Obori-soma ware is the local pottery of Obori, Namie Town, Fukushima Prefecture. In 1690, Sama, a servant of Hangai Kyukan, an Aima domain samurai, established this pottery.
The Soma domain encouraged pottery-making, so, by the end of the Edo period, there were about 100 kilns for the area.
Since the Meiji period, however, the number of kilns has decreased and now only 24 kilns are making pottery that follows this 300-year tradition. Obori-soma ware is pottery that has been loved by commoners since the end of the Edo period.
The ware mainly produced is 'blue crack', which features a cracked celadon-blue glaze. The vessels are double-layered to keep tea inside hot; the running-horse motif is painted by hand.
In 1978, Obori-soma ware was designated as a National Traditional Handicraft.
Katsuyama-no-tate is a mountain castle in Hokkaido and was built in the latter half of the 15th century by Takeda Shingen, the ancestor of the Matsumae family. The castle area is about 350,000m2. Until the end of the 16th century, Katsuyama-no-tate was Takeda and Katsuzaki's political and power base and center for the northern trade along the Japan Sea.
Excavation of Katsuyama-no-tate has revealed about 30,000 artifacts, including Mino ware and Chinese celadon, metal and wooden objects, as well as the remains of buildings, wells, waterless moats and bridges. They tell us about life in olden times. Moreover, more than 500 tools made of bone and horn that were used by the Ainu people have been found.
These traces tell us about Japan's trade on the Japan Sea in the northern part of the country, and life in the middle ages, which have increasingly drawn scholarly attention.
Shirihachi-date is a medieval fort at the top of a 180m-high hill. The remains of moats, hillside fencing and earthen bridges can still be seen still today.
Excavation has revealed Chinese ceramics dating from the late 13th century to the late 15th century. Of particular interest, these include a celadon 'peony incense burner', which is said to be the most excellent ceramic ever found in Aomori Prefecture.
In 1978 and 1979, excavation revealed 1,800 relics including moats and daily ware, which gave new insights into Tsugaru in medieval times.
Today, the prefectural history museum exhibits valuable relics relating to trade in east Asia. These suggest that Aomori was not an isolated region at all.
Tsugaru Tamenobu used Horikoshi Castle for integrating the Tsuruga domain and as a base for the Hirosaki clan. It became the main clan castle when Tsugaru Tamenobu moved there from Ora Castle in the third year of the Bunroku period (1594), until the 16th year of the Keicho period (1611), when the 2nd clan head, Tsugaru Nobuhira, moved to Hirosaki Castle.
In November 1985, the castle was designated as a national historical site. Since 1998, in order to develop it as an historical park, excavation was carried out that revealed pillars, celadon and white porcelain as well as lacquerware.
Today, Horikoshi Castle is part of the grounds of the Kumano Shrine. National Highway 7 runs through part of the area. In the shrine, the mounds and dry moats recall the atmosphere of the old castle.
Onta-yaki is a high-fired ceramic ware made in valleys in the Onta region around Hita in Oita Prefecture.
Yanase Miemon, a potter from Chikuzen, was the first craftsman to modify high-fired Koishiwara ware and create Onta ware during the Edo period. To fire Onta ware, Miemon used a 'richokei noborigama' (richo-type multi-chambered climbing kiln) made by Kuroki Jubei from Otsuru.
Over 300 years, Onta ware has come to employ many different decorative techniques, including 'tobikana' (distinct patterns),'hakeme' (slip brushing), 'kushigaki' ('combed' lines), 'uchikake' (waterfall patterns), and 'nagashi'. These designs are made using a variety of colors, such as celadon green, black, amber and yellow.
A well-known story goes that, in 1954 and 1964, Bernard Howell Leach, the prominent British studio potter, visited Hita in Oita and made some Onta ware himself.
Today, the process of preparing the clay continues as it always has with, for example, the 'karausu' (a crusher that uses rivers and rapids for molding clay), which slowly and surely kneads the clay for the different potteries. Preparations such as this help to protect the long history and tradition of Onta ware. In 1995, Onta ware was designated as an important cultural heritage of Japan.