UMAMI LIBRARY

Traditional Japanese Pottery

By Umami Recipe
Traditional Japanese Pottery

All manners of bowels and plates are indispensable for our daily meals. In Japan, there are many forms of traditional pottery that fill this need.

Along with Japanese food as a cuisine, there has been particular attention to its presentation, where pottery plays an important role. The Japanese take the aesthetics of food arrangement with a spiritual approach and the vessels that hold these foods must be equally fit in articulating the proper mood and feel. The beauty of Japanese pottery has gained global recognition. We take a moment in this article to take a look at how this deep rooted tradition has evolved and grown.

The Difference between Pottery and Porcelain

In Japan, both pottery and porcelain are called "yakimono". Both are vessels that are fired in a kiln. The two are sometimes referred to as ceramics as well.
Both are often thought to be the same thing, but they actually have their differences.

Materials used

Pottery is made from clay called porcelain clay. To enhance its durability and make it less likely to break, a glass material called silica stone is mixed in. On the other hand, porcelain is made from powdered quartz, feldspar and silica called pottery stone. This is mixed in with clay.

Firing temperature and method

Porcelain is fired at a higher temperature than pottery.
Porcelain is fired at a temperature of 1,200℃ or higher. Pottery is characterized by the use of oxygen in the kiln and pale blue flame. Porcelain, on the other hand, cannot be fired if air is introduced into the kiln. It is fired in such a way that no air can enter.

Japan's Six Old Kilns (日本六古窯)

There are six kilns that have been in production since the Middle Ages--more than 900 years. Together, they are called the Six Old Kilns of Japan.

Shigaraki-yaki (信楽焼)

Shigaraki-yaki is a type of pottery produced in Koka City, Shiga Prefecture. Shigaraki-ware is famous for its clay that is suitable for making pottery, and has excellent fire resistance.

Bizen-yaki (備前焼)

Bizen Pottery is made in Bizen City, Okayama Prefecture, and is characterized by the fact that no glaze is used and the patterns that appear during the firing process.

Tanba-yaki (丹波焼)

Tanba-yaki is made in the city of Tanba-Sasayama in Hyogo Prefecture. A feature of Tanba-yaki is its continual adaptation in its production methods to suit the needs of the times instead of simply handing down historical techniques.

Echizen-yaki (越前焼)

Echizen-yaki is made in Echizen-cho, Niu-gun, Fukui Prefecture. Echizen-ware has been used as a vessel to hold money because it is hard and durable.

Seto-yaki (瀬戸焼)

Seto-yaki is made in Seto City, Aichi Prefecture, and is said to have been started by someone who trained in the pottery techniques of China.
There was a time when only Seto ware was fired with glaze to make the vessels durable.

Tokoname-yaki (常滑焼)

Tokoname-yaki is made in Tokoname City, Aichi Prefecture, and is the oldest of the six kilns in Japan.
When tea is poured into Tokoname-ware, the tannin in the tea reacts with the iron contained in the pottery material, conferring a mellowness to the tea.

Arita-yaki (有田焼)

Arita-yaki is produced in Arita Town, Saga Prefecture. The town of Aritais said to be the first place in Japan where porcelain was fired.
The technique for firing porcelain was handed down from Korean pottery makers. Until the Edo period, porcelain was known as Imari-yaki or Hizen-yaki.

The paintings on the vessels are all colorful and beautiful. Since Europeans did not have the expertise to make porcelain at the time, they became very proud to own Arita-yaki. In Germany and France, porcelain was sometimes made in imitation of Arita-yaki.
Even today, there are pieces of Arita-yaki on display in museums around the world.

Mino-ware (美濃焼)

Mino-ware is made in the Tono region of Gifu Prefecture. The Tono region includes Toki City, Tajimi City, Mizunami City, and Kani City.
Mino-ware accounts for about half of the total production of ceramics in Japan. Because it is made in several regions, it is characterized by its many varieties. The most famous of these are the four types: Setoguro, Oribe, Kizeto and Shino. The artisans who make Mino-ware create the glaze after listening to your preferences. Many of them have simple designs, so they go well with any kind of food you serve.

Hasami-ware (波佐見焼)

Hasami-yaki is made in Hasami Town, Nagasaki Prefecture. It has a history of being sold as "Arita-yaki" because it is adjacent to the town of Arita in Saga Prefecture.
Hasami-yaki started off as a pottery producer, but after the raw materials needed for porcelain were identified, there was a shift to porcelain.
Hasami-ware is white porcelain with patterns painted in indigo. Hasami ware has been called "Kurawanka bowls" because of its affordable price. The term kurawanka bowl literally means "eat your rice in this bowl".

Kutani-ware (九谷焼)

Kutani-ware is made in Ishikawa Prefecture and is famous for its wonderful painting techniques. Kutani-ware is vividly painted with five colors: red, yellow, green, purple and dark blue. These five colors are called "Gosai".
At one point in Kutani-ware history, the kiln was closed and the business was completely halted. About 80 years later, it was recreated and revived in Kanazawa. The colorful appearance has made it a collectors item.

The Tradition of Japanese Crystallization Techniques

Arita-yaki is produced in Arita Town, Saga Prefecture. The town of Arita is said to be the first place in Japan where porcelain was fired.
The technique for firing porcelain was handed down from Korean pottery makers. Until the Edo period, porcelain was known as Imari-yaki or Hizen-yaki.

The paintings on the vessels are all colorful and beautiful. Since Europeans did not have the expertise to make porcelain at the time, they became very proud to own Arita-yaki. In Germany and France, porcelain was sometimes made in imitation of Arita-yaki.
Even today, there are pieces of Arita-yaki on display in museums around the world.

Umami Recipe Team

Bringing what's new on Japanese food and culture, from traditional to current trends to your home.

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