Yukio Yamamoto was born in the Ako district of Hyogo Prefecture, Japan, in 1925.
In 1953, he spent a year as a research student at the Tanabe class of the Department of Ceramics at Kyoto Institute of Technology. Yukio studied the history of pottery of the past centuries of this well-known Hemiji Castle domain. He would also research kiln designs through fieldwork as his thesis project.
By 1954, he built his first Noborigama chambered climbing kiln in Tenjin-Cho, Himeji City, teaching the old-world firing process classes. This would become the first step in Yamamoto’s revival of the Tozan style of Anagama and Noborigama down-draft style wood-fired kilns. In 1600, the kiln process had been at its height and had mainly provided wares to Himeji Castle.
As an artist, he typically worked in ash-covered high-fired unglazed ceramics and scorched surface coloring porcelain. Yamamoto was a member of the Hyogo Prefecture Craft Artists Association and had solo exhibitions at regional galleries, including Tsubaki Modern Gallery in Shinjuku.
In 1970, Yamamoto moved his kiln to the mountains of Hayashida-Cho due to difficulties in finding ample wood sources in the city for his wood-fired pottery. He then inherited the name of Higashiyama-yaki pottery, also known as Himeji-yaki, which had been established in the late Edo period (1603-1868) but discontinued in the Meiji period (1868-1912).
In 1984, Yamamoto was invited to visit Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff by Professor Donald V. ‘Don’ Bendel (1935-2019). The Japanese artist fell in love with the local pine tree reminding him of his mountains home in Himeji, Japan. Together with Professor Bendel, they would build a Wood kiln facility with Tozan, Anagama, and Noborigama kilns, completed on November 17, 1985. As a result, the ceramics department now has one of the most extensive wood-fired kiln facilities in the United States, housing seven kilns, including one of only five Tozan kiln sites globally.
At Northern Arizona University, he was revered as the “Master Potter of Tozan Kilns.” In addition to his time in Flagstaff, the Arizona Commission of the Arts and Northern Arizona University would curate a Yamamoto solo exhibition with a supplemental catalog titled The Yakimono: of Tozan of his ceramic pottery vases, platters, and sculptures.