Right: Kato Hajime Moegi kinrande marubako (Round box, porcelain with pale green glaze and overglaze decoration in gold) (detail)
Left: Kaneshige Toyo Bizen mimitsuki mizusashi (Fresh-water jar for the tea ceremony, Bizen ware) (detail)
The history of Japanese ceramics can be traced back over 10,000 years to the early part of the Jomon period (10,500-300 BC) when unglazed earthenwares known as Jomon wares (Jomon doki) were first produced. The introduction of agriculture from continental Asia during the succeeding Yayoi period (300 BC-AD 300) was accompanied by the appearance of different kinds of unglazed earthenware known as Yayoi wares (Yayoi doki). Stoneware production started in Japan with the manufacture of Sue wares (Sueki) in the late 4th to early 5th century. The necessary technologies, which included the use of the potter's wheel and kilns capable of reaching stoneware temperatures, were introduced from the continent. Sue wares were made up to and during the Heian period (794-1185). During the Nara period (710-794) low-fired pottery with artificially applied glaze known as Nara three-coloured ware (Nara-sansai) was also made. Ceramics with high-fired ash and iron glazes were first made during the Kamakura (1185-1336) and Muromachi (1336-1573) periods.
The Azuchi-Momoyama period (1573-1615) saw the rise of the tea ceremony and the emergence of revolutionary new forms of ceramics reflecting the wabi and sabi aesthetics of the tea masters of the time. Successive advances in technology during the following Edo period (1615-1868) resulted in the widespread expansion of Japan's ceramics industry.
In 1616 porcelain stone, the raw material of porcelain, was discovered in Arita, Saga Prefecture, by Korean potters who had moved to Japan, allowing porcelain to be produced for the first time in Japanese history. Subsequently, from the 18th century onwards, new ceramic-producing centres were established all over the country. The Meiji period (1868-1912) witnessed the introduction of new technologies that resulted in increasing mechanization of ceramic production. These included the use of plaster moulds for forming and coal-firing kilns.
At the same time there was the emergence of individual artist potters who employed a wide range of techniques to produce many different kinds of ceramic art.
Japan has many ceramic-producing centres, each of which has its own history and characteristics.
Agano = The Agano kilns were originally established by potters from Korea. Ceramics from Agano are characterized by a greenish glaze. (Fukuoka Prefecture)
Arita = Japan's first porcelain was produced in Arita after Ri Sanpei's discovery of porcelain stone in about 1616. Ko-Imari, Kakiemon and Nabeshima porcelains are all varieties of Arita ware, also known as Imari ware. (Saga Prefecture)
Iga = The Iga kilns are famous for the tea ceramics with a distinctive bluish-green glassy glaze they used to produce. They are located next to the Shigaraki kilns. Due to the similarity of the clays used, Iga and Shigaraki wares resemble each other closely. (Mie Prefecture)
Izushi = Izushi wares are distinguished by the use of carved and pierced patterning on a translucent white porcelain body. (Hyogo Prefecture)
Echizen = The Echizen kilns are well-known for having produced simple unglazed storage jars and mixing mortars for everyday use. (Fukui Prefecture)
Kasama = The Kasama kilns made sturdy everyday vessels such as storage jars, mixing mortars and teapots. (Ibaraki Prefecture)
Karatsu = Karatsu flourished as a ceramic-producing centre at the end of the 16th century. The local clay is very sandy and contains a high percentage of iron. The subdued quality of Karatsu wares has been much appreciated by devotees of the tea ceremony. The main varieties are Painted Karatsu ware (egaratsu), Mottled Karatsu ware (madaragaratsu) and so-called Korean Karatsu ware (Chosen-karatsu). (Saga Prefecture)
Kyoto = Kyoto ware (Kyoyaki) is a general term referring to all ceramics produced in Kyoto. Kyoto produces a great variety of ceramics using a wide range of different techniques and styles. (Kyoto Prefecture)
Kutani = The Kutani kilns are famous for their richly coloured porcelains decorated in thick overglaze enamels. The five Kutani colours are red, yellow, green, purple and dark blue. (Ishikawa Prefecture)
Shigaraki = A long-established pottery centre producing unglazed stoneware whose rough, orange-firing clay gives it a characteristically rustic feeling. (Shiga Prefecture)
Seto = Blessed with rich deposits of high quality gairome and kibushi clays, this long-established pottery centre produced ash- and iron-glazed ceramics for many centuries. In the late Edo period Seto became an important centre for porcelain production. It now produces ceramics of all different kinds. (Aichi Prefecture)
Tamba = Tamba has long been an important centre for the production of simple everyday items such as storage jars and mixing mortars. Its highly iron-bearing clay fires a characteristically reddish brown colour. (Hyogo Prefecture)
Tokoname = Tokoname is well known for its ash-glazed ceramics and also for its teapots made of fine iron-bearing shudei clay. (Aichi Prefecture)
Tobe = The most active ceramics centre in the Shikoku region, Tobe has been a major producer of porcelain decorated in underglaze blue since the Edo period. (Ehime Prefecture)
Hagi = Hagi is famous for its Korean Chosen period style ceramics made from soft, pervious daido clay covered in a milky white glaze. (Yamaguchi Prefecture)
Banko = During the Edo period Banko was an important producer of stoneware decorated in overglaze enamels. Nowadays it is best known for its unglazed dark brown teapots made from iron-rich shidei clay. (Mie Prefecture)
Bizen = The highly plastic, iron-rich clay used to make Bizen ware is found in rice paddies. It is fired unglazed for an extended period so as to allow the innate quality of the clay to reveal itself to best effect. (Okayama Prefecture)
Mashiko = Mashiko is known for its sturdy, simple ceramics in Mingei (Folk Craft) style. (Tochigi Prefecture)
Mino = During the Momoyama period the Mino kilns produced a wide variety of ceramics such as Kiseto (Yellow Seto), Setoguro (Black Seto), Shino and Oribe wares for use in the tea ceremony and as high-quality tablewares. Mino now produces ceramics of all different kinds. (Gifu Prefecture)
Ceramics are generally classified into four main types; doki (unglazed earthenware), sekki (stoneware), toki (pottery) and jiki (porcelain).
Doki = Unglazed and fired at a low temperature of between 500 and 900?, the body is porous and highly pervious to water.
Sekki = Unglazed and fired to between 1200 and 1300?, the body is a vitrified and almost completely impervious to water. Examples include Tokoname and Bizen wares.
Toki = Glazed and fired to between 1100 and 1250?, the body is porous and pervious to water. Examples include Karatsu, Hagi and Mashiko wares.
Jiki = A mixture of kaolin and porcelain stone fired to between 1250 and 1350?, the body is vitrified and impervious to water. It is white and lustrous, and gives out a metallic ring when tapped. Examples include Arita and Kutani wares.
P h o t o g r a p h s ( f o r m i n g t e c h n i q u e s )