The Artistry in Different Kinds of Japanese Ceramics
There are many kinds of Japanese ceramics, each having its own provenance and unique features. We have selected 8 types of well known ceramic wares from different areas in Japan. Most of them are representations of their local "hands-on" craftsmanship made in local kilns. Some of the newer emergence are designer-developed brands — made in smaller batches and therefore have higher prices. The ceramic wares' terms come from combining the region's or kiln's name with "-yaki", which means "fired". Regardless of their origins, all of these ceramics require highly skilled master artisans putting in lots of focus, time, and work in order to produce durable and aesthetic ceramics. Dedicated to details, these craftsmen combine their century-old traditions with innovative designs to create ceramics that meet the current needs. This kind of persistence is key to living a life that doesn't settle for just "good enough".
Today's Gifu Prefecture was called Mino area a long time ago. Rich in ceramic clay, the area has a long history of making ceramics called "Minoyaki" (or Mino ware). Once in full flourish in late 16th century, Minoyaki is acclaimed for its sharp colours in the glaze, warm textures to the touch, and simple designs that are not too extravagant. Today, many Minoyaki kilns still produce some of the finest tea ware. Currently it is estimated that more than 60% of Japanese ceramics is Mino ware.
A major ceramics town since the ancient times, Seto area is located in Aichi Prefecture adjacent to the Mino area, which means their techniques share similarities. Seto ware is widely known for mastering the glazing process, which is characterized by crystal finishes and elegant colours, representing Japanese aesthetics of simplicity and naturalness.
Another ceramics town with a long history of producing tableware, Tokoname area is the most famous for its tea ware. The local red soil is rich in iron and has a unique texture. The finished products have a reserved charming colour.
Bankoyaki was developed around 1740 in Mie Prefecture. Compared to other ceramic ware, Banko ware's texture is relatively delicate, and with a hint of metallic feel, it is usually also relatively lighter. Using a unique method to fire the iron-rich soil to make ceramics of excellent heat resistance, Banko ware makes outstanding cooking pots and teapots since they can be placed directly on fire and in the oven. It can withstand a temperature difference of up to 800 degrees, which means even if it is soaked in cold water immediately after cooking, Banko ware will not crack. A round Banko ware allows for optimal heat flow and shortens cooking time while releasing far-infrared, which decomposes the enzymes in the food — even the most ordinary ingredients will have an extraordinary taste.
A major area to produce ceramics since ancient times, Shigarakiyaki originated from Shiga Prefecture. Because of its excellent soil, Shigaraki ware is known for its simplicity and smooth texture. The unique composition of local soil reacts with fire ashes to produce a blue and yellow "natural glaze", which gives a "fired" finishing touch to Shigaraki ware. The fact that Shigaraki isn't merely made by men, but also a natural crystallization between soil and fire, is another reason for its fame and popularity.
A variation of Kyoyaki, Kiyomizuyaki is from Kyoto, home to various Japanese cultural traditions. Kiyomizu ware was first made at the foot of the famous temple Kiyomizu-dera in Kyoto. But now all ceramic products made in Kyoto, from earthy pottery to intricate porcelain, are all known as Kiyomizuyaki, designated as a traditional handicraft by the Minister of Economy.
Located in Saga Prefecture, Arita area is the first area in Japan to start producing porcelain, Arita ware has been exported to Europe since ancient times and is popular all over the world. The beautiful white porcelain is characterized by its contrasting colourful patterns.
Hasami ware is from Nagasaki Prefecture, which has long been one of the most important areas in supporting Japanese food culture since ancient times. Its blue and white porcelain is especially popular in recent years. Hasami ceramics mainly produces everyday tableware, especially thick durable porcelain with meticulous blue patterns. The indigo glaze against white porcelain has always been a signature of Hasami ware. Today the inherited tradition is expressed in more contemporary and effortless designs.