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Iga Ware

The History of Iga Ware

Iga Ware (伊賀焼) is a pottery from Iga City, Mie Prefecture. Your first impression of Iga Ware might be a little rustic or too plain, compared to other Japanese traditional pottery. However, you will sense and realize the beauty and charm of it throughout getting to know its history and features. It is considered that Iga Ware was started about 1300 years ago. The age was called Nara Period (ca. 701-794) in Japan, and a traditional pottery called Sueki had been baked a lot. In the early stages of Iga Ware, it was baked only for an agriculture use, such as simple pots storing seeds, and gradually Iga Ware was started to use for tiles of temples. It was the beginning of the 17th century when Iga Ware became widely known all over Japan. The 17th century in Japan was the age when chanoyu (the tea ceremony) flourished. Since a lord of Iga region had a thorough knowledge of the tea ceremony, potters started to bake pottery for the tea ceremony at the lord’s behest. This was the perfect chance for Iga Ware to flourish as well. In 1669, however, mining clay from specific mountains holding the crucial clay for Iga Ware got prohibited to prevent it from over mining, and Iga Ware started to decline gradually. In the middle of Edo Period (ca. 1716-1789), potters of Iga Ware acquired glazing skills in Seto region (where Seto Ware is baked) and made efforts to revive Iga Ware. Kilns of Iga Ware are usually built with stepped chambers, and firewood kilns were the common style of it. Until 1965, firewood kilns was the mainstream, and it was shifted to coal kilns and electronic kilns. Nowadays, gas kilns is the mainstream because it is superior to other types of kilns in combustibility and thermal efficiency. However, it does not mean that firewood kilns are inferior to other kinds of kilns. The unique feature that only firewood kilns can create is Shizen-yu (natural glazing). Shizen-yu occurs when ash in the kilns piles up on the surface of pottery several times and melts in the heat. The melted ash turns to be glassy and becomes like a glaze. Since this glaze happens naturally, its finish varies from one to the other. In other words, you can never get the exact same pottery. This makes each Iga Ware baked in firewood kilns special, and people cherish it very well. Since some firewood kilns still fire pottery a few times of a year, it is possible to see and feel the traditional techniques even nowadays. If you interested in, it would be fascinating to visit the kilns when they held the performance.

Features of Iga Ware 1: Patterns, Shape, Glaze, Texture

At the first sight, Iga Ware looks very simple and has few points to mention. In this paragraph, we take a close look on each feature of Iga Ware. Firstly, Iga Ware has specific patterns on its surface. The patterns are usually waves or cross stripes, and they are made with pallets. Especially pitchers and flower vases of Ko Iga (the early stages of Iga Ware) have this patterns a lot, furthermore, they have a pair of ears. Secondly, Iga Ware, especially Ko Iga (old Iga Ware) is very warped. The fascinating point of this feature is that the warped pottery is well-proportioned before potters finish it up. In other words, potters dare to shape pottery into an imperfect form. This is related to one of the unique Japanese perspectives or ways to appreciate beauty. It is getting to be commonly known that Japanese find beauty in something fragile or short-lived, such as cherry blossoms, more than other nationalities do. Finding out a beauty in imperfectness is another example of special Japanese perspectives towards things. The third feature is Shizen-yu (natural grazing) as mentioned in the last paragraph. This glazing happens automatically in kilns, but it does not mean that potters do not have any clues how the pottery would be after that. Surely, it is impossible to guess how exactly the pottery would look like after baking, but until some extent, potters are able to estimate how the glaze could be applied on the surface and adjust many factors to make the finish to get close to what they want. Since Shizen-yu is very unpredictable, it requires potters a lot of experiences to control its finish. The last yet not least feature of Iga Ware is the feeling of clay. Many of Iga Ware are created to cherish the color and the touch of clay. It does not necessary mean that Iga Ware has a very rough texture. The texture is often smooth rather than rough. As Iga Ware flourished as pottery for the tea ceremony and the tea ceremony was the symbol of the high culture, potters were very careful in creating a pleasant touch to users’ fingers and lips. Potters have been particular about the texture since then. Besides that, Iga Ware makes us feel warmth by its beautiful color of clay. Interestingly, Iga Ware can also give the pleasantly cool impression by doing one step before you use it. If you rinse the pottery with water right before you use them, drops of water make the color of pottery stand out and make a beautiful contrast. Iga Ware will be able to make food look even better, especially when you put a cold meal on it in the summer.

Features of Iga Ware 2: Clay

As mentioned in the last part of the former paragraph, the clay of Iga Ware plays an important role to give it uniqueness. The clay is mined from a stratum called Ko Biwako sou (old Biwa-lake stratum), and this stratum contains a lot of carcasses of creatures or plants. When the clay gets fired in the high temperature, the carcasses burn out and leave numerous fine air bubbles in the clay. The porousness clay is also called as ‘the breathing clay’. Besides that, this clay has extreme infrared radiation effect, so that it does not get cold easily. In other words, this clay is ideal to make pots and slow cookers. Actually, one of the most popular Iga Ware is earthen pots, and it is the best to bring out umami (*Japanese expression; the substance that makes us feel the taste of food or the material which makes us perceive that the food is delicious) out of ingredients. Recently, Iga Ware has been getting more popular and introduced to many families. Iga Ware has more varieties, such as casseroles (steamers) and smokers (smoker grills). It is very delightful to see that Japanese traditional crafts adapt themselves to present daily life.


・伝統工芸 青山スクエア
・伊賀焼窯元 長谷園

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Onta Ware

History of Onta Ware

Onta Ware (小鹿田焼) is a Japanese pottery from Oita Prefecture. The beauty of Onta Ware is its simple yet fine design, and you get a warm feeling as soon as you touch or hold the pottery. The reason why people attach to Onta Ware is because Onta Ware is designed to suit people’s daily life as a folk handicraft and makes them feel a sense of closeness. In other words, it is designed to be a tool for people not to be a work of art. A village that Onta Ware is baked is located the northern part of Oita Prefecture. The village is also called as Sarayama. It is considered that the origin of Onta Ware is in 1705, the middle of the Edo Period. The techniques were brought from Fukuoka Prefecture, which is located next to Oita Prefecture. Since potters built kilns in Onta region, they keep up the tradition and has been handed the techniques down from father to son. Now only ten kilns fire Onta Ware. Onta Ware became famous as pottery that is loved by Bernard Leach, a great British potter. In 1954, he visited Onta region and took part in baking. The reason why sometimes you can see exotic designs in Onta Ware is might because of the influence of him. In 1995, Onta Ware was recognized as an Intangible Cultural Property by the Japanese government.

Impressions and Designs

Onta Ware is made of red clay, so that you can feel the strength and the warmth of clay from the surface. You can even feel as if you smelled earth from it. As it looks quite solid, you might guess that it would be heavy. In contrast to its impression, its weight is quite moderate. Besides that, the price of Onta Ware is very reasonable even though it is baked in kilns with traditional techniques. As for use and price, Onta Ware is considered as a folk handicraft and liked by many people as a part of their food culture. On the surface of Onta Ware, glaze or some decorations are added. For glazing, white glaze, amber glaze, and yellow ash glaze are common. For decorations, potters use some tools to make different designs. The typical styles are small dots or fine lines designed radically or all over the surface. One of the techniques is called Tobi-kanna. While potters rotate potter’s wheels, they scratch the surface of pottery at equal intervals with an iron plane before the pottery gets completely dry. This is one of the techniques that Bernard Leach was very fascinated with. Potters also use a comb or their fingers for other designs. What the common feature of all designs is that they are designed to make the nature of clay stand out.

The Unique Features of Onta Ware: Clay and Sarayama Village

All clay which is used for Onta Ware is from Sarayama (Onta) region. The entire Sarayama village is located on the great earth that is suitable for pottery, and potters can reach the rich stratum by just digging the surface of the ground a little bit. Potters cooperate with each other to gather soil twice or three times per year, and the soil is distributed equally to each kiln. After that, potters put the soil in wooden mills and crush the soil to make it moderately fine for shaping pottery. One of the unique points of Onta Ware is that almost all manufacture processes have not changed since it was started. Especially, tempering the soil with wooden mills is very traditional and adds additional taste and feature to the process of creating Onta Ware. Like water mill, the mill is designed to utilize the power of a river located in Sarayama region. The structure of the mill is quite similar with Sozu (Shishiodoshi). Sozu is a water-filled bamboo tube which clacks against a stone when emptied. You would have ever seen it in Japanese gardens. The water mill has a log on the edge of the river. One side of the log is curved to collect water on it, and the other side of the log is connected to a mallet. When water fills one side of the log, the mallet on the other side is raised accordingly. As soon as the water overflows from the hole, the mallet swing down and crush the soil. Whenever the mills move, the logs make strong yet pleasant wooden sound. As potters keep using the same technique since they started to make Onta Ware, this wooden sound echoing throughout the village nowadays is almost the same as the one sounded 300 years ago. In other words, you can feel and experience the old days of Sarayama region as if you were there 300 years ago. This is one of the special charms that Onta Ware has. The sound of water mills is officially valued as one of the precious sounds in Japan; moreover, Japanese government recognizes the sound as one of 100 beautiful sounds that must be preserved. This traditional milling process takes around two weeks until the soil gets fine enough. The next process is elutriation. After that, potters dry the soil perfectly, and finally, they can start shaping pottery. This whole processes for purifying soil take even two months. While potters in other pottery-producing districts use machines for it, potters of Onta Ware stick to traditional techniques. It is because they cherish the tradition more than time or trouble they could save. As mentioned in the beginning, the techniques of Onta Ware have been inherited from fathers to their sons. Furthermore, all manufacture processes are done by potters and their family. It is no exaggerations to say that Onta Ware is the family business. In Sarayama region, men are in charge of gathering and tempering soil, shaping pottery and firing them. On the other hands, women are in charge of tasks that do not need a lot of power, such as elutriating soil. Since potters started to bake Onta Ware in this region, they decline to introduce machines, hire potters from other regions and take pupils. To keep the tradition, they decided to divide up the work among family instead of taking additional support from outside of the village. The warm feeling that you can get immediately by touching Onta Ware might be because of the family atmosphere in manufacturing.


・小鹿田焼 さとう
・日田市観光協会 おいでひた.com

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Naraoka Ware

The History of Naraoka Ware

Naraoka Ware (楢岡焼) is pottery from Daisen City, Akita Prefecture, and it has about 140 years of history. Naraoka Ware is famous for its stunning deep blue glaze. It is considered that Naraoka Ware originated in 1863. This is the year that Seiji Komatsu, a member of a local old family, learned techniques from potters of Arima Ware and started to bake Naraoka Ware. Daisen region has clay for pottery, but the clay is far from perfect and ideal clay for pottery. Due to the nature of the clay, pottery gets cracks easily when it get dry, and pottery also changes its shape during a firing process. There were more kilns before, but many of them needed to close down because they run out of their funds throughout repeated trial and error. Furthermore, it was difficult to survive even for the kilns that completed perfect pottery, because mass-produced pottery appeared on the market. With the development of transportation networks, the cheap pottery was spread over many regions. It hit many kilns very hard, and only one kiln survived. This is the kiln which still bake Naraoka Ware today. Naraoka Ware had more variety in big jars before, but it shifted to have more variety in smaller dishes to suit the contemporary lifestyle. Besides that, potters have focused on making it easy to handle, giving it a warm feeling, and expressing beauty in pottery without too much decoration. Naraoka Ware has been changed to fit the taste of the times.

The Feature of Naraoka Ware: Clay

As mentioned earlier, Naraoka Ware is made of the clay that is difficult to handle. It is understandable that potters used the clay in the early stages of Naraoka Ware because there were not any other options – no other clay was available in the region. These days, however, it is fairly possible and even easy to import better clay from all over Japan or even the world. Is inheriting the tradition the reason why potters stick to the non-ideal clay? Yes, this is one of the reasons, but the main reason is because the clay gives pottery unique tastes. Roughness or imperfectness that Akita-region clay has is the features other pottery clay does not have. Since clay is the crucial material to create the quality of pottery or ceramics, potters generally prefer better or ideal clay to use. It is also simply because of a thought that better clay makes more beautiful pottery or ceramics. In other words, the beauty of pottery is found in the perfectness. On the other hand, the beauty of Naraoka Ware is opposite – it is found in imperfectness. People see the simple yet rough nature of the clay throughout pottery and find the beauty in its strong touch. One embodies refined beauty, and the other embodies natural beauty.

The Feature of Naraoka Ware: Glaze

The most outstanding feature of Naraoka Ware is the breathtaking blue glaze. During glazing, the color of glaze becomes turbid and the surface makes ripples and spots. Since its look resembles with sea cucumber, the beautiful blue glaze is called Namako-yu, which means ‘sea cucumber glaze’ in Japanese. Namako-yu is made of three materials. The main ingredient is weathered volcanic ash called Haku-do (white clay). This is the point that the glaze of Naraoka Ware is unique since potters in many other regions use feldspar as a main ingredient of glaze. Potters of Naraoka Ware mix the white clay with Japanese oak ash and straw ash. Japanese oak ash makes the glaze easy to melt, and straw ash makes the glaze have beautiful gloss and gives it transparency as if glass. Only when these two types of ash are mixed with perfect balance, the glaze gets stunning blue color. However, the ash is alkalinity, which is one of the greatest enemies of pottery. Strictly speaking, soluble alkalinity is the problem for pottery, so that potters elutriate the ash before they mix it with other materials. The processes are simple yet taking a lot of time. Firstly add ash and a lot of water in a big container, and leave it for a day. Secondly, throw away the upper part of the water on the next day, refill the container with water, and mix them well. Potters repeat this process about ten times. Before preparing the glaze, potters dry all materials first and measure them carefully. Mostly potters make Namako-yu, but it is also possible to create a white glaze by changing the ratio of white clay and ash.

The Processes of Naraoka Ware Producing

In this paragraph, we take a close look at some processes of Naraoka Ware producing. The first process after shaping is drying. Since pottery is still very soft after shaping and difficult to get the finishing, the pottery needs to get dry and harden to some extent to become easy to be handled. Potters leave the pottery for one or two days to make it half-dry and then curve or reshape for the finishing. As weather and humidity affect the condition of pottery, this process needs a lot of experiences. After the pottery hardens enough to be held and worked on, potters cut out the corner of pottery, smooth the surface, or attach a handle to a mug. After this process, the pottery needs to be completely dry, but it also needs to be careful that the speed of drying is not too quick. If it gets dry too quick, the pottery is easy to get cracked or become deformed. After the pottery completely dries, it is fired with about 800 degrees centigrade (°C). This time is without a glaze, and it is for letting the water out of the pottery. After this process, the pottery hardens very much and gets not easy to be broken by getting wet. The next process is adding an outstanding feature on the pottery – glazing. There is a point that potters put a lot of attentions on – the thickness of glazing. Glazing is seemingly easy, compared to other processes, but this is one of the parts requiring a lot of skills and experiences. If the glazing is not thick enough, the color of glaze does not come out very well. On the other hand, if the glazing is too thick, the glaze flows until unnecessary parts, such as the bottom of pottery. Needless to say, the glaze needs to be done evenly on the surface. In the case of Namako-yu, it is only glazed on the upper part of the pottery. On the lower part, an amber color glaze is added to prevent the pottery absorbing water. After the glazing, it comes to the last process – Hon-yaki (main baking process). Naraoka Ware is usually baked with from 1250 to 1280 degrees centigrade (°C). In some kilns, potters bake it with 1200 or 1300 degrees centigrade. All pottery that does not meet the standards of Naraoka Ware is broken into pieces, and only the pottery approved by potters appears on the market.


・band of craft

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Kutani Ware

The History of Kutani Ware

Kutani Ware (九谷焼) is one of the most famous Japanese porcelain, and it is also known to the world with the name Japan Kutani. It is considered that the first Kutani Ware was baked in the early Edo period, 1655. Toshiharu Maeda, the then feudal lord of present Ishikawa Prefecture, directed his attention to rocks from a mine of him and gave Saijiro Goto orders to acquire ceramics techniques in Hizen Arita (the Arita Ware producing district). The first kiln was located in Kutani region. In 1700, however, all of sudden the kiln closed down. The causes or reasons are still not determined. This is an interesting and unique point of Kutani Ware because its history ceased once even though it is one of the world-famous Japanese porcelain. (Many of Japanese porcelain were confronted with great difficulties, but they managed to survive without ceasing baking.) The porcelain that was baked in this short period is called Kokutani, which means ‘the old Kutani Ware’. Kokutani is typical of Japanese colored porcelain, and its outstanding beauty and powerfulness of coloring are highly regarded. About 100 years after the discontinuing, Kutani ceramicists asked Mokubei Aoki for a help to revive Kutani Ware. Mokubei Aoki is a famous Kyo Ware, and he visited Kutani region from Kyoto and made an effort to reopen kilns. After him, other ceramicists established their own styles in Kutani Ware. Each of their styles has unique features, and they are discussed in the next section.

The Styles of Kutani Ware

The style of Kutani Ware is roughly divided into six. Two of them were already mentioned in the last paragraph. The first is Kokutani (the old Kutani Ware), which is the oldest style of Kutani Ware. The second is called Mokubei, which is named after Mokubei Aoki. Other four styles are called Yoshidaya, Iidaya, Shouza, and Eiraku. In this section, we take a close look at each of styles.

1. Kokutani

The beauty of Kokutani is in its bold composition. Kokutani was developed under the guidance of Kusumi Morikage, a skilled painter from Kano-ha (the Kano school). Incidentally, Kano-ha is one of the most famous and biggest schools of Japanese painting, and it was very active for about 400 years from the middle of Muromachi Period (the 15th century) to the end of Edo Period (the 19th century). The style of Kokutani is very dynamic and usually drawn with green, yellow, red, purple, and ultramarine. Lines are drawn in a free and easy style, and they make the paintings have more draining impressions. Furthermore, the composition of Kokutani is free from ordinary designs of pottery.

2. Mokubei

Mokubei was started around 80 years later after kilns of Kokutani got closed down. As mentioned earlier, Mokubei was developed by Mokubei Aoki, a skilled Kyo Ware potter from Kyoto. The feature of Mokubei is that the majority part of porcelain is colored with bright red. Its main motif is people, and it is painted with five colors (green, yellow, red, purple, and ultramarine) like Kokutani is. This style of painting reminds you of the one of Chinese porcelain.

3. Yoshidaya

The third style of Kutani Ware is Yoshidaya, and it is a revival of Kokutani. Kokutani also has a variety of styles and designs, and Yoshidaya focuses on Aode Kokutani, which means ‘blue old Kutani’. Interestingly, the actual color of Aode Kokutani is deep green. In the Nara Period and the Heian Period (ca. 700-1100), only a few adjectives to describe colors existed in Japan. There were only white, red, blue and black. Since Japanese only had limited words for colors, each adjective covered a great variety of colors. For example, in the case of blue, it described green, purple and even gray. Since the custom describing green as blue remains, deep green color Kokutani is still called as Aode (blue) Kokutani. Since Yoshidaya has inherited the features from Aode Kokutani, it is colored only with deep green, yellow, purple and deep blue. Red is never used in Yoshidaya. It has a lot of beautiful designs and very fine woven patterns. The entire surface of porcelain is covered by painting, and it makes us feel its solidity and elegance.

4. Iidaya

In striking contrast to Yoshidaya, Iidaya is famous for the beautiful red painting. Sometimes gold is added as decorations, but the main color of Iidaya is always only red. The beauty of Iidaya is in incredibly fine lines and the shades of red created by the delicate lines. Skilled porcelain painters are able to draw three lines in just one-millimeter space. Porcelain painters of Kutani Ware vied with one another to show their skills by drawing thinner and better lines than the others can do. Painters draw thin lines in different intervals to make shades of red. It is incredible that painters create the beautiful drawing only with one color.

5. Shouza

Shouza started about 125 years ago. This style incorporates Kokutani, Yoshidaya, Aka-e (red drawing; a technique to color porcelain mainly with red but sometimes also with green, yellow and deep blue) and Kinrande (gold painting; a technique to paint and decorate with gold or gold foil). Since the Meiji Period (ca. 1870-), Shouza has been the mainstream of Kutani Ware industry.

6. Eiraku

The last style is called Eiraku. It started around 110 years ago, and this technique was introduced by Wazen Eiraku, a Kyo Ware potter who was very active in the 19th century. The name of this style is named after him. The entire surface is firstly coated with red, and painters add decorations only with gold. It looks very stunning and gorgeous, and its elegance reminds you of Kyo Ware.

Each style has unique features and outstanding beauty in it. Even though they use different designs or techniques, the basic steps to paint are almost the same. Firstly, painters draw an outline of patterns with black ink called Gosu. This step is called Hone-gaki, which means drawing a skeletal frame (framework) of an image. Secondly, they shade the image with the same black ink. After the ink dries completely, the third and the main part of drawing comes. In this step, painters use only the point of a blush to add colors because this step needs to be done with a gentle touch not to scratch the outline. Besides that, painters are able to add a moderate amount of ink (about a one-millimeter thick layer) on the surface evenly by using the tip of a blush. This layer becomes lustrous glass after baking, and its colors come out very well. If the layer is too thin, it fails to become glassy and turns to be rough and dry.

How to Use Kutani Ware

Since Kutani Ware has breathtaking vivid colors and gorgeous designs, it will light up mealtime and give us luxurious atmosphere. To use Kutani Ware for a long time, there are some points to be careful when you use them.

Before you use pottery, please boil it first. By soaking the pottery in hot water first, a part of pottery that still has water absorbency gets coated and becomes difficult to get stains and smells. It is considered that adding a handful of rice to water enhances the quality of the coating. When you use plates for raw fish dishes, such as Sashimi, it is recommended to soak the plates in icy water before you use them. This process prevents the plates from soaking the smell of fishes.
After you use pottery, please wash it as soon as possible to avoid stains and smells staying on it. The best way to clean it is using a soft sponge or cloth with neutral detergent which is diluted with water. It is also acceptable to use dishwashers to clean them, but some parts of decorations are likely to be damaged, for example, gold and silver decorations come loose and fall or the color of painting fades. After you wash the pottery, do not forget to dry them completely. It is recommended to just place a soft cloth on painting parts and let the cloth soak the water. Please do not wipe or rub hard on the surface.
If pottery has gold or silver decorations, please do not microwave it because the gold and silver decorations spark and damage themselves very badly.


・金沢市 公式ホームページ
・NHK 美の壺

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Kyo Ware and Kiyomizu Ware

History of Kyo Ware / Kiyomizu Ware

Kyo Ware (京焼) / Kiyomizu Ware (清水焼) are typical traditional crafts of Kyoto Prefecture. They are both ceramics and pottery. They have 400 years of history, and now over 300 kilns are located in Kyoto Prefecture. Until the capital of Japan moved to Tokyo, Kyoto region had been the center of Japan, and it was the big market that many ceramics were gathered from all over Japan. Generally, it is considered that Kyo Ware / Kiyomizu Ware originated in the Momoyama period (ca. 1580-1600). This age was the time that the tea ceremony prevailed, and Kyo Ware / Kiyomizu Ware were used especially when people treated their guests. In other words, Kyo Ware / Kiyomizu Ware were a luxury at the time, and they were offering to the Emperor, the nobility, feudal lords, and temples. Until the Edo period (ca. -1600), Kyo Ware was the genetic name for ceramic ware that was baked in Kyoto region, and Kiyomizu Ware was just one kind of the ceramics. However, other kinds of Kyo Ware declined, and Kiyomizu Ware is the only kind that remains. Kiyomizu Ware is now also used as a synonym for Kyo Ware, but there are still slight differences between two terms. This is the reason why we call this ceramic ware with a double name (Kyo Ware / Kiyomizu Ware). In the Edo period (ca. 1600-1868), Ninsei Nonomura (also commonly known as Seiemon Nonomura), a ceramist, mastered a technique of Nishiki-de (a drawing skill. Especially red, green, yellow, purple, blue are used for it), and he played an important role in developing Kyo Ware / Kiyomizu Ware. Besides him, many ceramists (Kenzan Ogata, Eisen Okada, and Mokubei Aoki) were active in this era, and their work and techniques made the status of present Kyo Ware / Kiyomizu Ware unassailable. One of the factors that Kyo Ware / Kiyomizu Ware have thrived is that ceramists have succeeded to predecessors’ handworks and styles. Another important factor is that Kyo Ware / Kiyomizu Ware established the division of labor among material suppliers, ceramists who shape ceramics, ceramic painters, and potteries (potters). Techniques of Kyo Ware / Kiyomizu Ware were introduced to all over Japan and influenced much pottery, such as Kutani Ware.

Features of Kyo Ware / Kiyomizu Ware

First of all, Kyo Ware / Kiyomizu Ware has elegance and refined beauty as ceramics that thrive in Kyoto, the beautiful capital city in ancient times. Almost all manufacturing processes are done with hands. Ceramic painters are able to give the drawings a three-dimensional effect with their skills, so that Kyo Ware / Kiyomizu Ware look breathtaking and keep captivating us, and this is the point that printed paintings can never imitate. Many of the designs have a flavor of Kyoto, and they also give ceramics outstanding elegance. As mentioned above, as Kyo Ware / Kiyomizu Ware produced mainly with hands, their absolute quantity is always very small. On the other hand, sticking to handwork in most procedures makes ceramics able to have soft and warm feelings. Kyo Ware / Kiyomizu Ware have varieties of techniques, and these techniques give pattern and color variations on ceramics. (About varieties of coloring techniques are discussed in the next paragraph.) Compared with other Japanese ceramics or pottery, Kyo Ware / Kiyomizu Ware do not only rely on one special technique. In other words, they have been supported not by an exceptional technique, but by ceramists who grope for improvement of their works and devote themselves to it. However, ceramists needed to face difficulties to keep old techniques. Since an air pollution problem got more serious, the government decided to encourage potteries to change firewood kilns (which is the traditional type of kilns for Kyo Ware / Kiyomizu Ware) to electric kilns or gas kilns. It is actually not necessarily bad for Kyo Ware / Kiyomizu Ware, because it was a great opportunity to review and streamline manufacturing processes, and actually ceramists succeeded to increase productivity.

Colors of Kyo Ware / Kiyomizu Ware

Kyo Ware / Kiyomizu Ware have many color variations, but especially acombination of red and gold is peculiar to Kyo Ware. Since both colors are very loud, it is often difficult to make the perfectly balanced combination of them without a garish impression. Kyo Ware / Kiyomizu Ware are the rare examples that succeed to harmonize those two bright colors. On the other hand, Kyo Ware / Kiyomizu Ware have a technique called Some-tsuke, and this is an opposite color design to the last example. Some-tsuke is drawing designs on white ceramics only with indigo-blue paint. Among lovers for Japanese pottery and ceramics, there is a saying that deep interests in pottery and ceramics start from Some-tsuke and end with Some-tsuke. It means that Some-tsuke is simple yet appealing, fascinating, and very deep to understand and appreciate it. Besides these techniques, a technique and idea of Ninsei Nonomura, one of the famous ceramists (also mentioned in the first paragraph) play important parts in colors of Kyo Ware / Kiyomizu Ware. The interesting point of his works is that he succeeded to stimulate our imagination and our associations of colors. In one of his works (a teapot called Iroe eshimon chatsubo), he drew poppies with colors that are different from real colors of poppies. Wild poppies we can see in Japan usually have pink or light purple, but his painted with red, gold, silver and dark gray. Even though he did not paint them realistically, we can see and feel poppies even more real in his painting. This is the trick and technique he was good at. His bold attempt on coloring is very unique, and it is very appreciated as a big charm of Kyo Ware / Kiyomizu Ware.

How To Use Kyo Ware / Kiyomizu Ware

As mentioned in the beginning, Kyo Ware has two types: ceramics and pottery. In Japan, ceramics are also called as Ishi-mono which means ‘stone ware’ since ceramics are made of stones or rocks. Compared to pottery, ceramics are more solid, because they are baked in high temperature. Besides that, they are not absorbent of water, so that they rarely get stains. Pottery is called Tsuchi-mono, means ‘clay ware’. Pottery has a large variety of colors due to a wide variety of clay. It is high water absorbent and easy to get stains, especially from tea. Some people do not like this feature, but lovers of pottery are fascinated with this because they see the color change as a part of bringing up their own pottery. In other words, stains show how many times they use the pottery and make them feel they build memory or history together. It is similar to a perspective or a feeling that we appreciate well-used tools. If you still want to avoid having the stains on pottery, there are several things you can do not to make pottery get stained easily. One of the ways is soaking pottery overnight in water in which rice has been washed, and soaking just water or warm water right before you use.
There are some things you should be careful with when you use Kyo Ware / Kiyomizu Ware. Firstly, some of Kyo Ware / Kiyomizu Ware are not good at holding acidic or salty food for a long time, because their acidity makes the beautiful colors fade away. The other thing is microwaves. The use of microwaves also causes the colors fade away or changes them to darker colors. Especially gold and silver paints are very delicate and very weak to heat, so it is also recommended not to use dishwashers.


・NHK 美の壺

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Karatsu Ware

History of Karatsu Ware

Karatsu Ware (唐津焼) is a Japanese traditional craft from Karatsu City, Saga Prefecture. It has over 400 years of tradition, and it is recognized as one of the three great Japanese tea pottery. Although various theories of its origin, it is considered that the first Karatsu Ware was baked in a feudal estate of Matsuura Clan in 1580’s. Matsuura Clan had the biggest power in all over the region of present Saga Prefecture. Karatsu Ware succeeded to improve its technique and increase productivity with the help of Korean potters after Bunroku-Keicho no eki (Japanese Invasions of Korea, 1529-1598). In the Edo period (1600-1868), kilns for Karatsu Ware were supported by Karatsu Clan, and they became official kilns that bake for the clan exclusively. In 1868, however, local administration system run by clans was abolished and replaced by the present prefectural system. Since then, Karatsu Ware lost the strong backup, and it was steadily declining throughout the Meiji period (1868-1912). The turning point of Karatsu Ware was brought by a potter called Muan Nakazato. He is one of Living National Treasure of Japan, and he revived old technique of Karatsu Ware, which passed into oblivion. (Incidentally, the technique was popular from the Momoyama period to the early Edo period, ca. 1580-1640.) Because of his strenuous efforts, Karatsu Ware got more potters who work on its improvement, and it led to nowadays Karatsu Ware success. Lately, more potters incorporate modern idea or designs into traditional techniques, and about 70 kilns bake Karatsu Ware in all over Karatsu City.

Features of Karatsu Ware

Since Karatsu Ware is made of coarse clay, the impression of it is vigorous yet beautifully simple. This is one of the characteristics Karatsu Ware has and keeps attracting many people’s attention from ancient times. Another charm of Karatsu Ware is having ‘Yo no bi’, which means the beauty we can find in the use of something if the word is translated word to word. Having Yo no bi means that pottery can be completed only after it is used. In other words, this type of pottery cannot be perfect or completely appreciated if it is just watched and not used. There is a saying to describe the concept – 80 percent of the pottery is created by potters, and the rest of it is completed by users. This is the fascinating feature of Karatsu Ware, and at the same time, it is the beauty of it as a pottery which used for daily life. Besides this feature, Karatsu Ware is famous for a greater variety of designs and techniques compared to other pottery in Japan. There are six types of Karatsu Ware: Picture Karatsu, Dappled Karatsu, Black Karatsu, Korean Karatsu, Mishima, and Powdered Karatsu. In the following sections, we take a close look at each of them.

1. Picture Karatsu (E-garatsu)

Picture Karatsu is called E-garatsu in Japanese. Incidentally, E means pictures, and garatsu is the same as Karatsu. Ka became a voiced consonant (ga) due to one of Japanese grammar called Rendaku; ‘Rendaku (“sequential voicing”) is a phenomenon in Japanese morphophonology that governs the voicing of the initial consonant of the non-initial portion of a compound or prefixed word.’ (Wikipedia) E-garatsu is the mainstream of Karatsu Ware and the most popular type. It is considered that Karatsu Ware is the first pottery that got painted among all Japanese pottery. The pottery is made of light brown color clay that contains relatively small amount of iron. A solution of iron called Oni-ita is used to draw pictures. Motifs of E-garatsu are things familiar to anybody, such as plants, trees, flowers, and birds, and these pictures are drew with brushes or fingers. The picture is quite simple, but it has both vigorousness and fineness.

2. Dappled Karatsu (Madara-garatsu)

Dappled Karatsu is called Madara-garatsu in Japan, and it is also known as Shiro Karatsu (White Karatsu). As you can guess from its name, it has many black or blue speckles on its surface. The speckles are formed since some materials of pottery, such as iron contained in clay or ash from firewood (pine trees) melt and flow out to the surface. For glazing, opaque white ash glazes are used, and this is the reason why it is also called as White Karatsu. Madara-garatsu is a traditional type of Karatsu Ware, and it is considered that Madara-garatsu originated in the latter part of the 16th century. These days, many potters put efforts to reproduce pottery of the century and keep challenging their techniques.

3. Black Karatsu (Kuro-garatsu)

Black Karatsu (called Kuro-garatsu) is made of high iron containing clay or glazes. There are roughly three techniques to create Kuro-garatsu. The first technique is using high iron-containing rocks. Potters crush the rocks and mix it with ash glaze. The second way is simply using clay which containing a lot of iron. The third technique is dissolving mud that contains a lot of iron in the water, and pouring it on pottery or soaking pottery in it before baking. Although the general term for this kind is Black Karatsu, this type has a variety of colors. This variety happens because of the amount of iron that rocks or clay contain, or the degree of oxidation. Common colors of Kuro-garatsu is amber, yellowish brown, and blackish brown.

4. Korean Karatsu (Chosen-garatsu)

Korean Karatsu is made with the technique of using two kinds of glazes. One is containing a lot of iron, and the other is containing ash. Due to colors of glazes, Korean Karatsu is famous for beautiful black and white color contrast. The common pattern of grazing is adding iron glaze on the lower half of pottery, and pouring ash glaze from the top of the pottery. The ash glaze trickles down the surface and touches the edge of the iron glaze part, and these two glazes blended themselves naturally and create stunning shades of colors. At the borderline between black and white, some light colors appear, such as light blue, light purple and light yellow. There are also other patterns of glazing, for example, adding iron glaze on the upper part of the pottery and adding ash glaze on the lower part of it. Furthermore, adding one of the glazes on the right-hand side and glazing the other on the left-hand side, and vice versa. Potters often liken the borderline of two colors to beautiful scenery and design it.

5. Mishima

Mishima is made with the technique that was brought from Korea. In Karatsu region, Mishima has been baked since the Edo period (ca. 1600-). Before pottery dry completely, potters put emblems on the surface. There are some kinds of emblems, and the emblems are the feature of Mishima. After that, potters put muddy water on the surface of pottery and glaze on the top.

6. Powdered Karatsu (Kohiki)

The last kind is Powdered Karatsu. It is originally called ‘Kohiki’, and it is considered that it was named after the feature of the surface – it is as if it was powdered or having white deposits on it. Like Mishima, Kohiki also gets muddy water on pottery, but the method is different. In the case of Mishima, muddy water is added like glaze, but in the case of Kohiki, pottery soak in the muddy water. Original color of clay is brown, but the surface of pottery turns into beautiful white color by adding white muddy water. After this part, potters let the pottery dry completely first and glaze on the top. This technique used for Kohiki is a traditional one, which has been used for many years in Korea, but it was not used for Karatsu Ware before. This technique was introduced recently.


・唐津観光協会 旅Karatsu
・うまか陶 (「化粧がけ」について)
・wikipedia 連濁

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Hagi Ware

When we think about the most basic function of bowls, what would come up on our minds first? It must be being able to hold food or liquid perfectly without any leaks. Interestingly, Hagi Ware does not have the right qualification for it. It sounds like Hagi Ware is not perfect pottery if you only focus on this function, but you will see why it has been loved by many people throughout this article.

History of Hagi Ware

Hagi Ware (萩焼) is from Hagi City, Yamaguchi Prefecture located in the southwest side of Japan. It is considered that Hagi Ware was started about 400 years ago. Before Hagi Ware created, the tea ceremony has thrived incredibly, and ceramics and pottery for that were in great demand. The origin was that Terumoto Mouri, a federal lord, brought potters from Korea and built kilns in Matsumoto, Hagi region. These potters got a lot of support from a federal clan, and the kilns became exclusive to it. In Matsumoto, Kyusetsu Miwa, a potter, also built kilns in 1661. The kilns were also belonging to the federal clan as well. As you can see from those kilns, Hagi Ware in this period got a strong backup in this age, and Hagi Ware succeeded to achieve high productivity and improve the quality. Until the 19th century, Hagi Ware thrived on producing a lot of variety of pottery, not to mention the pottery for the tea ceremony. With modernization in Japan, which started in 1868, both kilns under private management and kilns run by companies developed a lot by improving productivity. In Taisho Period (ca. 1920-1925), potters focused more on traditional technique and ingredients, and pottery for tea became the main stream of Hagi Ware again. Since 1940s, Hagi Ware has been attracting a lot of attention because many artists create a lot of masterpieces as one of the way to show their art. History and artistry of Hagi Ware are proven especially by three potters. Two potters of Hagi Ware are recognized as Japanese Living National Treasure, and a potter was officially commended for contributing to Japanese culture.

Features of Hagi Ware: Clay

Generally, Hagi Ware is very simple because it hardly has any decorations or painting on its surface, moreover, it focuses on utilizing the nature feel of clay. Especially experts in tea ceremony are fond of this feeling of clay, and they regard it as important point when they appreciate Hagi Ware. The question then arises: what does make the special taste? The taste is created by the combination of clay, the way to glaze, lines drew with pallets or brushes, and the heat of fire. As you see, characteristics of Hagi Ware are made by simple and plane methods, but in other words, the work is truly genuine work with a lot of experience. Any deceptions won’t work on it. The touch of Hagi Ware is very soft and gives us feel warmth. These impressions are also brought by the feature of clay which is used. The clay itself is quite soft and has the nature that it does not shrink a lot even after a baking process. The core factor of the texture of Hagi Ware is created by blending some kinds of clay. Basically, the mixture is made with three types of clay. Firstly, the base clay of Hagi Ware is called ‘Daidou clay (Daidou-tsuchi: tsuchi means clay or soil in Japanese)’, and most of basic features of Hagi Ware are brought by the properties of this clay. One of its properties is the high plasticity, and that is the reason Daidou clay is very suitable for the foundation. The color is light gray color, because it contains relatively small amount of iron. The second clay is Mitake clay ‘(Mitake-tsuchi)’, also called Mitakeyama clay. This is white-color sandy clay and always mixed with Daidou clay to make the viscosity of Daidou clay moderate. Besides that, Mitake clay is able to heighten the resistance to fire of Hagi Ware. Third clay is ‘Mishima clay (Mishima-tsuchi)’, which is dark red color clay containing a lot of iron. This clay is extracted from Mishima Islands that are located in the Sea of Japan (45 kilometers away from coastlines). The use of this clay heightens the feeling of clay and enhances the color of other clays. Mishima clay is not only mixed with other clay like Daidou clay and Mitake clay do, but also it is used at the part of decorations. These three clay are carefully blended to make the perfect balance and also to create the synergy between the clay and glaze. Also, these clay do not just only affect on the features or feeling of Hagi Ware, but also they play an important role in creating beautiful colors of pottery. When a pottery is made to focus to show the beauty of Daidou clay, it becomes flesh color or loquat color (soft light orange color). On the other hand, it becomes brown or grayish blue when potters focus on Mishima clay. White color Hagi Ware is also possible by adding ash glaze. These colors are the main stream of Hagi Ware, and Hagi Ware has relatively small color variety. Incidentally, besides these three clay, other clay from local, such as Matsumoto or Fukawai, are also sometimes used, and the choice depends on idea or concepts potters have.

Features of Hagi Ware: Water Absorbency – Nanabake

Another outstanding and interesting feature of Hagi Ware is high water absorbency. As mentioned at the beginning, Hagi Ware is not perfect if we expect it not to have any leaks. The reasons why it has water absorbency are firstly because the clay is quite coarse. Besides that, the clay does not shrink a lot after the bake. Therefore, soil particles are big and have a lot of gap between each other, so that water can go through the gap. Another reason is because Hagi Ware has a lot of cracks on the surface. The cracks are made since clay and glaze have different shrinkage. The difference between the two materials makes the cracks, and the cracks are the points that water goes through. As we use Hagi Ware long time, tea incrustation fills the cracks, and water cannot penetrate through the pottery easily anymore. At the same time, the tea incrustation changes the color of pottery too. These changes are call ‘Nanabake’, which means seven transformations in Japan. It might feel that it is not useful to have pottery with high water absorbency at first. However, the feature gets interesting and fascinating more and more as you use it since you see and feel transformations of pottery every time you use. The change is as if the pottery grew up to respond your care or love. How it changes is totally depends on you. The beauty of Hagi Ware is not only made by experienced potters with great technique, but also made by people who use. In other words, Hagi Ware cannot be perfect until you use it, and it becomes literally ‘your’ Hagi Ware. This is the reason why Hagi Ware has a lot of devotees.



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Shigaraki Ware

The Outline of Shigaraki Ware

Shigaraki Ware (信楽焼) is a traditional pottery and the proud of Shiga Prefecture. It was known as a ceramic for tea ceremony, but now it has a wide variety of kinds, for example, braziers, umbrella stands, not to mention bowls and plates. It usually has warm colors, like flesh color, soft pink and reddish brown, and its surface is rough to the touch due to the nature of local clay. Shigaraki Ware has 1250 years of history, and its kilns have been recognized as one of six old Japanese potteries called Rokkoyo. As its name suggests, Shigaraki Ware is from Shigaraki region. The region is highlands with full of nature, and it is renowned as the birthplace of ceramic tanuki (raccoon dog) figures. Since the tanuki ornaments have friendly yet unique looks, such as a big belly, big eyes, and a big sedge hat, the figures are loved by many people and have become synonymous with Shigaraki region and Shigaraki Ware. The features and history of Shigaraki Ware are closely related to the characteristics of this region. It is no exaggeration to say that Shigaraki area makes present Shigaraki Ware’s achievement possible.

Features of Shigaraki Ware: 1. Clay

Shigaraki Ware has many interesting and unique features. To begin with, let us take a close look at the crucial materials of Shigaraki Ware – clay. Shigaraki Ware is made of a mixture of coarse clay soils and soil that contain carbonized chips of wood. Because of the chips, the mixture of clay becomes elastic and easy to shape it into big dishes and thick bowls. Besides that, the chips give pottery high resistance to fire. Since the clay does not contain a lot of iron, the pottery has faint and soft color. (There is also another type of Shigaraki Ware, which is called ‘Kuro Shigaraki’. This type looks blackish brown as it is made of clay contains a lot of iron. In this article, however, only major type of Shigaraki Ware is focused.) As it mentioned before, these clay is from Shigaraki region. The region has been famous for its high quality soil, and the soil contains a lot of chips of plagioclases (a type of rocks). However, potters do not elutriate the soil to make it smoother; rather, they make use of plagioclases. Plagioclases have properties that it melts at a high temperature, so that the surface of the pottery has many little milk-white dots due to the melted plagioclases. As a result, the numerous white dots became one of the outstanding features of Shigaraki Ware.

Features of Shigaraki Ware: 2. Colors

Other unique features are brought by baking processes. Firstly, the color of Shigaraki Ware changed dramatically. Before baking, pottery have just clay color (usually creamy white), but it changed to flesh color or reddish brown after firing. These colors are called ‘Hiiro’, which means fire colors. Humidity and temperature affect on the tone of the beautiful faint red color. Incidentally, this tone-change effect is sometimes difficult to control, and colors that only happen in specific kilns are called ‘Kama-aji’. Kama is kilns and aji is taste in Japanese, and in this case, the word Kama aji means ‘the tasteful color only done by specific kilns’. Besides the warm color, Hiiro, Shigaraki Ware has dark-colored parts on its surface. This is the second feature, and is called ‘Koge (means scorching)’. In kilns, ash from firewood piles up during and after baking. When potters put pottery in the kilns, the bottom of pottery is covered by the ash, and the covered part changes the color to blackish brown. Especially in tea ceremonies, pottery with Koge is valued very highly.

Features of Shigaraki Ware: 3. Glaze

Third and last feature is its beautiful glaze. There are two types of glaze that are famous in Shigaraki Ware, and they are ‘Shizen-yu / Vidro-yu’ and ‘Namako-yu’. The first glaze – Shizen-yu / Vidro-yu is actually different form usual glaze, because it happens spontaneously in kilns. This special type of glaze happens when plagioclases and ash from firewood get mixed and melt together on the surface of pottery. The two materials become glassy glaze and turn to be beautiful greenish blue or yellowish green. Since the glaze (yu: Japanese) happens spontaneously (Shizen: Japanese) and has glassy (Vidro: a loan word from Portuguese) feature, it is called Shizen-yu or Vidro-yu. The second glaze – Namako-yu means sea-cucumber-color glaze in Japanese. The glaze is put twice on pottery to make beautiful blue color. Since this glaze is used for Shigaraki braziers, which account for the majority of production of braziers in Japan, it became typical of Shigaraki Ware.

History of Shigaraki Region and Shigaraki Ware

It was briefly mentioned in the beginning that Shigaraki region has been playing an important part in present Shigaraki Ware’s success. In this paragraph, let us see the history of Shigaraki Ware while taking a close look at Shigaraki region. Shigaraki area is located in the middle of Kinki region (the southern-central region of Japan). Kinki region got a lot of influence from Korea, and it has been famous as the thriving center of Japanese culture. In the flourishing region, Shigaraki area is connected to major streets and favored with good soil that is suitable for pottery. Because of these three good points of the area, an emperor considered the area as one of the candidate sites for building the Imperial Palace before. Incidentally, the present great image of Buddha in Nara was planned to build in Shigaraki region.

It is considered that the beginning of Shigaraki Ware is in 742. In this year, the then emperor, Emperor Shomu, commenced building Shigaraki Palace as a part of project to place a capital in present Shiga Prefecture, and roof tiles of Shigaraki Palace was made with Shigaraki Ware. It was supposed that Shigaraki Ware would steadily develop after this construction, but a big fire broke out in the capital and burned everything up. Until the last part of the Muromachi period (ca. 1450-), Shigaraki Ware did not make remarkable progress, but its technique was barely inherited by farmers. After the latter part of the period, however, Shigaraki Ware attracted a lot of attention in the tea ceremony until the end of Azuchi-Momoyama period (- ca. 1600). The reason is because Juko Murata, the originator of ‘Wabi-cha’, found the core thought of Wabi-cha in Shigaraki Ware and preached it to his pupils. Wabi-cha is a style of Japanese tea ceremony and its core concept is austere refinement called ‘Wabi’. Sen no Rikyu, a world-famous tea master, also associated with this style.

In Edo period (ca. 1600-1870), pottery related to tea ceremony was still popular, and bowls and plates were also baked for daily use. Even though Shigaraki Ware started to show its development, kilns of it were still relatively small. It was Meiji period (ca. 1870-1910) that the kilns became as big as present large kilns. Besides that, glaze was improved and production of braziers prospered in this era. From Taisho period to Showa period (ca. 1910-1925), ceramic ornaments and decorations, such as garden lanterns prospered. In Showa period (ca. 1925-1990), Namako-yu (see the last paragraph) got invented, and pottery with hand-painted design started to produce for the first time. As can be seen from the history of pottery in Shigaraki, Shigaraki Ware has been always adjusting itself to the needs of each period and looking for opportunities to get further achievements. It is quite rare that pottery keeps innovating new techniques, extending its variety, and changing for the demand in such a long span – 1250 years. These continuous effort and passion of potters make Shigaraki Ware possible to be recognized as one of Japanese traditional crafts.



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Tobe Ware

The Features of Tobe Ware

Tobe Ware (砥部焼) is one of traditional Japanese porcelain. It is from Tobe City, Ehime Prefecture, and the manufacture of ceramic ware has been prospered in this district since around the 6th century. Since Tobe area forms a natural basin, it has a large base of a mountain and plenty of pine trees, which means, it is an ideal building site for kilns and rich in fuel. Tobe Ware makes full use of local rocks, and the material gives Tobe Ware high durability. Besides this characteristic, it has moderate thickness and beautifully simplified shape without too much decoration.

The Decoration of Tobe Ware

Its decoration is simple and categorized into roughly two kinds. One is called Kotobe-mono, which means ‘old Tobe style’. It was common from the early stages of its manufacture to the early Meiji period (- ca. 1890). The style is quite humble since only one color (usually dark brown) is used for the painting, and the painting itself is simplified very well. Patterns that were favorites with people are creatures that are close to Japanese life style, such as pine trees, bamboos, Japanese plum (ume) trees, wisteria flowers, rice plants, sparrows, and fishes. Incidentally, all of patterns are also sort of symbols of the peaceful countryside-life in Japan. In other words, they are connected to the image of nature and peace, and the Japanese see the beauty of nature throughout these creatures. The reason why Kotobe-mono spread well among the people is not only because of its high durability, but also because these patterns were preferred. Kotobe-mono succeeded in presenting the symbols in the beautifully simplified way. The second kind of Tobe Ware’s decoration is called Gosu-e, which means ‘Gosu picture’. The motif of Gosu-e is also nature like the one of Kotobe-mono. The feature of this style is a beautiful deep blue color painting. Since the earthenware itself has a soft white color, the deep blue lines make a stunning contrast on it. Each color makes the other color purity stand out. There are three designs that are famous in Gosu-e. The first one is Karakusa-mon (an arabesque design), which has a lot of energy. The second motif is called Taiyo-mon (a design of the sun), and it is the combination of the sun and cranes. The last one is Nazuna-mon (a design of shepherd’s purse). The elegant curve is a distinctive characteristic of this design.
These painting are almost always painted by hand after the first baking without glaze. After the painting part, ceramists glaze them and fire them completely. In the first baking process, porcelain is fired with 900 to 950 degrees centigrade (°C) for eight to ten hours. Compared to it, the main baking process takes 15 to 24 hours with around 1300 degrees centigrade.

The History of Tobe Ware

As mentioned earlier, Tobe region has been famous as an ideal place for baking porcelain, but how exactly did Tobe Ware achieve the nowadays success? Were there any difficulties even though the location was perfect? In this section, we take a time travel to the beginning of Tobe Ware, and follow the progress of it. Interestingly, as we follow, we can even feel the strong passion of a ceramist who devoted his life to the success of Tobe Ware. But first, let us take a close look at the local rock, which became the crucial ingredient of Tobe Ware.
Tobe area has been famous as the good place to quarry whetstones since Nara•Heian era (ca. 700-1180). Nowadays Tobe area belongs to Ehime Prefecture, but until the late 19th century, the region of today Ehime Prefecture was called as Iyo Province. Since then, whetstones from Tobe region were called as Iyoto (Iyo – toishi: means whetstones in Japanese), and its quality was recognized in many other regions. Moreover, Iyoto was used for imaging the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy, and this is one of the best and honored ways to be approved its quality in Japan. In Edo period (ca. 1600-1850), the Ōzu Domain governed Tobe area. Needless to say, the Ōzu Domain put a lot of effort on quarrying Iyoto. As mentioned before, Tobe Ware is made of whetstones, but strictly speaking, the scrap when whetstones are quarry is the core ingredient. However, at the early stages of quarrying whetstones, people did not have any idea that whetstones could be used for porcelain; furthermore, the scrap whetstone was just the source of the Ōzu Domain’s distress since the dispose of scrap whetstone was hard labor. The Ōzu Domain pressed many villagers into duty for the disposal, but the villagers could not stand the extreme hard labor for long time. In the end, it brought about serious antagonism between villagers and the Ōzu Domain. However, a proposal given by a wholesale dealer changed the whole situation. Jihey Izumiya, who undertook exclusive sale of whetstones, got to know that whetstones were used for making porcelain in other regions, and advised the Ōzu Domain to try to produce porcelain with scrap whetstones instead. It was a truly perfect idea for the Ōzu Domain since it solves the disposal problem while making profits. To realize the idea, the Ōzu Domain asked a wealthy farmer to invest in a project, hired ceramists from other regions, and built new kilns. Moreover, the Ōzu Domain appointed a ceramist called Josuke Sugino as a head of the project. He is the person who devoted his life for Tobe Ware to lead it to remarkable success.
Soon after he and the other ceramists started to work on the project, they faced a big difficulty – the porcelain got big cracks on surface after the main baking process. This problem did not solved no matter how many times they tried or changed their methods. The all ceramists who were hired from other regions gave up trying and went back their home villages but not Josuke. He kept baking to find the solution to the big cracks all alone, but he run out of firewood. He became half-crazed and put pillars and tatami mats from his house into the fire. Fortunately, a ceramist from Chikuzen Province (located in the west side of Iyo Province) saw Josuke’s struggle and realized that the reason of the big cracks was due to unsuitable glaze. Josuke immediately visited Chikuzen Province and looked for proper glaze for Tobe Ware. After repeated trial and error, he finally achieved to bake porcelain without any cracks. It took about two years since he started the project. Even after the achievement, he did not stop develop the technique. Furthermore, he found a suitable material for glaze inside of Iyo Province, so that he did not have to import glaze from Chikuzen Province. He succeeded to stabilize the production of Tobe Ware in the end. In praise of his achievements, a monument was built in present Tobe City later.
In 1818, high quality stones called Kawanobori Touseki were found, and ceramists were able to produce whiter porcelain with the stones. Until this discovery, Tobe Ware was slightly grayish white color because of whetstones. In 1893, Tobe Ware won the first prize in The World’s Columbian Exposition (The Chicago World’s Fair), and it became a world-famous porcelain. In Taisho Period (ca. 1910-1920), about 70 percent of production was imported to other countries to meet the demand for Tobe Ware under the influence of the Expo. Tobe Ware temporally faced a crisis because of a depression, but people started to take a fresh look at it and appreciated the beauty of handcrafted porcelain after World War Two. In 1976, Tobe Ware was finally recognized as one of Japanese traditional crafts.

Today’s Tobe Ware

Nowadays, young ceramists and female ceramists play active parts in the production. Not only they have inherited traditional techniques, but also they grope for new styles of Tobe Ware by introducing unique patterns or color that are not tied to tradition. Their novel approach to Tobe Ware succeeded to harmonize tradition with modern art in Tobe Ware, and now that is the attractiveness of it. Tobe Ware will keep attracting considerate attention and increasing the number of it.


・砥部町 観光協会
・砥部焼 協同組合
・愛媛県 生涯学習センター (杉野丈助について)

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Satsuma Ware


Satsuma Ware (薩摩焼) is a Japanese traditional craft from Kagoshima prefecture. In Japan, there are many variety of pottery, and each of them has original and special features. What would be the unique feature that makes Satsuma Ware distinctive?

Firstly, Satsuma Ware has two types; “Shiro Satsuma” and “Kuro Satsuma”. Generally each Japanese pottery has only one style or salient characteristics, such as color, touch, and technique. On the other hand, Satsuma Ware can be divided into two kinds, and each of them has completely different features. It is the one of the fascinating parts of Satsuma Ware.

Secondly, Satsuma Ware is developed by five schools that are based on five potteries. Each style has history and features, which also makes Satsuma Ware very interesting, but first, let us take a close look on the two types of Satsuma Ware.

Types of Satsuma Ware: Shiro Satsuma

Shiro Satsuma is also called as Shiromon, and Shiro means ‘white’ in Japanese. As its name suggests, Shiro Satsuma is made of white clay. Because of its beautiful color and finish, Shiro Satsuma was favored mainly by the Satsuma clan, which governed the Satsuma region. Since a very long time ago, white is the symbol of purity and sacredness in Japan, and white creatures, for example white horses, white cranes, and white snakes, were recognized as holy and noble figures. This tendency of the symbolization was particularly strong in ancient Japan, and Shiro Satsuma is no exception to the tendency. Moreover, the Satsuma clan is very feudal and prefers to give much authority on them by discriminating its feudal load from ordinary people, so that Shiro Satsuma itself is the symbol of the authority that the Satsuma clan has.

As mentioned earlier, Shiro Satsuma is made of white clay, and the clay was precious in the very early stages of the manufacture since the clay was only found in Korea, so that the production heavily relied on Korean potters who brought the clay to Japan. As the clay is influenced a lot by volcanic ashes, it contains iron and sulfur. Because of the component of the white clay, Shiro Satsuma is always baked with oxidizing flame to keep the pure white color. If it is fired with reducing flame, the color of the potter gets darker because of a chemical reaction. Since the white clay was only found in limited areas, the production of Shiro Satsuma was difficult to grow. However, the clay was found in present Hioki city later, and the situation of baking Shiro Satsuma got improved a lot. The crucial component of Shiro Satsuma is Ibusuki kaolin. The kaolinites were found in some places in the Satsuma feudal domain, and they were blended well and used especially from the end of Edo period to Meiji period (ca. 1850 – 1910).

Shiro Satsuma is beautifully shaped with utmost care and finished with glaze. One of the special features of it is many fine cracks on the surface. Besides that, Shiro Satsuma has styles called Nishikide and Kinrande. The feature of these styles is magnificent yet delicate painting. Potters use many vivid colors, such as red, green, yellow, purple and gold, for the decoration, and the contrast between ivory pottery and colorful beautiful painting makes Shiro Satsuma look fine and elegant just like porcelain. To acquire the painting skills, the Satsuma clan put a lot of efforts to send potters to Kyoto as a part of policy to revive Japanese traditional culture, and the efforts bore fruits later. In1867, Shiro Satsuma was sent to the Paris World Exposition, and it held the audience spellbound. Shiro Satsuma became widely known as “SATSUMA” after this exposition.

Types of Satsuma Ware: Kuro Satsuma

On the other hand, Kuro Satsuma has complete different features. In Japanese, Kuro means ‘black’, and Kuro Satsuma is dark-colored pottery as the name suggests. Kuro Satsuma, also called as Kuromon, is made of special local clay. Since Kagoshima prefecture has an active volcano (Sakurajima), the soil has volcanic ash containing a lot of iron. Besides the feature of the clay, Kuro Satsuma is finished with iron glaze and baked with high temperature, so that Kuro Satsuma is quite solid and durable. This sturdiness allowed Kuro Satsuma to become popular pottery for daily use among common households. Since Shiro Satsuma is very famous around the world because of its elegant design, Kuro Satsuma attracts a little bit less attention than Shiro Satsuma does. However, Kuro Satsuma is originally the main stream of Satsuma Ware. Kuro Satsuma was established by one of Satsuma Ware potters’ groups, the Naeshirogawa school. (We take a close look at the schools of Satsuma Ware in the next paragraph.) The outstanding feature of Kuro Satsuma is a special beauty made by glazing. Potters glaze it with two or three kinds of glaze and make delicate color gradations by adding the glaze separately.

The History of Satsuma Ware

From 1529 to 1598, Japan had Bunroku•Keicho no eki (Japanese Invasions of Korea). This war is also called as “Yakimono Sensou”, which means ‘the war for pottery’ in Japanese. The origin of the name of the war comes from an event that Yoshihiro Shimazu, the 17th feudal lord of the Satsuma clan, brought Korean potters – Kinkai, Heii Boku, and Houchu Ben – to Japan. They landed at Kushikino and Ichiki (present Ichiki Kushikino city), and these three potters were in charge of teaching their skills to over 80 potters, who were also brought from Korea. It is considered that the beginning of Satsuma Ware is when many kilns were started to build all over the Satsuma domain. Each kiln has individual features because of the location and the style of potters, and each of them developed variously. Those kilns were divided into five big schools later – the Tateno school, the Naegashirogawa school, the Ryumonji school, the Hirasa school, and the Genryuin school.

The Tateno school is the main stream of Satsuma Ware, and the early stages of Satsuma Ware from the Tateno school were called Kosatsuma (means ‘old Satsuma’), and it was the base of Satsuma Ware. In 1601, Kinkai – one of the three Korean potters mentioned above, started to bake Hibakaride, which is the prototype of Shiro Satsuma and made of Korean ingredients with Korean technique. After that, pottery made by the Tateno school was used as a gift or an offering to a federal load, and the pottery got supports from the Satsuma clan. At the beginning of Meiji era (ca. 1868-), this school once ceased to exist because of modernization in Japan. In 1899, however, a pottery-paint artist inheriting the Takeno style built kilns for baking Kuro Satsuma and endeavored to make the style to revive.

The Naegashirogawa school was started by Heii Boku in Kushikino where the other Korean potters landed, and it moved to another region, which is the origin of the name of this school – Naegashirogawa. At the early stages, they baked both Kuro Satsuma and Hibakaride. After the finding of white clay in the region, this school focused more on acquiring techniques for Shiro Satsuma. In 1844, they succeeded to develop Nishikide and Kinrande (see the section of Shiro Satsuma). Since kilns of both the Tateno and the Naegashirogawa belonged to the Satsuma clan, only by high rank people, who were related to the clan, had chances to get the pottery from these kilns.

The beginning of the Ryumonji school was in 1608. Houchu Ben, the last person of the third potters mentioned above, is the originator of this school. The Ryumonji school is good at Kuro Satsuma, and potters from this school learned techniques of other regions. This allowed the Ryumonji school to develop the varieties of glazing and skills to shape pottery to beautifully balance. These three styles – the Tateno, the Naegashirogawa, and Ryumonji, are the schools that still remain today.

The pottery from the Hirasa school is also called as ‘Hirasa Ware’. Hirasa Ware is started in 1776, but it closed down after a few years. A chief retainer of Hirasa region mounded it and made the vassals of Hirasa to rebuild kilns. Since potters from Arita region were invited at the early stages of Hirasa Ware, the pottery was made with the same ingredients as Arita Ware and similar techniques to it.

The Genryuin school is started in 1663. The outstanding feature of this style is that the glaze is in layers. Unfortunately, the Genryuin kilns were closed down. It is considered that potters of this style moved to the Ryumonji kilns.

As mentioned earlier, it is quite unique that one kind of pottery establishes two outstanding and distinctive featured styles like Satsuma Ware does. It is fascinating to compare these two completely different and separately developed pottery – Shiro Satsuma and Kuro Satsuma. Furthermore, nowadays some potters try to blend techniques from both styles and put effort to establish a new type of Satsuma Ware to suit present lifestyle. Satsuma Ware still has been developed.


・日本のやきもの 日本セラミックス協会
・薩摩彫刻陶芸窯元 南楓山