Amita Co. artists: Minai, Torahiko Kanamori, Takeshi

Kuroda, Kiichi [黒田歸一]

Kiichi Kuroda was a famous manufacturer and dealer in artistic bronze during the Meiji era. Kuroda mostly produced items made of bronze, shakudo and related materials, but a number of works by Kuroda in a Nunome Zogan technique also exist.
Herbert G. Ponting during his visit to Japan in early 1900s had an opportunity to visit the workshop of Kuroda in Kyoto in person. An excerpt from the Pointing's famous book "In lotus-land Japan" describing his meeting with Kuroda is provided below. Nothing short of a book could do justice to the hours I have spent with Kyoto artist-craftsmen. About Kuroda alone many pages could be filled, but here I can only relate some simple incidents and facts.
Kuroda is a bronze-inlayer whose only compeer is Jomi. He is a very tall, stern-looking, clean-shaven man, and speaks English fluently with a deep rich voice. Few who have not been to Kyoto know anything about the artistic marvels created under his roof. His masterpieces are never seen in any shop, for, like a few others of his contemporaries, he scorns all dealings with the trade. His output is small, but he finds a market for it all with visiting connoisseurs.

A bronze dish from the workshop of K. Kuroda.

At either Kuroda's or Jomi's one may see triumphs of the bronze-worker's art superior to anything ever produced by Nagatsune, Jinpo, Toshiyoshi, or any of the old-time masters, for though many native crafts are being degraded by appealing to the most vulgar of foreign tastes, that of bronze-working, one of the most beautiful, more than holds its own with the work of previous centuries.
I owe much to Kuroda for what he taught me. Though I had spent a lot of time in the shops of other metal-workers, I had been groping in the dark until I met him. On my third visit to his place he said: "You seem really anxious to learn about my work, so I am going to teach you. Very few foreigners understand anything about bronze, though most of them think they do. To show my finest work to many foreigners is a thankless task, as they cannot see why one piece should be worth four or five times as much as another that looks almost exactly like it. Even an educated Japanese does not know anything about the fine-arts of Japan unless he is a collector."
With that he went to a near-by shelf, and, after much careful deliberation, selected a box from a number of similar-looking ones of various sizes, and, opening it, produced a bag of brocaded silk, from which he drew out a bronze plaque.
"Now what do you think of that?" he asked, handing it to me.

Bronze vase with a silver and gold inlay by Koji (K. Kuroda workshop).

I carefully examined it. The bronze was of a beautiful rich golden-brown colour, with an exquisite patina, or polish, and was inlaid in relief with silver and gold, and with shakudo and other alloys of bronze.
The design represented the famous Bay of Enoura, from Shizu-ura by the Izu peninsula. Silver-tipped waves were lapping the shore, and out on the ocean two golden junks were running before the wind, with silver sails bellying to the breeze. By the beach there was a grove of old pines, in various alloys, and in the distance Fuji-san's snowy crest, of silver, floated in the sky above clouds of shibuichi (a grey alloy of silver and bronze). The price was £8.
I had certainly never seen anything more beautiful, either in design or workmanship, in any shop I had previously visited, and said so.
"Do you know what I think of it?" Kuroda replied, and continued without waiting for an answer: "What you are looking at is nothing but mere rubbish. No Japanese collector would bestow a second glance on it. Now I will show you what a Japanese, who knows, would call good work."
With that he opened another box, and brought forth another plaque of like size, about seven inches in diameter, and handed it to me. The design was the same, yet not the same. The composition of the picture was different, though the view was still Enoura Bay, with Fuji and the junks and pine-trees. But it was not the difference in the composition that struck me so much as the surpassing beauty of the workmanship. To examine these pieces, side by side, was in itself an education. One piece was beautiful, the other was incomparably beautiful.

Shakudo cigarette case.

There was as difference between them as there is between a cut-glass bowl made by hand and another pressed in a mould. This difference was not apparent at the first glance, and only by careful scrutiny could I see the immense amount of skill and labour lavished upon the one and lacking in the other. The price of the second plaque was £30, nearly four times the price of the first one shown me. Though the thicker gold and silver used, and the better quality of the bronze, increased the value, yet the extra cost was mainly due to the workmanship expended on it.
Kuroda told me that the best pieces of his work were bought by English and French visitors. Small vases and plaques are the favorite pieces, but if one desires something combining beauty with practical utility one may buy a cigarette or card-case of shibuichi inlaid in relief with some such simple design as a peasant carrying a load of firewood, or a pair of fighting cocks; but one must pay £10 for it if one wants the finest work. This case, however, will be "a joy for ever" to its owner, as he will always have the satisfaction of knowing that it is a sample of the best art of its kind.

In early 1900s Kuroda was an agent for Yabu Meizan, selling the satsuma ware produced by the latter.
Between 1904 and 1915 Kiichi Kuroda participated in several international expositions, presenting his works in various categories: bronze, cast iron, wrought iron, goldware and silverware, fine art, decoration and furniture of halls and houses. In 1915 he was awarded the Gold Medal for his artworks at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco, USA.
Kiichi Kuroda retired in 1915 and his son, S. Kuroda, inherited the family business. After 1920s the traces of the Kuroda workshop are lost. Presumably, the company couldn't compete against factory produced artworks brought by the Second Industrial Revolution, and was closed.

Addresses and locations
Examples (from the web)