family name 'Tanaka' is the same as the real surname of SEN no Rikyu, there is a theory that says Sokei was a relative of Rikyu. Also, the person who succeeded the second head of the Kichizaemon RAKU family was not the descendant of Chojiro; it was Jokei RAKU, the second son of Sokei.

There are more uncertainties about Sokei than about Chojiro, the first head of the Kichizaemon RAKU family. According to the family tree of the Raku family included in the 'Sonyumonjo' (Sonyu's documents) which was made public for the first time in 1955, Sokei was the grandfather of Chojiro's wife. Also, the description of 'Nobuo Sokei' (who always followed Rikyu) found in the caption in the 'Rikyugazo' (picture of Rikyu) (drawn by Tohaku HASEGAWA), which is stored in the fushin-an (a tea room in the residence of the head of Omotesenke (the house of Omotesen), is thought to be Sokei. In addition, 'Kichizaemon who was the tenkaichi (Japan's No. 1) ceramic artist' who visited SEN no Shoan who was given shelter by Ujisato GAMO, a daimyo (Japanese feudal lord) in Aizu region, around 1594 according to 'Machi Nagato no kami shosoku' (町長門守消息, literally, a letter of Governor of Nagato Province called Machi) is regarded to be Sokei himself.

Although the number of his works that still exist is even smaller than that of Chojiro, Sokei began to place the seal of the letter 'Raku' (楽 in Japanese character) on the kodai (the base section of a teacup) of his works, that is common to the present Raku ware products.

Today's 'Kichizaemon,' the nanori (the name one refers to himself as when reaching adulthood) used by the heads of the Raku family for generations are thought to be the handwriting of Sokei. Furthermore, due to the fact that Sokei's descendant succeeded the Kichizaemon RAKU family and that Sokei was the first person to use the seal of 'Raku' (楽), Sokei is regarded be practically the first head of the Kichizaemon RAKU family. However, Sokei is not counted as one of the heads of the Raku family in the family tree; there are a lot of mysteries about him.

Major works
Sansai shishi koro
Black Raku tea bowl, 'Tengu' (long-nosed goblin): A property of Fushin-an (Omotesenke)
Black Raku tea bowl, 'Sangokuichi' (unparalleled in Japan and China and India)
Koroyu Akoda-gata Kikumon Mizusashi (a glaze which Jokei RAKU first used for pitcher with chrysanthemum pattern): A property of Raku Museum