About the Appeal of Tamba Ware
Tachikui, the area where Tamba ware is made.
Tamba ware, also called Tamba Tachikui-ware, is a type of pottery made in the Imada area of Tamba Sasayama City in Hyogo Prefecture. The surrounding area is a basin surrounded by mountains, and the Shitodani River runs north to south through the valley. The northern side is called Kamitachikui, and the southern side Shimotachikui, where about 60 potters continue to work side by side.Reference: Tamba ware Pottery Festival Walking Guide (Tamba ware Pottery Festival Executive Committee)
Attraction of Tamba Ware
Tamba ware is famous as one of Japan's leading pottery production areas. Tea bowls and other tea utensils are also made here, but the main products are rice bowls, tea utensils, flower vases, and other daily utensils, as well as flowerpots, sake barrels, and other industrial products. More modest than Shigaraki ware, it has an unadorned simplicity, a calm atmosphere, the warmth of the clay, and a rustic yet present appearance. The texture of the artist's handmade vessels gradually changes as they are used over the years. Here is the quality of craftsmanship that cannot be experienced in mass production, and the pleasure of loving and nurturing it.
Distinctive Features of Tamba Ware
Tamba Ware, with roots dating back to the Heian period, boasts unique characteristics arising from the firing process in the kiln where the firewood ashes transform into natural glaze, imparting beautiful green and reddish-brown hues. Another noteworthy feature is the distinctive colors and patterns created by the "Hai-kaburi” process described in the previous sentence. During the firing in a climbing kiln, which can reach extremely high temperatures of about 1,300 degrees Celsius, the firewood, often pine, transform into ash and interact with Tamba clay and glaze to form diverse color tones. With differing colors based on the kiln location and where the ashes fall, each piece of pottery is unique and one-of-a-kind. Tamba Ware is often heavier than regular ceramics, and are not bound by rules governing colors or shapes. All kinds of materials are used as "Hai-yu" or ash glaze, like wood, straw, chestnut husks, bamboo leaves, "Dobai-yu" created by burning waste wood, iron glaze, white glaze, and more, making Tamba Ware renowned for the most beautiful natural glazes among the “Nihon Rokkoyo*” or Six Ancient Kilns of Japan.
Variations of Tamba Ware
In the late Edo period, white clay was collected around the Tachikui area, and white glazed vessels called "White Tamba" appeared. It is said that the admiration for gorgeous porcelain products such as white porcelain color painting led to the creation of white Tamba with white makeup. White Tamba features a soft white ground.Tanbun Kiln | Masafumi Onishi | White Tamba sake bottle
Historical Background of Tamba Ware
Produced in the city of Tamba-Sasayama in Hyogo Prefecture, Tamba Ware has earned its rightful place as one of the Nihon Rokkoyo or six ancient kilns of Japan, alongside Seto Ware, Tokoname Ware, Shigaraki Ware, Bizen Ware, and Echizen Ware. With a history spanning 850 years, Tamba Ware has endured to this day while retaining its rich traditions.
Believed to originate between the late Heian period and early Kamakura period (late 12th century), Tamba Ware was historically single-fired in "anagama” kilns (subterranean kilns partially dug into the mountainside), featuring reddish brown surfaces with streaming patterns of green natural glaze known as "Bidoro." They were used to produce jars, pots, and mortars most likely for practical purposes like storing food and drinking water.
Tamba Ware also became popular as teaware, with historical records attesting to its use by tea master Furuta Oribe.
The introduction of climbing kilns during the Edo period (early 17th century) led to Tamba Ware being recognized for its profoundly beautiful natural glazes, earning praise from the likes of Kobori Enshu, who taught the reigning Tokugawa family the ways of tea ceremony. The Edo period also witnessed the emergence of various glazes, contributing to the mass production of everyday items like sake cups and plates. Post-World War II (after 1945), under the influence of Yanagi Muneyoshi, Tamba Ware embraced the spirit of Mingei, resulting in the creation of numerous pieces that embody folk craft aesthetics.
Tamba ware is fired in a climbing kiln, which can reach temperatures of 1,300 degrees Celsius, for approximately 60 hours. This process causes the ashes from firewood like pine that fall on the vessel to melt and mix with the glaze, creating unique "Hai-kaburi" patterns unique to Tamba Ware.
Their distinct appearances, simultaneously simple and uniquely charming, earn them high regard as premium teaware. Tamba Ware was officially designated as a traditional craft of Japan in 1978.
The center of Tamba Ware production is in the Tachikui district of Konda-cho Village, approximately 20 km southwest of Sasayama City. Nestled between Mount Kokuzo to the east and Mount Wadenji to the west, the area is separated by the Shitodani River that runs through the center. The approximately 2-kilometer valley receives ample sunlight and is divided into Shimo-tachikui to the south and Kami-tachikui to the north, with homes lined tightly along the foothills. They are mostly occupied by pottery ateliers inhering the ancient tradition, with 60 kilns hosting about 130 ceramicists actively producing ceramic wares, evolving their techniques to meet the changing demands of the times.
The generic name for six representative ancient Japanese ceramic kilns that have been in production from the Middle Ages (late Heian Period) to the present.
Hyogo prefecture : Tamba Ware , Aichi prefecture : Seto Ware , Aichi prefecture : Tokoname Ware , Shiga prefecture : Shigaraki Ware , Okayama prefecture : Bizen Ware , Fukui prefecture : Echizen Ware
The unexpected (interesting) change in color or pattern during firing of ceramics due to the condition of the flame or the material in the glaze.
※What is a "Traditional Craft"?
Crafts that meet all of the following requirements and have been designated by the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry in accordance with the Law Concerning the Promotion of Traditional Craft Industries.
❶Must be crafts used primarily in daily life
❷The parts of the manufacturing process that have a significant impact on the product's flavor are mainly done by hand.
❸The product must have a history of more than 100 years and be manufactured using traditional techniques and methods that continue to be used to this day.
❹The main raw material has been used continuously for 100 years or more in principle.
❺The business that manufactures the crafts concerned in a certain region must maintain a certain scale and be established as a local industry.
Citation: Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry website