Serveware Talk That You’ll Want to Bring Up with Someone | #05 Kyushu, the Kingdom of Pottery

誰かに話したくなる“器”の話|#05_やきもの王国九州

As the Kyushu region is called “the kingdom of pottery,” it is known for its leading ceramics production areas even within Japan, such as Karatsu ware (Saga Prefecture), Arita ware/Imari ware (Saga Prefecture), Takatori ware (Fukuoka Prefecture), Koishiwara ware (Fukuoka Prefecture), Agano ware (Fukuoka Prefecture), Shodai ware (Kumamoto Prefecture), Mikawachi ware (Nagasaki Prefecture), Hasami ware (Nagasaki Prefecture), and Satsuma ware (Kagoshima Prefecture).

If you trace the roots of ceramics, the world’s oldest earthenware is said to be the “mumon doki”(from 16,500 years ago). The first time the Kyushu area’s ceramic industry flourished was from the Kofun period to the Heian period; it waned momentarily on the verge of the latter half of the Heian period. Revived 400 years later in the Momoyama Period, ceramics began simultaneously in the Kyushu area. Its start is credited to the Japanese invasions of Korea. During that time, many potters who were brought back from the Korean Peninsula built pottery kilns one after another in various places around Kyushu. The majority of those who went to battle in the Korean Peninsula were also troops from the Kyushu area, whose ceramic industry is said to have advanced because of this.

Among them, Karatsu ware pottery workshops became the largest ceramic industry locale in western Japan, becoming a pottery representative of Japan. Primarily tea bowls were made from the Momoyama period to the Edo period; as the saying “Ichiraku Nihagi Sankaratsu” goes, they became one of Japan’s three most renown tea bowls. This would expand pottery culture. Together with the convenience of marine transport in the land of Karatsu, shares of Karatsu ware amplified; it was so widely popularized that western Japan’s porcelain was nicknamed “karatsu mono.” Also, Karatsu ware was Japan’s oldest glazed porcelain, which became the base of the later Arita ware.

Entering the Edo period, for Arita’s pottery workshops which produced Karatsu ware, location with deposits of good-quality pottery stone, Izumiyama Quarry was discovered, leading to the successful firing of Japan’s first hard-paste porcelain. Uchiyama District near Izumiyama Quarry became the center of that production. Uchiyama District is not only is close to Izumiyama Quarry; it was easy to create ascending kilns on the slopes of the foothills of the mountain, and grind pottery stone into fine powder using water wheels. The perfect natural conditions were in place for hard-paste porcelain production. Also, under the protection and administration under the Saga Domain, and  with Korean technology as the base, production of Imari-style pottery began with the import of gosu, blue porcelain pigment from China.

After that, due to the birth of Sakaida Kakiemon-style/Imari-style pottery, demands increased in Europe, heightening development in one breath. Also, Nabeshima-style pottery with its Japanese designs developed as gifts presented to families positioned to accede to the shogunate and various daimyo; the ceramics industry rapidly grew in Hizen Province (Saga Prefecture/Nagasaki Prefecture).

The reason Kyushu is famous for pottery goes beyond the historical context; the temperate climate and soil of the land are also given as reasons. From the special qualities of the soil and geological features, Kyushu is rife with volcanic activity; clay, which is the raw material for porcelain, exists in abundance. Because of this, Kyushu became a region where good-quality kaolin and clay could be obtained, which is well-suited to pottery production. These primary factors lead to Kyushu’s fame both inside and outside of Japan as a place for pottery, whose abundant traditions and beautiful works are now widely known.

The serving ware of Japanese cuisine has a long historical and cultural background. Traditional techniques and design play an important role in conveying Japan’s culture and values to modern times; also, while making the most of the blessings of regional climates and topographies, they are made using sustainable natural materials. Why not anew at your favorite serving ware after coming to know the background of its history, climate, geological features, and more?

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