Miyazaki lacquer ware (Miyazaki Shikki) is a traditional handicraft, which is designated as a Traditional Craft Product by Miyazaki Prefecture. The history of this craft originates in Ryukyu lacquer ware, which started in present-day Okinawa in the Muromachi period (1336-1573), and the techniques of which we can see in the Shuri Castle Gate in Naha City.
In Miyazaki Prefecture, the lacquering techniques were introduced by some lacquerers, who came to live in this prefecture from Okinawa. Lacquering industry started in this area as the means of promoting local employment and developed as far as to produce the independent lacquer ware Miyazaki Shikki.
The high temperatures and ample humidity of Miyazaki's climate are well suited for drying the pieces, which are applied several times of lacquering; undercoating, middle coating and top coating. These processes are essential for making products strong and durable.
The distinctive way of applying the decorative pattern called Tsuikin characterizes Miyazaki lacquer ware. In Tsuikin techniques, pigment is crushed and mixed with transparent top-coat lacquer and hit by a hammer until it becomes gummy. This is then cut out according to the patterns and attached to a base board.
The outstanding beauty of the vermillion patterns is treasured by a lot of people all over the country. Presently products such as trays, teacup holders, candy dishes and letter boxes are being made.
Himetani Ware is one of the three earliest Iroe (decorated with colorful underglaze painting) porcelains in Japan. Others are Imari and Kutani wares. This porcelain was made by a small number of potters including Ichiemon for only a short period of time in the late 17th century.
It is characterized by the colorful patterns painted on the surface of thin white porcelains, leaving enough margins. The motifs include red maple leaves, a peony flower on a branch or Sansui landscape painting with a flying goose. The paintings look all the more beautiful for the simple composition and plain brushwork.
This Wabi and Sabi aesthetics is favored by the art collectors today. Its excellence was acknowledged and designated as a Hiroshima Important Cultural Property in 1971.
Iroe-jiki is a special type of porcelain decorated with a polychrome overglaze in such colors as red, green and yellow. It is also known as Akae or Nishikide. Iroe-jiki porcelain can be broadly classified into three styles; Ironabeshima, Kokutani and Kakiemon, according to its production year and style. Kakiemon is a famous family kiln or furnace, with a long lineage from the Edo period. As an important intangible cultural property, the art of Iroe-jiki making is well reverent in Japan. Sakaida Kakiemon XIV (1934~), a master a Iroe-jiki techniques, was designated in 2001 as a Living National Treasure for this art. Milk-white foundation and bright colorful decoration are characteristics of the Kakiemon style. His drawing style is to apply decoration only sparsely. This emphasizes the milk-white porcelain background to produce a feel of elegance and grace. “It is very important to leave some area blank. You have to balance the drawing without losing beauty of white”, Mr. Kakiemon once said. He, to the date, continues to devote himself in this traditional art to and explore further to sheer perfection and beauty.
Kakiemon Sakaida was born in 1934 in Arita, Saga Prefecture, and graduated from the Nihonga (Japanese Painting) Department of Tama Art College, Tokyo.
In 1983, he succeeded to the title of 14th Kakiemon. In 1984, he won the Japan Ceramic Association prize and, both in 1986 and 1992, the Japan Handicraft Association encouragement prize at the Japan Traditional Handicraft Exhibition.
In 2001, he was designated as a holder of an Important Intangible Cultural Asset (Iroe pottery), and a Living National Treasure. Now, he is director of the Japan Handicraft Association, a leading member of the Japan Handicraft Association West Branch and a professor of art at the Kyushu Industry Graduate School.
Kakiemon was the name awarded to the first ceramicist in Arita, Hizen country, who developed Iroe-jiki porcelain. Kakiemons are famous for the unique styles of Iroe ware: with red glaze, or with a milk-white ground and bright, vivid overglazed decoration. Their Iroe ware are both splendid and graceful, elegantly employing blank spaces. The work of various Kakiemon has influenced Meissen pottery in Europe and Jingdezhen pottery in China.
Kakiemon Sakaida says: 'I have made new dishes and designs, but pottery for daily use is more difficult to make than art.' He has always endeavored to follow his clients' wishes when creating new work. He currently makes decorations based on strawberries or foxtails.
Kyo pottery and Kiyomizu pottery date back 400 years and have become symbols of Japanese pottery.
At the end of the Azuchi-Momoyama period and the beginning of the Edo period, a master potter, Nonomura Ninsei, appeared. He was originally a potter in Niwa and then, in Kyoto, started making tea pottery and honed the Iroe technique of pottery with pictures on; he also made graceful Iroe pottery, which would be the basis of Kyo pottery or Kiyomizu pottery. His name spread throughout Japan. Ogata Kanzan, his pupil, invented decorative and unique patterns on the pottery. After Ogata, many potters made efforts to produce splendid pottery with refined and fine designs and involving great skill.
Now, not only high-grade tea pottery are popular, but coffee cups, too. Fine, graceful and skillful pottery emphasizing tradition exists alongside pottery that suits our modern lives; each form of pottery has a unique feel.
Imari-Arita ware is pottery ware produced in the area around Arita-machi, Saga Pref. It is characterized by the thin and light body and elegant patterns. The origin of Imari-Arita ware dates back to 1604 (the early Edo period), when a Korean potter, Li Sanpei discovered fine porcelain stone at Mt. Izumi in Arita. Since then Imari-Arita ware had blossomed and many skills had been developed under the patronage of Nabeshima Clan during the Edo period. A lot of potters came to study the techniques, which made the name of this ware known nationwide. To produce its characteristic blue pattern, the elaborately crafted work is required in each of the processes including underglaze drawing, underglaze painting, glazing, firing, and overglaze painting. At any moment of the process gleams out the aesthetic sense of a master craftsman who carries on the 400 years of tradition.