Kawara, are roofing tiles made of fired clay.
History indicates that Kawara first appeared in China around 2,800 years ago. They were introduced to Japan in the middle of the 6th Century, at the same time Buddhism was introduced from Kudara, now Korea. Kawara were reportedly first used for the Asuka Temple in Japan.
At that time, temples were the only buildings allowed to use Kawara roofing tiles. In the Nara period, however. Kawara began to be used for various other types of buildings.
In the Edo period, new styles of Kawara were invented and the tiles came into popular use. Their widespread use was encouraged because they are fire proof.
Kawara are roughly classified into two categories in Japan: Nyouyaku Gawara or Glazed tiles and Ibushi Kawara or tiles which have oxidized and formed a silver- colored carbon film. As for shapes, there are now more than 1,000 varieties of Kawara.
Currently Sanshuu Kawara in Aichi, Awaji Kawara in Hyogo and Sekishu Kawara in Shimane are the three biggest production districts of high quality Kawara. They represent the finest in Japanese roofing tile making.
Ryukyu pottery is a traditional handicraft handed down in the Tsuboya district in Naha City, Okinawa Prefecture. Pottery techniques were introduced to Ryukyu through the trade with Southeast Asian countries during the 15th century.
Later in the early 17th century, potters from Korea and China were invited to teach their techniques to the local potters, who gradually combined them with the techniques used in the Satsuma domain, the ruler of Ryukyu at that time, and developed their original pottery ware. In the late 17th century, King Shotei of the Ryukyu Dynasty concentrated all the workshops build around his country in the Tsuboya district. Since then the Tsuboya district has been the center of Ryukyu pottery up to the present time.
Using locally produced clay and glazers, it is characterized by generous-hearted and bright impression that is typical to the south land. Pottery produced at these kilns is classified largely into two groups; Ara-yachi and Jo-yachi. Ara-yachi potteries are not glazed and large in size, while Jo-yachi includes those finely-glazed and having painted designs.
Neriagede is an artistic technique for creating ceramic pottery by layering or blending of clay of different colors to create a striped or marbleized effect. It requires high level of pottery techniques. Quite simply saying, it can be a little like making a tiered cake (baumkuhen).
The Neriagede shaping process comprises the steps of stacking alternately a plurality of clay boards differing from each other in color, which creates beautiful striped or marble-like patterns. In order to avoid cracking and breaking which come along with mixing a variety of different kinds of clay or during firing, high level of thechniques and extensive experiences are required.
The thechnique of Neriagede is said to be derived from the marbeling tchnique (called “Kotai” in Japan) in the Tang Dynasty China in the 7th century. It is said to have been introduced to Japan around the Azuchi-momoyama period (1568-1598), for there are several pieces of Neriagede pottery, which were supposedly made in this era, have been found.
In recent years, the techniques to color the clay itself is invented and more complex and highly artistic works are being created. New “layers” of the techniques are overlapped on to the traditional “layers,” which continuously propels the development of this high-leveled ceramic ware.
When Naoshige Nabeshima, who later founded the Saga Clan, returned to Japan following the invasion of Korea in the late 16th century, he brought with him a group of Korean potters. One of them was Ri Sampei (Korean name Lee Cham-Pyung), who discovered kaolin and succeeded in making porcelain for the first time in Japan in 1616. This first porcelain was later developed into the three types of porcelain ware: Ko-Imari, Kakiemon and Nabeshima, which came to establish Arita as the birthplace of Japanese porcelain.
Ri Sampei is enshrined at Toyama-jinja Shrine in Odaru, Arita-cho. Behind the main shrine and situated at the top of Mt Renge-Ishiyama, stands a monument to Ri Sampei. This is also a good spot to get a panoramic view of the town of Arita.
The monument to Ri Sampei was erected in 1916 (Taisho 5) on the 300th anniversary of Arita ware. Since then, the Toso matsuri festival, celebrating the founding of porcelain, has been held each year on May 4th.
Kakiemon is a preeminent Japanese porcelain brand and is well-known worldwide. The most remarkable feature of Kakiemon is called “nigoshide”.
Nigoshide is the fine milky white base color developed to emphasize the beauty of paintings by Kakiemon. “Nigoshi” is a dialect of Saga, where Kakiemon wares are produced, and means “water after washing rice”, which is not pure white but a warm milky white color. It is this background color that enables the viewer to realize the beauty around the drawings that Kakiemon style is famous for. This technique was established at the beginning of Edo period by the fifth generation of Kakiemon when many wares were produced. However, mainly due to the high shipping costs, the production was discontinued temporarily. Later when there was an overwhelming demand by the Agency for Cultural Affairs and enthusiasts in general, production was revived around 1952 by Kakiemon XII and Kakiemon XIII.
In 1971, Nigoshide technique was designated as an Important Intangible Cultural Asset. Kakiemon X IV, a Living National Treasure, continues making new products blending traditional techniques passed on through generations with new modern techniques.
Mingei is an abbreviation of “minshu-teki kogei,” which menas “hand-crafted art of ordinary people.” The Mingei products are mostly ordinary and utilitarian objects. The word “Jomon” literally means “patterns of rope” and “Zogan” is a damascene technique. Mingei pottery Jomon Zogan is a style of pottery which involves using silk rope to make impressions in the wet clay and filling the patterns with white slips of clay, which creates clear contrast with the black color of the buisque.
Jomon Zogan style of pottery was created by Tatsuzo Shimaoka (1919-2007), a designated National Living Treasure. He studied pottery in Mashiko, where he became an apprentice of Shoji Hamada, one of mingei’s founding proponents. Based on the techniques in clay kneading and glazing he acquired in Mashiko and the unpretentious creative spirit of mingei, he developed his own pottery of Jomon Zogan. His sober but innovative style of pottery has been highly esteemed at home and abroad.
Shino Ware is most identifiable for a squat and cylindrical shape with thick white glazes. It is one of the Mino-styled pottery, which started to be made in the Azuchi-momoyama period in the late 16th century. Using glazers mixed with feldspar and iron oxide, various colors are created. The color variation from white, gray, to red depends on the combination of the glazers and the firing time and method.
It was favored by tea masters of the time, but was gradually declined because many potters all over the country started to copy the style of this pottery, by which Shino ware lost its originality and were gradually fogotten by people.
It was in 1930 when Shino ware was revived by the hands of Toyozo Arakawa. Having been born in the Mino region, he had a special affection for Shino pottery and discovered the old Momoyama kiln. Then he developed the first modern Shino glaze by studying Monoyama Shino pots. Since then he had actively fired his Mino wares in a kiln very much like those of the Momoyama potters and contributed to the revival of this old pottery. Today, a lot of potters are fascinated by this pottery and eager to create thir original Shino pottery works.
Celadon, or Seiji in Japanese, is a pottery that has a long history dating back to the 1st century in China. Its origin goes even further back to more than 3,500 years ago when China began making real glazed ceramics called “primitive porcelain” during the Yin Dynasty. The techniques of making Seiji, whose distinctive color is created when iron in glass-quality glaze glows a deep blue/green like color during reduction firing, was established during the Later Han period around the 1st century and since then it has been followed rigorously to this day.
Seiji became popular in other countries and, after around the 9th century, it was exported extensively to Japan, the Korean peninsula and other Southeast Asian countries. Especially in Japan where China was highly regarded at that time, Seiji was actively collected and copied, and production techniques were rapidly refined.
Because Seiji tea cup brightens the color of green tea inside, Seiji became essential for use during the tea ceremony and has been much valued by tea masters, feudal lords and temples over the years.
Seiji, with its exquisite graceful hues of blue that evokes the transparent sea and subtle green, enchants people’s hearts around the world.