Japanese Culture

Tanba Tachikui-yaki(丹波立杭焼)


( image from : https://nini22.stores.jp/items/5460b7ef1d255dd50700010e )

What Is Tanba Tachikui-yaki?

Tanba Tachikui-yaki is one of Rokkoyo, the six traditional pottery authorized by the Japanese government. (The world-famous Seto-yaki and Shigaraki-yaki are also included in Rokkoyo.) It is from Hyogo Prefecture. It is considered that the history was started at the end of the Heian period (710-794) or the beginning of the Kamakura period (1185-1333) so that it has been baked for more than 800 years. Since potters have inherited the techniques for hundreds of years, Tanba Tachikui-yaki is also called as ‘a pottery, which narrates the history of Japanese pottery’. In the early stages of Tanba Tachikui-yaki, pots, jars, and earthenware mortars were the main products. In the beginning of the Edo period (1603-1868), potters started to bake teapots, teacups, and bowls. Tanba Tachikui-yaki has a large variety of types, but the main products have been pottery for everyday use. It does not have breathtaking colors or outstanding shapes, but people have been fond of it in their daily life. Some pottery is only for appreciating, but Tanba Tachikui-yaki is mainly known as pottery for daily use. In other words, the simplicity makes it easy to match our daily lifestyle.

The Features: Kilns – 1. Anagama

As mentioned in the last paragraph, Tanba Tachikui-yaki does not have an unique and eye-catching appearance or colors. It is rather simple and plain. In the early stages of the production, potters used Anagama. This is the old type of kiln, which is created by digging a hole on a slope. In Anagama, pottery did not get glazed, and it was covered with a natural glaze (a velvet glaze) called Shizen-yu. Shizen-yu happens naturally and automatically in the baking process. While pottery gets fired for a long time in the kilns, ash from firewood piles up on the surface of the pottery and melts with iron, which is contained in the clay of the pottery. They make a chemical reaction and turn to be green or reddish brown colors. Bernard Leach, a British world-famous potter, also took a notice of this feature, and he was one of the people who introduced Tanba Tachikui-yaki to both inside and outside of Japan. Anagama was very small and narrow; moreover, it needed very long time to bake pottery completely. Thus it was able to bake only small amount of pottery. In the beginning of the 17th century, Anagama was gradually replaced with Noborigama.

The Features: Kilns – 2. Noborigama

Noborigama is a kiln that is created on the slope or a hill with bricks, and it has many rooms inside of the kiln. Since the structure of the kiln – having a lot of rooms inside – resembles the one of a beehive, the rooms of Noborigama are called Hachi no su (means honeycombs). Incidentally, the oldest Noborigama, which still extent in Japan, is 47 meters long. Noborigama was able to bake a lot of pottery in a shorter time. With Noborigama, pottery also turns colors like with Anagama. The different thing from Anagama is that potters glaze pottery before they bake them. In Noborigama, pottery is baked for 60 hours with 1300 degrees centigrade. The color change of the surface happens like in Anagama, and this change is called Hai kaburi (means ‘covered with ash’) in Noborigama. The principle of Hai kaburi is similar to the chemical reaction in Anagama. The ash piled up during the baking process melts with the glaze and creates beautiful colors and patterns. Hai kaburi is one of the features that are highly regarded by devotees of pottery. Besides this feature, Tanba Tachikui-yaki has a feature to change the tone and the touch during the use. The more often you use it, the deeper the color gets and the smoother the surface becomes. At the same time when Noborigama was introduced to Tanba Tachikui-yaki, the technique of special potters’ wheels was also introduced from Korea. The potters’ wheels are controlled with feet. In other words, potters rotate pottery by kicking the wheels. The interesting thing about the wheels is that the wheels rotate counterclockwise. (The potters’ wheels used in other regions are clockwise.) This anticlockwise rotation is only used for Tanba Tachikui-yaki, and it might be the factor to create subtle differences in the touch or the sense.

The History or The New Idea?

As mentioned in the first paragraph, Tanba Tachikui-yaki is one of historical Japanese pottery. However, it does not necessarily mean that Tanba Tachikui-yaki does not accept any changes or new idea. While the history and its traditional techniques are considered very important, potters of Tanba Tachikui are allowed to visit other regions and learn techniques and designs from potters who have totally different styles. Tanba Tachikui-yaki is one of the few styles that let potters introduce different techniques and glazes from other regions to express potters’ art and idea freely.


・無印良品 MUJIキャラバン



( image from : http://www5.city.yokkaichi.mie.jp/menu68200.html )

What Is Banko-yaki?

Banko-yaki is from Yokkaichi City, Mie Prefecture. It is also called as Yokkaichi Banko-yaki. Banko-yaki is famous as an earthenware pot, and the Banko earthenware pot has an 80 to 90 percent share of the market in Japan. It is not too much to say that almost all domestic earthenware pots you can find in the market are Banko-yaki. Banko-yaki has an amazing high fire resistant so that it is perfect for earthenware pots that are fired directly by an open flame. Nowadays, Banko-yaki is richer in variety than before, for example, Tajine pots (pots for a North Arabian dish called Tajine. In Japan, Tajine has been a very popular dish to cook recently) and pots that are designed especially for induction stoves. Ceramists take a positive attitude towards introducing trends and new technologies.

The Origin And The Development of Banko-yaki

It is considered that the history of Banko-yaki was started 260 years ago by Rouzan Nunami. The Nunami family was one of the families that thrived around the time, and it was a wholesale store of ceramics. Rouzan Nunami was well versed in the tea ceremony and started to bake pottery. The time he lived was the period of isolation for Japan so that Rouzan imagined how overseas would be and created exotic pottery. He named the pottery as Banko-yaki with his wish – ‘Banko fueki (Banko: the name of his store, fueki: unchangeable forever)’. He wished the pottery to thrive as an excellent pottery in any ages. He learned skills and techniques of ceramic from Kyo-yaki and especially from Kenzan Ogata, one of the greatest Japanese ceramists and painters. However, the production of Banko-yaki was temporally suspended because of the death of Rouzan Nunami. About 30 years later, Banko-yaki was started again by Yusetsu and Senshu, brothers who run an antique shop. Yusetsu was good at woodwork and Senshu had an inventive mind. They designed wooden forms to shape pottery and succeeded to create teapots with the forms. In the end of the Edo period (ca. 1780-1867), teapots for green tea was in great demand because people prefer green tea (Sencha) to powdered green tea (Maccha) compared to the time Banko-yaki was started. Therefore, the idea and technique of Yusetsu and Senshu became an advantage for Banko-yaki to succeed in the Edo period. In the end of the Meiji period (ca. 1911), Torajiro Mizutani developed a new technique – Hanjiki. Hanjiki means half pottery and half porcelain so that Hanjiki has the both features of pottery and porcelain. It is stronger than just porcelain and suitable to form it into a big size. Besides that, the color of painting comes out very well. Before Hanjiki, Banko-yaki had been succeeded with its woodwork form technique, but it started to decline because the technique was stolen by other ceramists. Torajiro broke the deadlock by developing the technique of Hanjiki. The year after the development was the change from the Meiji to the Taisho Era so that Hanjiki was named Taisho-yaki. Because of the advent of Taisho-yaki, Banko-yaki made rapid progress and became one of the leading ceramic-producing districts. Nowadays, Banko-yaki has more varieties, and it is exported to the world.

The Features of Leading Products

In the following paragraphs, we take a close look at two leading products of Banko-yaki – Donabe (an earthenware pot) and Kyusu (a teapot).

1. Donabe – An Earthenware Pot

As mentioned in the beginning, Donabe is one of the main products of Banko-yaki.  The very high resistance to fire makes Donabe able to increase the share of the market by over 80 percent. This feature comes from the nature of petalite (castorite), and the lithium ore content of the Banko-yaki clay is 40 to 50 percent. Thanks to the feature of petalite, Donabe of Banko-yaki became very famous as unbreakable earthen pots. Besides the high resistance to fire, Banko Donabe has a few more advantages. Firstly, it has an effect of far-infrared rays. The far-infrared rays make it able to heat food efficiency. It is considered that Banko Donabe radiates three to four times more far-infrared rays than metal cooking utensils, such as pots made of aluminum, copper, and stainless steel. Secondly, Banko Donabe is good at holding the heat for a longer time. The reason of that is because the earthenware pots like Banko Donabe requires more specific heats. (The specific heat is the amount of heat per unit mass required to raise the temperature by one degree Celsius.) The specific heat that Banko Donabe requires is double of iron. The last advantage is its design. Unlike other metal cooking utensils, Banko Donabe has a warm impression caused by the feel of material and beautiful paintings on the surface. Because of this feature, Banko Donabe can be directly brought from kitchens to the table.

How To Use Banko Donabe

Before you use Donabe, it is better to do Medome. Since Donabe is made of clay, it sucks up water. Medome is a process to prevent ceramics from absorbing water and also from breaking easily by fire. The process is very simple. You just need to fill Donabe with water and one or two tablespoons of flour and make it boiled. After it gets boiled, leave it until it gets cold and wash it very well. Instead of flour, you can also use water in which rice has been washed. Things you should be careful or avoid when you cook with are – do not heat it while it is still wet, do not use it for deep-frying something, do not leave food inside for a long time after it is cooked (it causes the stench and mold). After you used Donabe, wash it and dry it very well. When the inside of Donabe gets scorched, please add water and boil it first to make the scorching soft and easy to remove. When Donabe smells bad, please add hot water and vinegar (or lemon juice) and leave it overnight. Then wash it very well and dry it completely before you use it again.

2. Kyusu – An Teapot

Selling points of Banko Kyusu teapot are a very sharp spout, which does not drip after you pour from it and its fine tea strainer. Banko Kyusu is made of clay containing a lot of iron. When iron combines with oxygen during firing, it creates the beautiful color varieties, and it depends on the amount of oxygen in kilns. When it gets enough oxygen, the color changes to bright cinnabar red (vermilion). On the other hand, it turns to be dark reddish brown when it does not get enough oxygen. Banko Kyusu has been gaining supports especially among masters of the tea ceremony because they believed that the taste of tea is better with Banko Kyusu. It was found out that the iron, which is contained in the clay, reacts on tannin (the component of tea, causing better taste) and lessens the bitterness. Thus, you taste it mellower and more delicious. Another feature of Banko Kyusu is that it gets beautiful luster and turns the color deeper during the use. The luster comes from oil from hands and the color change is because of tea incrustation. Since Banko Kyusu does not have a glaze, these factors effect on the surface very well. The longer you use Banko Kyusu, the more beautiful it becomes. As you can see and feel the transformation of Kyusu in a long time, it might be easy to create a strong attachment to your teapot. To keep you Kyusu getting polished and adding tastes and ages, please avoid washing it with soap and rubbing the surface too much as much as possible.


・BANKO LIFE内にあった読本のリンク
・wikipedia (タジン鍋)



What Is Mino-yaki?

Mino-yaki is one of the major ceramics in Japan. It is from Toki City, Gifu Prefecture. It is considered that the history of Mino-yaki was started about 1300 years ago. The shipment of Mino-yaki makes up 62 percent of the whole ceramic shipment in Japan, and its shipment value accounts for 44 percent of the entire value of ceramic shipment in Japan. As you can see from the numbers, Mino-yaki is spread among many Japanese families. It is not too much to say that the majority of ceramics we often see at home and in restaurants is Mino-yaki. Nowadays, Mino-yaki is known as very simple and reasonable ceramic, moreover, it is sometimes considered that the feature of Mino-yaki is not having features. However, it thrived as unique and gorgeous work before. (The history and changes of Mino-yaki will be covered in the following paragraphs.)

The History – How Did It Become Present Mino-yaki?

It is considered that the history of ceramics in present Gifu Prefecture was started in the Asuka period (ca. 592-710). The pottery, which was baked in this time, was very hard and called Sueki, the beginning of present Mino-yaki. In the Heian period (ca.794-1185), Mino-yaki was started to get glazed with Kai-yu (ash glaze), and it was used as dishes and containers for food storage among aristocrats. It was the Kamakura period (ca. 1185-1333) when Mino-yaki was started to spread among the common people. In this era, Yama-jawan (unglazed ceramics) was started to be baked, and it was kept producing throughout the following era called the Muromachi period (ca. 1336-1573). In the Sengoku period (ca. 1467-1590), ceramists started to bake new kinds of Mino-yaki, for example, Tenmoku-chawan (bowls glazed with Tenmoku glaze) and earthenware mortars. The biggest change for Mino-yaki happened in the Azuchi-Momoyama period (ca. 1573-1603). Since the tea ceremony culture was flourished in this era, ceramists of Mino-yaki created ceramics for that too. The typical Mino-yaki at the time was called Setoguro, Kizeto, and Shino. These three types have been popular and praised since then. Besides these three kinds, many people have been fond of Oribe and Ofuke, the other kinds of Mino-yaki that were started to be baked in the beginning of the Edo period (ca. 1603-1868). They are also ceramics for the tea ceremony. In the latter half of the Edo period, porcelain appeared in Mino-yaki. Mino porcelain is made of local clay called Gairome clay. This clay is mixed with feldspar and silica rock. At the same time, a beautiful blue color painting called Sometsuke was also started. In the Meiji period (ca. 1868-1912), transcription techniques were invented for Mino-yaki, and it made possible mass production. On the other hand, great works of ceramists were still thriving. Their amazing works were highly regarded overseas, and it leads to the export of Mino-yaki. However, over through the Meiji period into the Showa period (ca. 1926-1989), Mino-yaki had been faced a crisis – Mino-yaki had been declined like other Japanese ceramics had been. From this time, ceramists decided to focus on baking dishes and plates more for daily life, not for arts. As you can see from the number of Mino-yaki shipment, this decision led them to survive and even success. Furthermore, ceramists decided to introduce a division of labor system to lower costs. Nowadays, ceramists put more effort to arrange traditional designs for modern taste. Mino-yaki is still improving every day.

The Features – The Origin of Present Simple Mino-yaki

As mentioned before, people do not realize special features in Mino-yaki very much these days since its design has been quite simple recently. However, the core techniques of the present Mino-yaki base on more artistic types of Mino-yaki that were started during the Azuchi-Momoyama period. In this paragraph, we take a close look at four types of them – Setoguro, Kizeto, Shino, and Oribe.

Setoguro is very black, and it gives you hard and heavy feeling. It is considered that Setoguro was mainly baked in between 1573 and 1592. Setoguro was actually started as a sample to check the way glaze melts. The glaze is iron glaze and fired with about 1200 degrees centigrade. After that, ceramics are taken out from kilns and cooled rapidly in the water. The glaze is supposed to have yellowish brown, but it turns to be shiny black by getting cooled immediately after it is baked.

The glaze, which is used for Kizeto, is wood ash glaze. It has warm light yellow color, and it is favored a lot by masters of the tea ceremony. The base of Kizeto, ceramic itself, is very thin, and the glaze added on the surface is also very thin. The common patterns of Kizeto are cherry blossoms, irises, and chrysanthemums.

The biggest feature of Shino is having Sometsuke (a technique to draw designs with iron glaze before the ceramic get glazed). The size of the ceramic itself is generally large. The design of the painting is very simple yet something that makes us familiar, such as scenes and things we see in everyday life. After the painting, the surface of the ceramic is covered with a glaze made from feldspar, which gives Shino creamy white color. Another feature of Shino is having many tiny holes on the surface just like the surface of citrus fruits.

Oribe is the generic name for Ao-oribe and Oribe-kuro. It has many kinds and colors, but generally, Oribe is the ceramic, which is glazed with Douryoku-yu (a copper green glaze). Besides that Oribe has a large variety of shapes. Oribe would be a unique type of Mino-yaki since many ceramists their arts throughout it.

What Mass Production Enable Mino-yaki To Do

When we think about mass production, we tend to connect it to the idea – cheap and low quality. However, the amazing point about Mino-yaki is that you will not get the bad impression from it. As mentioned in the beginning, Mino-yaki accounts for 60 percent of all ceramic shipment in Japan. What makes it possible is the development of techniques in production. Ceramists had been tried to increase productivity by creating machines that produce ceramics faster yet with enough quality they can approve. As a result, they have many high-tech machines that make possible high-quality mass production, for example, a machine that can shape and dry 6000 ceramics per day and a machine that can glaze perfectly evenly on ceramics. One of the most outstanding inventions is the machine that can print the patterns on ceramics. It was very difficult to print designs on the surface of ceramics before because it is not flat. Then how they do it perfectly? They use elastic silicon balls. The design is on a copper plate, and many tiny holes are located to follow the line and patterns of the design. The ink comes out from the holes. The silicon balls are placed to the plate and stencil on the surface of ceramics. The elasticity makes it possible to stick to the surface completely and create exact the same designs on it. While many traditional Japanese ceramics stick to their traditional techniques, Mino-yaki is very flexible to introduce new technologies into it. By being successful, Mino-yaki is showing a new way to make a traditional Japanese culture and new technologies coexist.


・美濃焼陶芸家 可児一広
・wikipedia 天目茶碗

Seto Sometsuke-yaki(瀬戸染付焼)


( image from : http://kougeihin.jp/item/0409/ )

The Overview of Seto-yaki: Seto Sometsuke-yaki – Akadu-yaki

Seto-yaki is one of theJapanese traditional crafts from Seto City, Aichi Prefecture. Strictly speaking, Seto-yaki is baked not only in Seto City but also around the city. The south region of Seto City is called Akadu Region, Akadu-yaki is baked. Akadu-yaki is considered as a part of Seto-yaki, but it is often discussed independently since Akadu-yaki has been established as a unique type of Seto-yaki. In this article, Seto-yaki excluding Akadu-yaki will be discussed, and to distinguish Seto-yaki (except Akadu-yaki) and Akadu-yaki, Seto-yaki is often called as Seto Sometsuke-yaki. (Akadu-yaki is discussed in another article independently.)

The History of Seto-yaki

It is considered that the first time when pottery or porcelain was baked in this region was in the Kofun Period, the mid-third century to the end of the seventh century. It is very early compared to other pottery-producing regions. When Seto Sometsuke-yaki (hereinafter called Seto-yaki) started to establish its own features was in the Kamakura Period (ca. 1185-1333). As each Japanese pottery and porcelain has different features, such as shape, color, and touch, Seto-yaki has many characteristics that distinguish itself from other porcelain. What makes Seto-yaki outstanding in the Kamakura Period was that Seto-yaki was the only porcelain, which got glazed in the era. Nowadays, glazing is very common, and having glaze is not enough to make Seto-yaki different from other porcelain. In the Kamakura Period, however, glazing had great significance. The reason is because the glaze was one of the innovative ways to improve porcelain’s water-resistance at the time. Since porcelain without glaze has a lot of tiny pits on the rough surface, it was very easy to absorb water. The glaze is able to fill the numerous pits, furthermore, it is turned to be glassy and firm by getting baked. This feature of glazing makes it able to keep beautiful coatings the surface. Having glazing techniques as the first porcelain was a great step for Seto-yaki because of the following two reasons. Firstly, having a unique feature was crucial to surviving in the competitive market of porcelain. Secondly, it was always a goal for Seto-yaki to improve the convenience or the usefulness. Seto-yaki was already widely spread as one of the daily necessities among many households so that potters felt the necessary to live up to customers’ expectations. In the case of Seto-yaki, having the high water-resistance feature is the way to meet people’s expectations. After the Kamakura Period, Seto-yaki got urged to be more special and creative to stand out in porcelain markets because of the entry of a lot of Chinese porcelain into the market around the time. As the tea ceremony got very popular at this time, ceramists of Seto-yaki produced more porcelain for that. In the Edo Period (1603-1868), however, Seto-yaki suffered from the success of Arita-yaki (world-famous Japanese porcelain and one of the competitors of Seto-yaki). In 1807, Tamikichi Kato, a ceramist, changed the situation for the better – he came back to Seto region after learning techniques in Arita region. He introduced the skills and gave much effort to improve the productivity. In the Meiji Period (1868-1912), Seto-yaki started to export to many countries. While many plates and bowls were exported, some Europeanized works such as coffee cups, saucers, and ornaments were also played an important role to introduce Seto-yaki to the world. Besides that, the export of novelties was prospered at this time. Seto-yaki had some big customers, such as The Walt Disney Company, and exported ceramic dolls and ornaments to them. After World War II, the rapid economic growth helped Seto-yaki to prosper again. However, Seto-yaki was starting to face hardships again because cheap Chinese mass-produced ceramics started to appear in the Japanese porcelain market. Moreover, the collapse of Japan’s bubble economy made further attacks on Seto-yaki. Nowadays, the number of registered kilns of Seto-yaki is a quarter of the one in the golden age of it. The situation of Seto-yaki is far from perfectly favorable, but Seto-yaki keeps improving with the enthusiasm and skills of ceramists.

The Features of Seto-yaki 1: Shapes

One of the features of Seto-yaki is that the wide range of diverse types and shapes. For example, plates of Seto-yaki have roughly seven kinds – Rinka (means ‘round flowers’ in Japanese; a round plate with a wave brim shaping like a flower), Naga-zara (means ‘a long plate’; a rectangular shaped plate), Hangetsu (means ‘a half moon’; a semicircular, Konoha (means ‘a leaf’; a leaf shaped plate, Mokkou-gata (means ‘wood grounds, bird’s nests’; Mokkou is one of Japanese family crests. This type of plate uses the crest as a motif.), Sumikiri (means ‘cut corners’; plates which have cut corners, and Irizumigaku-zara (means ‘cut corners frame plates’; it is similar to Sumikiri, but it is deeper than that. The edge has a decoration and looks like a frame). Other typical Seto-yaki types are bowls, teapots, teacups, and sake bottles. As you can guess from the example of plates, shapes and designs of each type are very diverse.

The Features of Seto-yaki 2: Decoration – Sometsuke

As mentioned in the beginning, Seto-yaki, which we discuss in this article, is originally called Seto Sometsuke-yaki. Sometsuke is one of decoration (painting) skills of ceramics, and its process is quite simple. Ceramists draw patterns on the white surface of ceramics with a paint called Gosu (cobalt pigments). After that, the paint is covered by glaze, and its color turns into beautiful blue or purplish blue when it is fired in kilns. The bright blue of paint creates a strong yet elegant color contrast to pure white of the porcelain’s surface. Incidentally, the base of porcelain itself is made of weathered granite called Saba. Saba is mixed with several types of local clay from Seto region, and they give the porcelain a soft and smooth feeling. As the process of Sometsuke (a decoration technique) is very simple, the quality of the painting is directly the value of Seto Sometsuke-yaki. The typical patterns are mountains, rivers, flowers, and birds, and all designs are very realistic. The touch of the painting is very delicate and creates a special taste, which makes Seto Sometsuke-yaki very outstanding from other painted porcelain. The beautiful paintings of Seto Sometsuke-yaki won the praise of many critics in the Universal Expositions in Vienna and Paris. Moreover, it is considered that the design of Seto Sometsuke-yaki had an influence on Art Nouveau. One of the points of Sometuske, which require skills and a lot of experience, is creating the exact color that ceramists imagine in their mind. As mentioned earlier, the combination of Gosu (cobalt), glaze, and firing create the color of painting. The color can be from blackish dark blue to bright ultramarine, and very little changes on each factor create the shades. Ceramists need to know the perfect balance to make the exact color they want. Another difficult point of Sometsuke is, needless to say, the drawing skill itself. Especially in the golden age of Seto Sometsuke-yaki, the painting skill of ceramists was very inspiring since they trained themselves throughout producing literally thousands of porcelain to meet the both domestic and international demands. It is even considered that ceramists at the age were able to draw exact the same designs many times without any error. Even if they made an error, the error itself was less than one millimeter difference. However, ‘It is impossible to expect the same quality of techniques to present ceramists’, Manabu Kato (a present Seto Sometsuke-yaki ceramist) said. The point that he made is the difference between the amount that ceramists produce in their entire life now and before. As mentioned before, Seto ceramists in the golden age produced thousands of porcelain. Compared to them, present ceramists create way much less because the demand is much lower than before. To succeed in the difficult time, what present ceramists focus on more is adding a slightly different shade of color or feeling in each porcelain. In other words, they focus on creating one and only design for each porcelain. As people’s taste and preference are very diverse nowadays, it might be natural to shift the perspective and necessary to be more flexible. The effort of ceramists is shown in the details and the large variety of designs. People feel ceramists’ constant efforts from each tiny parts and touches and appreciate them. This is the advantage of only handcrafted porcelain, even though high-quality print machines are able to produce great patterns on the porcelain these days. The atmosphere, which only hand-painted patterns can create, cannot be imitated by machines. In 1997, Seto Sometsuke-yaki was authorized as one of Japanese traditional craft by the Minister of Economy.


・みんげい おくむら
・伝統工芸 青山スクエア



( image from : http://toukuukanichi.cart.fc2.com/ca9/94/ )

The Overview of Akadu-yaki

Akadu-yaki is Japanese traditional porcelain from the south of Seto City, Aichi Prefecture. It is considered that Akadu-yaki is a part of Seto-yaki, but it is often discussed separately from Seto-yaki because it is established well as one of the independent kinds of pottery. The features that make Akadu-yaki very unique are discussed in the following paragraphs. (Since the history of Akadu-yaki is very similar with Seto Sometsuke-yaki, please refer the history of Seto Sometsuke-yaki to check the one of Akadu-yaki.) Like other traditional ceramics, Akadu-yaki has been developed by a lot of passions and techniques of ceramists for over 1000 years. Especially in the Edo period (1603-1868), potters of Akadu-yaki succeeded in improving many techniques, for example, throwing pots in Rokuro (potters’ wheels), Tatara (a technique to control the temperature of kilns with foot-operated bellows), and decorations. Because of the potters’ high-quality work, Akadu-yaki was authorized as one of the Japanese traditional crafts by the government in 1977. Nowadays, many skilled potters of Akadu-yaki devoted himself to training successors to them. A saying describes how hard to become experienced Akadu-yaki potters – ‘three years for learning how to temper clay, ten years for acquiring the skills of Rokuro (potters’ wheels)’. It is sometimes used as a metaphor to imply how much challenging potters’ training is.

The Features of Akadu-yaki 1: Decorations

The distinctive features of Akadu-yaki are unique skills for decorations and the large variety of glaze.
The typical decoration for ceramics is drawing patterns on the surface of them with colors. In the case of Akadu-yaki, you can find more variations and enjoy unique tastes created by the combinations of different techniques. In this paragraph, we cover some of the decorations you can see in Akadu-yaki – Inka, Kakka, Ukashi, Zougan, Mendori, and Kutsugata.
Inka is like stamping the surface of pottery with stone or wooden stamps. Potters carve patterns or lines on the stamps and press them on the surface of pottery before it gets completely dry. It is considered that this technique was started in the Kamakura period. Kakka is the technique that potters carve patterns on the surface with pallets. Ukashi is also carving out patterns on the surface. The difference between Kakka and Ukashi is dimensions. Kakka has two dimensions since potters carve lines to create patters. On the other hand, Ukashi is carving the outline of patterns, so that the patterns become three-dimensional. They look more stands out than Kakka. Zougen is usually made by carving out the patterns first. After that, in the grooves, potters add different color clay from the pottery. Mendori is the technique to make the round surface of pottery into polyhedral by shaving the surface a couple of times with pallets. Kutsugata is very interesting because this is a technique to create a beauty in imperfection. Potters do bend the shape of perfect round pottery into elliptic or even a little bit misshapen.

The Features of Akadu-yaki 2: Seven Glazes

Generally, each Japanese pottery and porcelain have developed with only a few types of glaze, thus each of them can be specified by what kind of glaze it has. As glaze gives appealing feature on ceramics, the feature of glaze can be used as a pronoun of the ceramics. On the other hand, Akadu-yaki has seven kinds of glaze. It is unusual to have this much of glaze, and this makes Akadu-yaki unique. Let us take a close look at each type of glaze.
The first glaze is called Kai-yu (ash glaze; yu means glaze in Japanese). This is the base of all other six glazes and very traditional because it has been used since the beginning of the Heian period (ca. 794-950), the very early stages of Akadu-yaki. Kai-yu is made of the ash from plants that are burned for firing kilns. This glaze is considered as Shizen-yu (the natural glaze) since the glazing happens voluntarily as the ash piled up on the surface of potters gets melt by itself. Its color is light yellowish green or light blue. The color sometimes changes due to impurities in the ash. In the beginning of the Heian period, this type of glaze was found in kilns that baked pottery only for aristocrats.
The second glaze is called Tetsu-yu (iron glaze). It was the beginning of the Kamakura period (1185-1333) when potters started to use this glaze. This glaze contains iron oxide, and the shades of this glaze can be from yellowish brown to black depending on the amount of iron oxide it has.
The third glaze is called Kozeto-yu (old Seto glaze). The origin is the same as Tetsu-yu – it is considered that the first use of Kozeto-yu was in the beginning of the Kamakura period. It is also part of iron glaze. The majority part of glaze looks black and some parts have dark brown color. This type of glaze has been used often for the tea ceremony pottery. Especially, jars for storing tea leave are very famous and popular.
The fourth glaze is Kiseto-yu (yellow glaze). This is also similar with Tetsu-yu (iron glaze), and it also contains iron. The iron content of this glaze is about 10%, and it creates warm yellow color. It is considered that this glaze was created in the late 16th century.
Shino-yu is the fifth type of glaze. This glaze is nontransparent, and it has beautiful gloss and white color. This is made of orthoclase. Like Kiseto-yu, it is also considered that this glaze was invented in the late 16th century.
The sixth glaze is called Oribe-yu (also called as Shinsha-yu). This glaze is made with copper oxide, and its color is beautiful deep green. The origin of the name is that Oribe Furuta (one of the skilled pupils of Sen no Rikyui, who gave the most profound influence on Japanese tea ceremony) loved this glaze very much. The name of this glaze was named after him. Interestingly, this glaze can also have deep red color depending how much oxygen is in kilns.
The last glaze is Ofuke-yu. This glaze originated in Ofukemaru region, which is close to Nagoya Castle, in the Edo period (1603-1868). The technique of this glaze was brought by a Chinese scholar, who became a naturalized Japanese citizen. This is a part of ash glaze.




ideIzushi-yaki is traditional Japanese white porcelain from Izushi Town, Hyogo Prefecture. Since Izushi-yaki has very mystic white color, it is known as ‘too white color porcelain’. The surface of it is very smooth, and the beauty of the smoothness is often compared to silk.

The History of Izushi-yaki

Since the era of Emperor Suinin (from 29 BC to AD 70; various theories), potters have baked pottery around present Izushi Town. It is considered that the beginning of its industry was in 1764 (the Edo Period) because the first kiln to bake unglazed earthenware was built in this year. In other words, Izushi-yaki was started as pottery. In 1789, Zaemon Nihachiyasan, a potter, hit upon an idea which was starting to bake porcelain. He got supported by Izushi han (a federal clan in Izushi) and visited present Arita region, where produces now world-famous Japanese porcelain – Arita-yaki, to acquire skills. In 1799, Izushi han started to promote the development of industry by managing kilns directly. At this time, potters found high-quality stones for porcelain, and they considered that Izushi-yaki would develop very much soon. However, Izushi han was not able to profit enough from the industry of Izushi-yaki even though the porcelain had great quality, and the clan disposed of its kilns. It is considered that the Tempo Era (1830 – 1844) is the time when Izushi-yaki developed quite rapidly. The porcelain baked until this era is called Ko Izushi-yaki (Old Izushi-yaki), and it is differentiated from present porcelain. Izushi-yaki has developed and won a lot of praise in many exhibitions, such as Paris Exposition. In 1980, Izushi-yaki is authorized as one of the Japanese traditional crafts by the government.

The Porcelain Which Pursues Pure White

There are some major areas that produce white porcelain in Japan, for example, Arita, Seto, and Kutani. Porcelain from these regions is famous for breathtaking paintings on the surface. Bright blue and red colors create an outstanding contrast to the white color of porcelain. Izushi region is also one of major white porcelain producing areas, but what differentiates it from other areas is that Izushi-yaki does not have colorful paintings on it. In other words, Izushi-yaki succeeded to create a salient characteristic in the white porcelain market by sticking to literally being pure white porcelain. Not having paintings on the surface does not mean that Izushi-yaki is too plain and boring. The typical design of Izushi-yaki is chrysanthemums that curved on the surface of porcelain.

The Blessed Izushi Region

As mentioned before, Izushi region has been blessed with a high-quality stone which is suitable for making porcelain from. The stone is called Kakitani Touseki (Kakitani porcelain stone), and it contains a surprisingly low percentage of iron. Ceramists are very proud of such a great quality local material and put a lot of effort to make full use of it. This is another reason why Izushi-yaki is established as pure white porcelain.
Plates, sake bottles, and pots have been the common types of Izushi-yaki for a long time, and recently wind-bells and flower vases have been produced for tourists. Since Izushi region is also famous for soba noodles (buckwheat noodles), soba noodles restaurant in the region serves meals with Izushi-yaki. Tourists enjoy the taste of the regions.

The Procedure of Izushi-yaki

The whole procedure to create Izushi-yaki usually takes around 20 to 30 days. Almost all procedures are done by hands, and ceramists require obtaining high skills especially when they curve out delicate patterns on the surface. Even though they are succeeded to create beautiful patterns, they can be ruined very easily if the temperature of kilns is not controlled perfectly. Each part of procedures needs to be adjusted perfectly. Usually, ceramists make Izushi-yaki dry first before they fire it for the first time. When they carve out designs on the surface, carving is done after the drying step. The first firing process is called Su-yaki in Japanese, and it means basic baking without glazing. One of the main effects Su-yaki can give is that porcelain will not be reverted to clay. The other effect is that Su-yaki can make porcelains less fragile and easy to get glazed. These effects happen because the porcelain itself shrinks and gets firm by being heated. In Su-yaki, porcelains are fired for 12 to 20 hours with around 800 to 900-degree fire. The process after Su-yaki is glazing. The common types of glaze are transparent glaze (to make gloss finish) and mat glaze (which is made with talc). Both glazes play an important part in protecting porcelains. After glazing, porcelain is fired for 20 hours with 1250 to 1300 degrees. Porcelains get cool down for 2 days in kilns. On the third day after firing, Izushi-yaki is completed and took out from the kilns.

Traditional Techniques Are Still The Core of Izushi-yaki

Hiroshi Kunimura, one of the present Izushi-yaki ceramists emphasizes the importance of traditional techniques when they make Izushi-yaki. He mentioned that 95 percent of the technique is traditional, and only five percent of the new technique is required to create Izushi-yaki. He even said that the percentage of traditional technique could be 99 percent and one of the new skills would be only one present. Since the succeeded techniques are very crucial for Izushi-yaki, every single procedure needs to be done precisely to create good Izushi-yaki. In other words, there is almost no room for improvement caused by chance. Other Japanese pottery and porcelain sometimes depend on chances causing beautiful shades when ceramists glaze and bake. While other Japanese pottery and porcelain aim at the beauty which happens accidentally on the top of great techniques, Izushi-yaki aims at the beauty which only happens in perfection. Without precise work and through control, it is impossible to create good Izushi-yaki. Since then, it is considered that it takes more than ten-year training to be semi professional ceramists. To become professional Izushi-yaki ceramists, it takes over 20 years.

How to Use

When you use Izushi-yaki, there is not any special cares or things you need to avoid. To keep porcelain beautiful for a long time, using soft sponges is recommended when you wash it. It is for avoiding scratches on the surface. Besides that, some part, which is carved to create designs, does not have glaze so that please wash the part especially very gently.


・伝統工芸 青山スクエア
・出石焼窯元 堀川陶房
・wikipedia (垂仁天皇)

Shodai yaki(小代焼)


( image from : http://kkr-hotel-kumamoto.com/store/item04.html )

The Outline of Shodai-yaki

Shodai-yaki is Japanese traditional pottery from Kumamoto Prefecture. Its name comes from the mountain located in the northern part of the prefecture – Mt. Shodai. The foot of this mountain has suitable soil for pottery, and the soil gives the pottery unique tastes, such as the smoothness and a beautiful dark color. Because of the good soil, a region around the mountain has been thrived since they started to bake pottery. It is considered that Shodai-yaki was started in the Edo Era (ca. 1600-) and now it has around 400 years of history. In 2003, Shodai-yaki is authorized as a Japanese traditional craft by the governments.

The Processes until Shodai-yaki Is Created

In this paragraph, we take a close look at how Shodai-yaki is made. As mentioned in the beginning, clay for Shodai-yaki is from Mt. Shodai, and the clay is firstly dried. After the process is water elutriation. Potters smash dried clay finely, mix with the water, and stir well to get rid of unnecessary sand and stones. Muddy clay gets dry again in the sun until it becomes moderate consistency. After that, the clay gets stored indoor. By letting it sit for a while, the number of bacteria in the clay increases, and the bacteria make the clay sticker to make it easier to shape details. As the clay still contains air inside, potters let it out by stepping on it. After using their feet, they use their hands and keep tempering with scrupulous care until it gets more flexible. When this process finishes, potters shape pottery, add some simple decorations, such as patterns curved out with pallets or combs while the pottery still wet enough. After that pottery gets dried completely in the shade. At last potters bake it as the first time with 800 degrees Celsius before the glaze. After the glaze, it is fired at 1300 degrees for about 45 hours. To prevent it from having cracks because of a rapid drop in temperature, pottery gets cool down in kilns for about 48 hours. Only the pottery, which can be sold or sent to the exhibitions, will be kept, but others will be smashed completely. This prevents defective pottery from appearing in the market and keeps the average quality of Shodai-yaki high.

Glazing Techniques of Shodai-yaki

Shodai-yaki is famous for its glazing techniques. One of the most famous and outstanding techniques is called Uchi kake nagashi. The technique is splashing glaze on the surface of pottery. In other words, this technique is rather drastic than delicate. Incidentally, the name means strongly (Uchi) splashing (kake) and flowing (nagashi). It sounds very simple, but it requires quite a lot of experience to create decent patters or designs. Before potters apply the glaze, they imagine designs and the finish roughly. However, it is impossible even for skilled potters to estimate how the glaze would look like after glazing. Splashed glaze drips and flows on the surface of pottery to create more tastes by itself. The beauty of Uchi kake nagashi is that its unpredictability. When skilled potters win over Accident to their side, they finally become able to create breathtaking one and only patterns. Potters can get limitless possibilities to design the pottery because they take advantage of the accident. This makes Shodai-yaki unique and fascinating. Potters often add a white glaze on dark color pottery so that the color contrast is very strong. Besides that, its drastic strokes of glaze create a strong impression and make us feel the energy of it. We can see this technique especially in the early stages of Shodai-yaki, which called Ko-Shodai (old Shodai-yaki).

Colors of Shodai-yaki

Shodai-yaki is divided into four types by colors – White Shodai, Yellow Shodai, Blue Shodai, and Amber Shodai. The variation of colors is created by glaze and fire in kilns. The main ingredients of glaze are plants ash (straw, bamboo leaves, and miscanthus), tree ash (evergreen oaks, Japanese cedars, pine trees, and miscellaneous small trees), finely smashed feldspar, and ore containing iron. Potters can create different colors and shades by combine these ingredients with perfect balance for each type. White Shodai is mainly made of straw ash. On the other hand, Yellow Shodai contains more tree ash compared to White Shodai. The Blue color in Shodai-yaki is created when straw ash gets fused with iron in the soil.
Interestingly, even if pottery gets the exact same glaze, how the color comes out varies according to the way the pottery is fired. In kilns, there are many factors that create unique tastes on pottery. The main factor is a position of firewood. Needless to say, the amount of firewood affects how much fire a spot gets. The amount of fire affects the color and the shape of pottery in the end. When one side of pottery gets more fire and the other side does not, you can see distinct tastes on the same pottery. This is another point that makes pottery interesting. Potters place firewood in kilns one by one. Besides this factor, what kind of pottery is baked together or where to place pottery also have a big effect on the finish because the temperature inside of kilns is neither stable nor uniform. Finding ideal places for each pottery highly depends on potters’ experiences.

Charms of Shodai-yaki Created by Skilled Potters

As we looked through, Shodai-yaki has many faces to entertain us. While it makes a powerful impression with Uchi kake nagashi, it can create delicate shades of colors. People can never get tired of appreciating the uniqueness each pottery has, and they can enjoy searching for pottery that suits their tastes perfectly. Taishu Inoue, one of contemporary Shodai-yaki potter, said that the best way to extract the beauty of Shodai-yaki was creating very simple pottery and expressing the charm throughout it. The main reason why he focuses on the simplicity is because too much decoration makes people hang back to use pottery. Especially, he focuses on baking pottery which makes people feel the warmth and convenient to use. Nothing can make him happy but customers’ comments mentioning how comfortable to use the pottery or how long they keep using it. As soon as you hold Shodai-yaki, you will get a special feeling from it. Very powerful yet gentle to users – this unique pairing of features cannot be found in other pottery.



Shitoro yaki(志戸呂焼)


( image from : http://shimahaku.jp/index.php?%E5%BF%97%E6%88%B8%E5%91%82%E7%84%BC 1)

What is Shitoro-yaki?

Shitoro-yaki is pottery with a tasteful austere design from Shizuoka Prefecture, and it is one of the admirable Japanese pottery. The kilns of Shitoro-yaki (also called as Shidoro-yaki) are famous as one of seven favorite kilns of Enshu Kobori, a notable expert in the tea ceremony. He praised seven kilns that baked pottery suiting his taste and style very much and called them as Enshu Nana Gama (Enshu’s Seven Kilns). Incidentally, other six pottery are Asahi-yaki, Agano-yaki, Akahada-yaki, Kosobe-yaki, Takatori-yaki, and Zeze-yaki. What all pottery from Enshu Nana Gama commonly has is refined beauty which is related to the tea ceremony. You might have heard the concept of the tea ceremony called Wabi-sabi. Wabi-sabi is deeply related to Japanese aesthetic sense and considered the core philosophy of the tea ceremony. Wabi-sabi is actually a compound word consisting of two different concepts. Wabi itself means a charm or a taste you can find in simplicities or silence. In the tea ceremony, Wabi is eliminating unnecessary things and regarding the spirits of the tea ceremony very highly. Wabi-cha is also used as a pronoun to describe this philosophy of it; cha means tea in Japanese. Sabi is the word to describe a charm that makes us feel the age of things. In other words, Sabi is the special and thought-provoking taste of things. Since Shitoro-yaki has both Wabi and Sabi, it uses only subdued colors and gives you an unobtrusive impression.

The History of Shitoro-yaki

It is considered that the history of Shitoro-yaki started at the end of the 15th century. The region where Shitoro-yaki is baked is now called Kanaya, but it was called Shitoro-kyo. This is the origin of the name of Shitoro-yaki. The Kanaya region has been famous for rich and perfect soil for pottery. In the 16th century, many potters came to this region from Seto and Mino regions (where produce world-famous pottery Seto-yaki and Mino-yaki) and started to bake Shitoro-yaki. In 1588, Shitoro-yaki became very famous all over Japan because it was authorized by Ieyasu Tokugawa, the first Tokugawa shogun (general).

The Features of The Soil from Kanaya

The nature of the soil from Kanaya region gives Shitoro-yaki tastes. The soil is very hard and has a feature to become very firm after baking. This nature gives Shitoro-yaki to have heavy and solid impressions. Besides that, the soil has high resistance to humidity, and it is perfect as pottery to store dried tea leaves. Usually, Shitoro-yaki has dark brown or dark yellow colors, and these colors come from the high amount of iron that the soil has. Kanaya region is also rich in material for a glaze. The red stone called Niishi is the core ingredient for the glaze of Shitoro-yaki. Since Niishi also contains a lot of iron, it gives pottery deep and quiet dark color. Especially in the tea ceremony, this dark color is well contrasted by the soft yet bright green of tea. Incidentally, in the region where has nice soil for pottery, like Kanaya, tea trees grow very well. It might be a destiny that Shitoro-yaki succeeded as pottery for the tea ceremony in this region.

The Stages of Thriving

As mentioned before, Shitoro-yaki began to flourish at the end of the 15th century and developed very much until modern times. The stages of its development can be divided into there. The first stage is called Anagama stage. This stage lasted until the second half of the 16th century. Anagama is one of the old styles of kilns. This type of kilns was created by digging holes on the surface of hills or the ground. The beginning of this time, many potters needed to move to new regions to find better opportunities to be successful in baking because Seto region suffered from a war which happened nearby. Some of the potters moved to Shitoro region, and it was the great chance for Shitoro-yaki to grow more. In this time, iron glazed tea bowls or ash glazed pottery were produced a lot. The second stage is called Ogama stage (the stage of big kilns). This stage is started in the latter half of the 16th century. This was the time when Shitoro-yaki got authorized by the first Tokugawa shogun. The general gave Shitoro kilns Shuinjo (a license to do business), Shitoro-yaki began to appear more on the market. After that, teapots from Shitoro region were favored by successive generals and became offerings to them. In this stage, a great variety of pottery was baked, for example, sake bottles, incense burners, and small plates. The third stage is called Noborigama stage. Noborigama means ascending kilns that are the type of kilns used to bake Shitoro-yaki recently. This stage is from the beginning of the 17th century to the middle of 19th century (the Meiji Era). The most produced kinds of Shitoro-yaki were pots, jars, and big dishes.

The Types of Kilns

Nowadays, many Shitoro-yaki is baked with gas kilns or electronic kilns. However, firewood kilns bake pottery twice per year. Compared to gas and electronic kilns, it is possible to create deeper and tasteful colors with the firewood kilns. Ascending firewood kilns usually have three rooms inside, and it can have around 200 pottery in each room. Pottery is fired with Japanese red pines, which are able to create powerful flames. While firewood kilns can add beautiful shades on the surfaces of pottery, the fire could destroy pottery. Pottery is very delicate and fragile. Only 20 to 30 percent of pottery can be sent to exhibitions or go on sale. Pottery is baked for three days and let them cool in kilns for a week. One of the unique features of Shitoro-yaki is called Shichido yaki (baking seven times). As you can imagine from the name, potters bake the same pottery seven times. Every time when potters put the pottery back to kilns, they add another layer of iron glaze. The glaze itself is an ordinal iron glaze, but it is able to create beautiful shades of colors throughout the process of Shichido yaki. Nowadays, firewood kilns bake pottery only twice per year, it is impossible to see this process again.


・ネットゲリラ (七度焼)
・季節を愛でる (個人ブログ)

Kokuji yaki(小久慈焼)


( image from : http://www.musubiwork.jp/?pid=26165913 )

The Outline of Kokuji-yaki

Kokuji-yaki is a pottery from Kuji City, Iwate Prefecture. It is famous as a pottery which has smooth and beautiful white surface as if women’s skin. It has 200 years of history, and it is considered that its originator is Jiemon Kumagai. The techniques he used were based on Soma-yaki, which is from present Fukushima Prefecture. Kokuji-yaki is made of local clay and glaze, and the ingredients have not changed since Kokuji-yaki were started to bake. The region of present Kuji City was not blessed with rich soil for agriculture. In the old days in japan, citizens needed to pay tribute to the ruler. Usually, people presented rice as a tribute, but people who lived in present Kuji City needed to find other options. In short, baking pottery was the best option they could take to live in the barrens. Even though Kokuji-yaki was started under the pressure of necessity, it developed to get exclusive supports from a han (a feudal clan). Once Kokuji-yaki faced a crisis to discontinue because of the lack of successors, but it managed to survive since Kuji City devoted itself to train potters who can inherit the previous techniques.

The Trick to Keep Clay Fine

The clay from present Kuji City does not contain a lot of iron so that it looks very whitish gray. The clay gets smashed into very fine pieces and mixed with orthoclase and water to make the base for pottery. In December to March in this region, the temperature gets quite low. To prevent the base clay from becoming frozen, potters need to cover it with electric blankets. It is a little trick only present-day potters from the northern provinces of Japan know.

The Typical Designs of Kokuji-yaki: Kata-kuchi

Kokuji-yaki has a couple of typical designs that have been baked since the beginning of its history. One of the designs is called Kata-kuchi (lipped bowls). Kata means one side, and kuchi means mouths in Japanese. In short, Kata-kuchi is pottery that has a mouth (a spout), which is narrowed at only one side to pour liquids from it. Kata-kuchi is always the most common design of Kokuji-yaki, and the design has been treasured for a long time. Potters add some modern tastes on it by trying out new styles or shapes, but the basic is never changed. In the old times, this type of pottery was used a lot as measuring cups or tools to transfer liquids from one container to the other. On the other hand, nowadays, Kata-kuchi is used in a wide range of occasions. For example, using it as a vessel for sauce or dressing is very practical and recommended. Besides that, it is also suitable yet unique to use it as a vessel for Sake (Japanese rice wine) or hot wine in the winter. The beautiful pure white color of Kokuji-yaki makes the color of liquor stand out. The basic design of Kata-kuchi has never been changed, but the edge and the spout of pottery have been sharpened to suit people’s contemporary preferences. Connecting a spout part to a bowl takes very long time, and even skilled potters can create only four Kata-kuchi per day.

The Typical Designs of Kokuji-yaki: Suribachi

Another typical design of Kokuji-yaki is called Suribachi, an earthenware mortar. However, Suribachi is a little different from the typical earthenware mortar which you can think of. It has grooves carved out with pallets the inside of the bowls. The grooves make food or seeds get crushed easily. Suribachi is focused more on grinding food, whereas other earthenware mortars are focused on smashing food. Nowadays, food processors are very common in all over the world, and they are actually taking over the place of Suribachi in Japan too. However, potters of Kokuji-yaki emphasized the advantage of using Suribachi because Suribachi is able to keep the original taste and flavors of food better than food processors are capable of. During grinding, Suribachi causes less heat, which breaks the flavors of food, than food processors do.

The Things Never Changed And The Things Changed

As mentioned in the section of Kata-kuchi, Kokuji-yaki is very flexible to introduce new tastes to suit people’s preferences that change with the times. However, there is only one thing that potters have never changed since they baked the first Kokuji-yaki. It is soil – the core of Kokuji-yaki. Potters stick to the local clay called Kuji clay. The clay has high resistance to fire, and its pure white color makes out the color of glaze very well. The typical glazes of it are called Nukajiro-yu (rice bran white glaze) and Ame-yu (amber glaze). As the names suggest, Nukajiro-yu becomes opaque white glaze, and Ame-yu turns to be beautiful yellowish brown after baking. Having pure white color is very important for Kokuji-yaki since how much white it gets effects how much the color of glaze is able to stand out. The only the time when potters add sand to clay is when they want to create the feeling of earth. At the beginning, the color of the clay is like the mixture of light gray and light brown. When it gets dry, it turns to be whiter. While potters stick to using the local clay, they keep focusing on improving their techniques. For example, they succeeded to make particles of the clay smaller than before to make much thinner pottery. Furthermore, they invented smoother glaze by changing a combination of it. This improved glaze can be glazed evenly and easily. Potters of Kokuji-yaki managed to keep up both cherishing the tradition and attempting new possibilities to improve. ‘It is meaningless to keep baking traditional pottery if nobody is found of it’ – Satomi Shimodake, one of the present Kokuji-yaki potters. He also says that it is very important to cherish traditions, but it is also as much as important that people feel free from preconceptions when they use Kokuji-yaki. People should feel free to choose where and how to use the pottery. In other words, Potters expect us to use Kokuji-yaki as a part of our daily life. Kokuji-yaki is not made to be just admired without being actually used. As the eating habits of the Japanese has been Europeanized, potters create plates and bowls that can suit many different kinds of dishes more easily. Kokuji-yaki is one of the great successful examples of a fusion of traditions and modern tastes.


・無印良品 MUJIキャラバン

Mashiko yaki(益子焼)


( image from : http://www.monsen.jp/ITMP/M060046.html )

History of Mashiko-yaki

Mashiko-yaki is a Japanese traditional pottery from Mashiko Town, Tochigi Prefecture. Compared to other Japanese pottery, Mashiko-yaki got established as it is today way much later. Potters in Mashiko Town have been baked pottery for ages. It is considered that the manufacture of present style Mashiko-yaki was started in 1853, the end of the Edo period. The originator of Mashiko-yaki is Keizaburo Otsuka. When he was a child, he went to a Terakoya (a Japanese private school which was very common in the Edo period. Teachers taught reading and writing to children in the school. It helped to raise the standard of academic ability of children) in Kasama City located in Ibaraki Prefecture. Kasama City was also pottery-producing city (now it is famous for Kasama-yaki), and he had a lot of chances to see the pottery production. Later in his life, he got married and moved to Mashiko Town. He worked hard mainly in farming, but he made time to bake pottery since Mashiko Town has great soil for pottery and childhood memory about pottery manufacture encouraged him very much to start it by himself. When the Meiji period (1868) started, Mashiko-yaki kept developing and shipped to all over the Kanto region (the middle of Japan) since Mashiko Town had the advantage of being in an ideal location. In this period, a simple yet beautiful painting was invented for Mashiko-yaki. However, at the end of the Edo period, Mashiko-yaki started to decline because of a couple of reasons. Firstly, more colorful and elegantly decorated pottery, such as Kyo-yaki got established and attracted more attention. Secondly, Kasama-yaki was beginning to appear on the market more than before. Kasama-yaki was a rival of Mashiko-yaki since Kasama-yaki was the base of Mashiko-yaki’s techniques and has many similarities with it. Mashiko-yaki lost its uniqueness in the market by the rise of Kasama-yaki. The third reason is because of modernization in lifestyle. As other pottery also suffered, people got to pay less attention to Mashiko-yaki, traditional crafts. Especially, it was the serious damage for Mashiko-yaki that lifestyle in Tokyo got changed drastically since Tokyo was the best consumer city for it. What saved Mashiko-yaki was, interestingly enough, the connection with the United Kingdom. Shoji Hamada, a Mashiko-yaki potter, traveled to the United Kingdom to acquire more skills for pottery. He learned a lot during his stay with Bernard Leach, a world famous English potter, and he got a lot of inspirations from Eric Gill, an English sculptor. His experiences in the United Kingdom gave Mashiko-yaki additional unique features. Without his efforts, Mashiko-yaki could not achieve today’s success nor obtain original and modern impressions that other Japanese pottery never can get.

Features of Mashiko-yaki

The interesting part of Mashiko-yaki is that it has many features and each of pottery mixes different features to create beautiful combinations. In this section, we take a close look at three features – the color, the glaze, and the pattern.

Colors of Glaze

The color of pottery is based on what kinds of glaze potters use. There are typical seven glazes used for Mashiko-yaki. The first glaze is called Nukajiro (rice bran white). As it name suggests, Nukajiro is white and opaque like rice bran is. The ingredient is ash of chaff. Nukajiro finishes the surface of pottery very smooth and soft. The second glaze is called Kakigusuri (persimmon glaze). This glaze contains powdered stone from Mashiko region. Since the stone contains a lot of iron, it creates dark brown or yellowish brown finishes. The third glaze is Kokugururi (black glaze), and it gives pottery to have black yet transparent glazing. This glaze is created by mixing Kakigusuri and ash from plants. The fourth glaze is Amegusuri (amber glaze). It has transparent amber color, and it is created by adding iron oxide and ash to Kakigusuri. The fifth one is called Haigusuri (ash glaze). As you can guess from the name, the ingredient is ash mixed with white clay. It creates a transparent and glossy finish. The sixth glaze is one of the interesting glazes Mashiko-yaki has, and it is called Shiogusuri (salt glaze). If you scatter salt in kilns when you bake pottery, the salt becomes gas and turns to be glassy because of a chemical reaction. By combining iron or cobalt, potters can create a brown or blue glaze. The seventh glaze is called Galena glaze, and this is from the United Kingdom. As mentioned before, Mashiko-yaki is inspired a lot by pottery in the United Kingdom. This is a traditional English glaze and creates a transparent yellow-brown color finish. Besides these seven types of glaze, there is another way to color the pottery. Slipware is the general term of the pottery which is covered by lead glaze. Before the glazing, usually potters draw some patterns on the pottery. It is considered that this style is from Staffordshire, England after the 17th century.

Glazing Techniques

It is not only the color of glaze that plays a big role to create impressions of pottery. The different ways to glaze also create different impressions of pottery. In this paragraph, we will cover three ways of glazing. The first way is called Nagashi-gake. It is created by pouring glaze from the top of the pottery. During the glazing, potters need to tilt the pottery slightly. The second way is called Uchi-yu. Potters use brush and glaze by tapping or beating the surface of the pottery. By glazing not too gentle, potters can make some undersigned patterns on the surface. The third glazing technique is called Tsutsugaki. To understand this technique, you can imagine squeezing whipped cream to the cake. Potters sack watery mud or glaze and squeeze to draw some designs.


Besides Uchi-yu and Tsutsugaki, you can see some more patterns on Mashiko-yaki. The typical patterns are created by combs, ropes, and stamps. With combs, several parallel lines are curved (called Kushime). With ropes, you can create continuous patterns on the surface (called Jyomon). This pattern is very traditional and often seen in ancient Japanese pottery. The last pattern is called Zougan. Firstly potters create grooves by stamps or planes. After that, they color the grooves to make it stand out. All of the patterns are created before the pottery gets dry completely.