Hamada, born in Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture, was one of the most influential figures on the studio pottery of 20th century.
At the age of 16 he already had a desire to become an artist potter. After attending Tokyo Institute of Technology to study ceramics under Itaya Hazan (1872-1963) he continued his study at Kyoto Municipal Institute of Ceramics (today’s Kyoto Municipal Institute of Industrial Technology and Culture) where he worked together with Kawai Kanjirō (1890-1966), experimenting on glazes. During this period Hamada got acquainted Yanagi Sōestu (1889-1961) and Tomimoto Kenkichi (1886-1963).
Hamada was much impressed by a Tokyo exhibition of ceramic art by Bernard Leach (1887-1979) who became his lifelong friend and mentor.
He accompanied Leach to England to help him to set up the Leach pottery in St Ives in 1920. After 3 years’ stay in St Ives, Hamada returned to Japan to eventually establish his workshop in Mashiko, 100 km north-east of Tokyo.
Hamada was a major advocator of the Mingei Folk Crafts movement. He visited various kilns in Japan for further research including the old Tsuboya pottery in Okinawa from which he received great influence. The aesthetic philosophy of Mingei ran throughout Hamada’s prolific career as a potter, focusing on making utilitarian pots using local materials and traditional techniques, working naturally and allowing the work come from within spontaneously. His pots are often decorated with simple but lively motifs executed in a dynamic creative energy.
In 1955 he was designated a ‘Living National Treasure’, the first time for a potter, while in 1968 he was awarded the Order of Culture, by the Japanese government.