Although Japan had no experience in trading with the Western countries, Meiji kutani developed significantly, driven by export. Many pottery merchants carried out various businesses related to Meiji Kutani and two pioneers were Marunaka Magohei and Watano Kichiji.
In the early Meiji period, Marunaka Magohei focused on applying overseas manufacturing technology to kutani ware, and received technical guidance from Sukejiro Notomi, who was familiar with porcelain manufacturing technology, and made an effort to spread high-quality “Japan kutani” to the world. After that “kutani made by Marunaka-gumi” gained a high reputation from the Western as their products gained a reputation for being fine and luxurious with a lot of gold. It is said that other pottery merchants asked potters to paint designs that quickly incorporated Western tastes into Meiji kutani and expanded the export. Reference: pottery merchant Marunaka-gumi Marunaka Magohei
The other is Watano Kichiji. By the time kutani was called industrial kutani, the production scale of Meiji Kutani expanded, but in the latter half of the Meiji 10s (around the 1880s), the boom of “Japan kutani” went down and kutani exports were slumped. It is said that the cause of this slump was that kutani exports were unpopular due to crude overproduction and that they were not able to respond to changes in foreign tastes. Some pottery merchants and master craftsmen quickly grasped and responded to these issues.
It was the pottery merchants Watano Kichiji and Marunakai Magohei who devised a mechanism to quickly convey sales information (changes in tastes and complaints) in overseas markets in the Western countries. At the same time, Watano Kichiji introduced the modern industrial system into the porcelain industry to resolve domestic problems. In cooperation with Matsumoto Sahei, Fujioka Iwahana-do, etc. he tried to guide education and painting instruction for quality improvement and founded a qualification examination system for potters. In addition, Watano Kichiji himself opened a painting factory “Tenrai-do” with some kilns for glazing and gathered many master craftsmen there to produce high-quality Meiji kutani. Reference: pottery merchant Watano Kichiji