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The Overview of Akadu Ware
Akadu Ware (赤津焼) is Japanese traditional porcelain from the south of Seto City, Aichi Prefecture. It is considered that Akadu Ware is a part of Seto Ware, but it is often discussed separately from Seto Ware because it is established well as one of the independent kinds of pottery. The features that make Akadu Ware very unique are discussed in the following paragraphs. (Since the history of Akadu Ware is very similar with Seto Sometsuke Ware, please refer the history of Seto Sometsuke Ware to check the one of Akadu Ware.) Like other traditional ceramics, Akadu Ware 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 Ware 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 Ware was authorized as one of the Japanese traditional crafts by the government in 1977. Nowadays, many skilled potters of Akadu Ware devoted himself to training successors to them. A saying describes how hard to become experienced Akadu Ware 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 Ware 1: Decorations
The distinctive features of Akadu Ware 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 Ware, 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 Ware – 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 Ware 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 Ware has seven kinds of glaze. It is unusual to have this much of glaze, and this makes Akadu Ware 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 Ware. 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.