Japanese Art Glass

    I am a recent convert to the beauty and desirability of Japanese art glass and a novice collector. My journey started with finding a random piece of Kurata Craft Glass in a local thrift shop. I was amazed with the dimensions, design and sheer weight of the piece. I've always been a sucker for a big hunk of glass and one of the hallmarks of Japanese art glass of the 1950s-1990s is it's robust size and style.
    As was the case with American art glass of the 1930s-1990s, it was the heyday of Japanese art glass with many glass houses producing fine craft glass. Also, as happened with American art glass, global economic factors and competition from other countries caused many glass makers to close their doors. Similar to American glass shops much of the history and knowledge about these glass makers and the glass they made has not been documented.
    Following are the highlights of my small collection and some scraps of information that I have been able to gather from various sources including collectors of Japanese art glass in the US and other countries who have probably forgotten more than I will ever know about the depth and breadth of post WWII Japanese art glass.

Iwata Hisatoshi jug

Iwata Hisatoshi, vase with handles, 4" high x 5" wide

    This small jug or vase is about 4" high x 5" diameter. It came with the signed tomobako wooden box. This is an original piece made by Hisatoshi Iwata. It is a deep purple/blue color with white and yellow accents. There is a cloth to wrap the jug in and a long ribbon which feeds through holes in the base to tie the box shut. There is a printed label attached under the lid.

    Hisatoshi Iwata 1925-1994 was born in Tokyo, the eldest son of Toshichi Iwata, the father of modern Japanese art glass. Iwata studied at the Tokyo Bijutsu school in the design department. He graduated from the prestigious Tokyo School of Fine Arts in 1950. He was selected for Nitten (Japanese Fine Arts Exhibition) for the first time in 1949 and continued to exhibit there afterward. He inherited Iwata Industrial Art Glass which his father founded in 1953. Iwata established the Japan glass industrial arts society in 1972 and was its chairperson afterward for five years. He was a founding member of the Shiseido-sponsored Exhibition of Modern Industrial Arts (1975–95), submitting works for display eighteen times up until 1993. His work was added to the permanent of the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art 20th century Design and Architecture section in 1986. His work is also part of the collection of the Corning Glass Museum.

Iwata Hisatoshi small jug views    Iwata Hisatoshi

Narumi/Sanyu vase

Narumi/Sanyu Fantasy Glass vase, 9.5" x 5", 4 lbs 7 ounces, 1980s

The maker of this vase was difficult to identify since it was not labeled and exhibits characteristics of both Czech (Skrdlovice/Chribska) and Swedish (Aseda) vases. By chance, I found a labeled example from a long ended Japanese auction, of which a single image survived. It was enough to identify this vase, though. The bottom is concave and the edges are ground flat.

Narumi/Sanyu vase    Narumi/Sanyu vase

            Iwastu bowl

Hineri/Iwatsu yellow bowl, 8.5" wide x 5" high, 7.5 lbs, ca 1970-80

This bowl is hand blown and the bottom is ground flat. Iwatsu was one of the largest glass makers in Japan before closing in the 1990s. They also made art glass under the Hineri and Art Glass labels. This bowl is very thick and has large "ribs". The original label survives.

 Hineri Iwatsu bowl    Hineri Iwatsu

Kurata Craft Glass

Kurata Craft Glass vase, 10.5" high x 7" wide, 7lbs, ca 1970s

Kurata Craft Glass is produced by the Joetsu Crystal Glass Company (JCGC) of the Joetsu region of Japan. Kurata is name of the family that owns the company and also the name of the line of glass this piece belongs to. JCGC is still in existence and still run by the Kurata family. This vase is part of a two piece set which I found in the original box 1970s era box in Japan, and is probably NOS, never displayed. These pieces were made using centrifugal molds. Molten glass was poured into the molds and they were then swung by the artisan to achieve the desired shape and dimensions.

Kurata bowl

Handled bowl, 5.5" high x 7" wide, 2.5 lbs

This set is a bit rare as an ash tray typically accompanied this vase as opposed to the handled bowl that was included.

Kurata boxed

Note the misspelling of the Joetsu name on the box.

Kurata vase

Kurata bowl, 14" wide x 1.5" high, depression 5" wide x 1"deep, 5 lbs

During the 1970s-1980s Joetsu was contracted by the American company Mikasa to make several types of glass from pressed glass to pieces of art glass like this one under the Kurata name. Joetsu continued to maintain the quality of their art glass even though it was made in greater quantities. This bowl is fairly rare and was probably not produced in very large quantities.

                bowl    Kurata bowl

This bowl has a small depression (bowl) in the center and a ground pontil mark on the bottom.

Narumi Sanyu bowl

Narumi by Sanyu bowl, 6.5" high x 8" wide top x 3" bottom, 6lbs, 1970s?

This bowl was part of the Sanyu "Fantasy Glass" line by the glass maker Narumi. This is another example of new old stock glass (NOS) that I found in the original box in Georgia, USA! Most Fantasy Glass was composed of panels of solid colors, which, when viewed through the piece, combined to make new colors. This amber bowl is not a great example of Fantasy Glass but it is very large and the fact that it came in the original box with all labels and packing material intact made it desirable. The bottom is somewhat crudely ground flat. Narumi, today, mostly makes crystal home wares, not art glass.

                    Sanyu bowl    Narumi Sanyu bowl

Not often found in the original box and packing materials!

Sasaki candle holders

Sasaki candle holders, 4.5" diameter x 1.5" high, sandblasted glass, 1.5 lb

Sasaki Glass was founded about 1890 by Sojiro Sasaki in Kanda, Tokyo. Sasaki originally produced oil lamps for domestic use. They soon started exporting lamps to Hawaii, China and Southeast Asia. With the decline in use of oil lamps, Sasaki moved production to other types of glassware. In 2002 Sasaki merged with Toyo Glass Company and became Toyo-Sasaki Glass, producing crystal and other glassware. Toyo-Sasaki is still in business and also sells glass from other countries (Lithuania, Hungary, etc.) under the Sasaki label.


Kurata vase

Kurata Craft Glass, 9.25" high x 7" top x 3" bottom, two layer glass, ca 1980s

A swung vase by Joetsu Glass under their Kurata Craft Glass label. The base layer of this vase is red and it is overlaid with such a thin layer of white glass that the result looks pink. The bottom is ground flat and polished. This is not an extremely common shape for Kurata, but it is not rare either.

            vase    Kurata vase

Hokuyo vase

Hokuyo (?) Glass Company, 9" x 7", aventurine vase, 1980s

Hokuyo Glass Company was established in Aomori, Japan 1949, and initially produced "Ukidama", glass- fishing floats. That remains what they are best known for, but in the 1960s they started producing art glass. I am told by my mentor that Hokuyo produced vases in this shape, a common shape for Japanese glass makers, and produced aventurine glass in the 1980s. Their glass is often seen under the Kamei label. Kamei was a distributor of glass made by other companies. Hokuyo is still in business but is today known for making Tsugaru Vidro (Tsugaru Regional Glassware) which is a tradition in the region. They mostly make kitchenware and are a subsidiary of Ishizuka Glass Co. Ltd.

I just got lucky on this one as it is not labeled and I bought it when I was very early in my learning about Japanese art glass. It seemed to have all of the components of pre-2000 Japanese art glass and was not too much money so I bought it. A knowledgeable collector identified it as likely made by Hokuyo.

Hokuyo vase    Hokuyo vase

Kurata vase

Kurata Craft Glass vase, 6.75" high x 4" wide, 8 lbs, 1960s-70s

This is the vase that attracted my attention to Japanese art Glass. It was made by the Joetsu Glass Company under their Kurata Craft Glass label. It is very heavy and an extremely high quality piece of glass. The colors are earth tones, brown and green with a hint of blue. I had never seen anything like it and I have been collecting art glass for about 25 years.. It has partial label but I was unfamiliar with the maker and had to seek help from my compatriots at Collector's Weekly to determine who made it. A similar vase had been posted on this site a few years previously. This is an amazing piece of art glass and I was immediately hooked. This type of Japanese glass from Kurata and other Japanese makers is often confused with Czech glass made by Chribska and Skrdlovice or Murano.

Kurata vase    Kurata vase

It has thick ribs, a ground bottom and is very thick.

Japan Glass

Generic "multi-layer" Japanese Art Glass, 5.5" x 4", pre-2000s

This vase is fairly typical of mass produced Japanese art glass produced for export from the 1960s to 2000. it was typically quickly made and of lower quality than craft glass produced by the Japanese glass houses under their own labels. Many small glass houses produced this kind of hand made glass and it was imported into several countries under various labels, i.e., Lefton, Kamei, etc. If was often just labeled like this piece "Made in Japan". It is still very often nice glass, just less refined. This piece, for instance, though made of four layers of glass, has some sharp edges and could have been more nicely finished but is still a fairly complex piece.

Japan glass    Japan Glass

Kurata vase

Kurata for Miskasa, 6.6" x 4", cased glass with metal flakes, ca 1980s

This is another example of art glass made by Joetsu Glass under their Kurata label for Mikasa, an American company. Joestu made art glass for Miskasa for about two decades in the 1970s and 1980s before Mikasa found suppliers in other countries. Some was labeled and some was not. The majority was pressed glass with some art glass like this. This is blown glass with three layers, white, red and clear glass. Flecks of silver were included in the red layer. The bottom was hot worked to remove the pontil and then ground. Before labeled examples were found, it was thought to be Bohemian glass by some collectors. Several different shapes and colors, including blue and black, were made in this series.

Kurata vase    Kurata vase

Kurata vase

Kurata Craft Glass vase, 8" high x 7.5" diameter, cased glass, 4lbs, ca 1970s

This is an odd color combination for Kurata and, though it is a shape used by Kurata, it might not have been attributed to them if it had not borne the Kurata Craft Glass label. Kurata has made many free hand pieces in many styles and colors and it is likely that many pieces which have lost their labels may never be properly attributed as a result.

    Kurata vase    Kurata vase

Hineri ArtGlass vase

ArtGlass by Iwatsu, 10" high x 6" wide, 4 lbs, ca 1970s

Here is a vase by Iwatsu under their ArtGlass label. It almost looks like onyx, instead of glass. Something I have noticed with the ArtGlass line was that Iwatsu seemed to be using the glass to mimic other materials.

            ArtGlass vase top view    Hineri ArtGlass vase


Fukuoka handkerchief style vase,  7.5" long x 11" high x 5" wide, circa 1940s-1960s.

    Fukuoka Art Glass Company's work is fairly uncommon in the U.S. and what is seen here are mostly pitcher and drinking glass sets in a red or yellow and white swirl pattern. Founded in the 1940s, Fukuoka was renamed "MultiGlass" in the early 1970s, so pieces labeled "FTG" were made circa 1940s-1960s. MultiGlass is still in business.


Fukuoka Top