The ruins of old kilns were discovered when an athletic park was being constructed in Handa City, Aich Prefecture. They are considered to be the kilns used from the middle of the 12th to the early 13th centuries. Currently, 3 of the eight kilns are preserved in their original forms and displayed inside the preservation center in the park.
From their relatively small sizes, they are supposed to be used mainly for firing small vessels including bowls, which are called “Yamajawan” by locals. Yamajawan, literally meaning “a mountain bowl,” is a defected product that was thrown away around the kilns. When the mountains were cultivated by the people in later periods, they discovered a lot of pottery bowls and called them “Yamajawan.” There are supposed to have been thousands of kilns built in the mountains in Chita Peninsula.
The Group of Tile Kiln Site at Hinodeyama
The group of tile kilns was excavated at Hinodeyama Hill in Shikama Town, Miyagi Prefecture. They are thought to have been the ruins of one of the few roof tile producing factories in the ancient Tohoku region. The site is designated as a Historic Site by the national government.
It is thought that the roof tiles for Tagajo Fort, which was the administrative center of the Tohoku region in the early Nara period (710-794), were produced at these kilns. Up to the present, 6 sites have been confirmed and 7 kilns are preserved in the site, which is presently arranged into a history park, where azalea trees and green turf create fresh green oasis. You can see large holes dug in the slope of the hill located in the tranquil countryside.
The excavated roof tiles include the half-round eave-end pendant tile with a lotus pattern with double layered petals, the concave rectangular pendant tiles with a pattern of parallel lines, half-round tiles, and broad concave tiles. Besides roof tiles, pieces of Sueki pottery were found. From the bottom of the Sueki vessels and the kodai-foot, it can be seen that the static thread method, in which the vessel is cut from the wheel head with thread, was employed.
The Kido tile kiln ruins site in Tajiri Numabe in Osaki City, Miyagi Prefecture, is a designated national Historic Site. It was revealed from the research conducted in 1958 and 1974 that these are the ruins of the cave kilns to produce roof tiles for Tagajo Fort at the time of its first construction in the early 8th century.
The excavated roof tiles include the half-round eave-end pendant tile with a lotus pattern with double layered petals, the concave rectangular pendant tiles with a pattern of parallel lines, half-round eave tiles, rectangular eave tiles, half-round tiles, broad concave tiles and oni-gawara (ridge-end tiles).
Also a broad concave tile inscribed with the name of the head of a sub-village composed of 200 families in the Osabe village (ri) in the Nakamura sub-county (go) in a certain county was found from the surface of the ground. This is an academically interesting historical datum to show that the central government’s system of Go-ri (sub-county and village) and its military system had already been introduced in this area, which is as far as 40 km away from Tagajo Fort, the administrative center of the time.
Shitoro ware is pottery made in Kanaya, Shimada City, Shizuoka Pref. This craft dates back to the late Muromachi period (in the 1500s), when a potter from Mino province (present-day the southern part of Gifu Pref.) built a kiln in this town. The craft was given a vermillion-seal certificate for pottery industry by Tokugawa Ieyasu in 1588 and thrived through the early Edo period. Shitoro ware leaped to fame when Kobori Enshu, a notable artist and tea master of the time, nurtured this pottery as one of Enshu Seven Kilns. Shitoro ware is sober in color and has a taste of antiquity. A good point of this pottery is that you don’t have to care about compatibility with other vessels or flowers to be put in. It is well-known that the authentic ancient vases of Shitoro ware have exergues of “Sobokai” or “Ubagafutokoro” on their bottoms. As Shitoro ware is solid and tolerant to moisture, it is suitable for tea caddies and other tea utensils.
Akasaka Dolls are clay dolls made in Akasaka, Chikugo City, Fukuoka Pref. It is designated as a prefectural specialty craft product. Three is no record about a precise history of this handicraft and its origin is unknown but it is presumed that those dolls were first made as an odd job of the potters who worked for the official kilns of Arima Province in the middle of the Edo period. The most famous one is an ocarina called “Tette-Poppo (meaning an awkward man in the local dialect), which was popular among children in those days. Now there are more than ten kinds of dolls including Fukujin (a lucky god), Tenjin (a god of scholarship), and a monkey. The doll is made by applying white pigment made of burnt seashell to a simple brown ware, to which colorful painting is given. It is a very simple clay doll but its simplicity reminds us of childish innocence. It is the representative traditional folk craft in Chikugo area.
One of the three largest production areas for roof tiles (kawara) in Japan is Sanshuu in Aichi Prefecture. It is believed that tile-production started here in about 588. According to records, there is information that kawara craftsmen existed at that time.
Sanshuu became a tile-production area in 1700 because clay could easily be brought in from the nearby towns of Anjo, Toyota and Seto. Furthermore, Sanshuu's position in the center of Japan meant that tiles could be transported easily to other parts of the country.
There are three major types of tiles: ibushi, yuuyaku, mu-yuuyaku and shioyaki. The tiles are fired for a period of between 13 and 16 hours. The length of the firing ensures that the tiles are tough. In the past. the firing process was carried out manually, but today electric kilns are used. These days, with the rise in environmental awareness, new tiles suited for recycling and for solar panels have been developed.
Kazuwa Ware is a representative porcelain of Kurayoshi, Tottori Prefecture, and is designated as the folk craftwork of the prefecture. It is said that Kazuwa Ware first began to be made around 1750 (Houreki era).
Kurayoshi clay is rich in iron, and turns black on firing. The typical glaze for Kazuwa Ware has a distinctive deep reddish color. Therefore, the base color of the pottery is black with a red overlay. Fired Kazuwa Ware takes on a dark red, and is used as dishes or vases: the delicate color exudes a warmth to its users.
Recently, vessels with new and fresh designs have begun to appear. One such color other than red is a cool breezy color that is used for dishes: it is a white-base with blue and green. Another color that is now available is a rich purple with original glaze colors over it.
Kazuwa Ware features a unique ceramic style: like a glass locking the sky and the earth inside it.
Suzu pottery was manufactured for about 400 years from the late Heian period (the 12th century) through the late Muromachi period (the 15th century) in the area where present Suzu City and Uchiura Town in Ishikawa Prefecture. Though the production of Suzu pottery declined rapidly in the Warring States period (1493-1573), it represented one of the characteristic Japan Sea Civilizations during the medieval era. In the Sowa period (1926-1989), old kilns of Suzu pottery with several pieces of vessels were discovered, which led to the revival of this traditional pottery and many new kilns have been built.
The characteristic of Suzu pottery is the Kangen-Kusube firing method, in which the flow of oxygen in a kiln is extremely decreased to fume the pottery. The clay produced in this area includes a lot of iron, which is combined with carbon and creates grayish black texture. It is simple, warm and thick pottery with rough hand feeling. Presently, flower vessels, beer tankards and mugs are being made.