Raku first, Hagi second, Karatsu third.

by Elliott Long 10/4/2008



Raku-Yaki (Raku ware) :
Raku ware, which originated in the 16th century, is a low-fired ceramic ware made in Kyoto by the Raku Family, a family dynasty that is respected for its outstanding tea bowls and tableware (for use in the tea ceremony). The current Raku is Raku Kichizaemon XV. Raku ware also refers to ceramics made by amateur and professional potters in the tea community. There are various Raku substyles, including Chojiro Raku, Koetsu Raku, and Aka-Raku (reddish-brown raku). The latter is usually covered in iron oxide and a transparent glaze and then fired at low temperatures.

About the First Raku : The savoring of tea, which was greatly influenced by Zen, was well suited to the more muted beauty of unglazed ceramics. The best of these unglazed ceramics were initially produced in Shigaraki, as well as by the great tea master Sen no Rikyu (1522-1591) and his friend Sasaki Chojiro (1516-1592). Chojiro's son, also an excellent potter, was awarded a seal (reading "raku" which translates as "pleasure") by the Shogun (military leader of Japan). Chojiro went on to became the originator of Raku in the early Momoyama period (1573-1603) in Kyoto.


Hagi-Yaki (Hagi and Ido ware) :
Hagi Ware (Yamaguchi Prefecture) is a glazed, high-fired stoneware; a style especially famous for its milky, white-glazed teaware.  Like many of the great Japanese ceramic traditions of western Japan, Hagi originated with Korean potters. Indeed, in the Momoyama era (1573-1603) and in the early years of the Edo period (1603 - 1867), ceramics like Karatsu, Agano, Satsuma, and Takatori first saw their wheels set in motion when, willingly or not, Korean potters were brought back to Japan in the "pottery wars" of 1592 and 1597-98.
The tradition of Hagi pottery is said to spring from two Korean brothers, Ri Shakko and Ri Kei, who first fired Hagi sometime around Keicho 9 (1604) in Matsumoto-Nakanokura, near Hagi in what is now Yamaguchi Prefecture. From these beginnings sprang a grand ceramic style that has been a focus of the tea world ever since.
Many Edo-Period kilns were funded by the daimyo. Lord Mori Terumoto of Hagi employed the Ri brothers of Korea, thus ensuring chadogu (tea utencils) for his personal use and as gifts. Shakko's son had the Japanese name of Yamamura Shinbei Mitsumasa, while Kei was given the name Saka Koraizaemon. They established the Fukagawa Hagi kiln. The Matsumoto Hagi kiln was established by Miwa Kyusetsu in 1663. The Saka and Miwa families continue to this day.

Ido-Yaki (Ido ware) :
Related to Hagi is Ido tea ware. Ido ware was a cheap earthenware made in Korea in the 15th century and used widely by commoners as rice bowls. But after Ido ware appeared in Japan, tea masters began to use the larger Ido rice bowls as tea bowls, appreciating their simple beauty. Typically Ido ware has a slightly everted mouth and is fired with a natural ash glaze.


Karatsu-Yaki (Karatsu ware) :
Karatsu (Saga and Nagasaki Prefectures, Kyushu).
A high-fired ceramic, well known for its underglaze iron paintings; originated sometime in 15th-16th century with Korean potters. The only family dating back to those days still making Karatsu today is the famous Nakazato family. They have an unbroken lineage of fourteen generations.
With the introduction of porcelain to Saga Prefecture in the 17th century, however, and porcelain's subsequent rise to great popularity, Karatsu ware suffers a long decline. The style has undergone a revival of sorts in the modern age, thanks largely to Nakazato Muan (Nakazato Taroemon XII, 1895-1985). He was named a Living National Treasure in 1976 for his Karatsu work.

There are eight basic kinds of Karatsu:

  • oku-korai (simple, unembellished Karatsu)
  • madara (speckled; blue spots of straw ash glaze)
  • e-Garatsu (iron or copper glaze and coated with translucent glaze)
  • hori (carved)
  • chosen (Korean-style; coated with straw ash glaze called warabaiyu)
  • ao Karatsu (green)
  • ki Karatsu (yellow)
  • kuro Karatsu (black)

Karatsu ware is also characterized by a paddling technique known as tatakizukuri, in which strings of clay are stacked on a wheel. The outside is then paddled into shape while the inside is supported by battens. This technique likely originated in Korea. Today there are over 50 kilns making Karatsu in Karatsu City, Takeo City, and Higashi-Matsura Gun.


Satsuma-Yaki (Satsuma ware) :
Satsuma ware started in Kagoshima Prefecture at the end of the 16th century. Satsuma ware is divided roughly into "Shiro (white)-Satsuma" and "Kuro (black)-Satsuma." White Satsuma is called "Shiro-mon (white thing)" and Black Satsuma is called "Kuro-mon (black thing)".
White Satsuma was baked as purveying pottery to the feudal lord a long time ago. It is the feature that the very fine cracks called "Kannyu" is seen on the surface. The pattern of animals and plants etc. is drawn on an skin with red, blue, green, and also gold. It is a gorgeous and delicate excellent pottery.
Black Satsuma was baked as daily necessaries, table wares, jars, etc. for people. It had the gloss of jet black and has fitted into the life of people as simple and strong and sturdy pottery.


Kyo-Yaki (Kyo ware) :
Kyo ware is the pottery baked in Kyoto. The origin of the pottery of Kyoto started in the first half of the 5th century. There are Kiyomizu ware, Awataguchi ware, Ninnaji ware, etc. in Kyoto, and these general terms are Kyo ware. However, it is the pottery baked by Kyo kiln which spread centering on the Higashiyama area from the early stages of an Edo term (the 17 century) in a narrow sense. Therefore, it is supposed that the Raku ware which started in Momoyama Era (the 16 century) is not contained in Kyo ware.
It is at the beginning time of the 17th century that the name of "Kyo ware" appears in history reference for the first time. Tea-utensils were made according to the demand of the tea ceremony which was in fashion those days. Then, Ninsei Nonomura who was a potter of Tamba ware opened a kiln, and began to bake full-scale painted pottery. Furthermore, Kenzan Ogata made Kyoto ceramic ware progress rapidly in bilateral work with his elder brother, Korin Ogata who was a painter. And it was influenced by inflow of the Imari porcelain in the 19th century, and porcelain work was taken in Kyo ware.
A gorgeous picture is visualized if it is called Kyo ware. It was Ninsei Nonomura who completed it. The color of the clay which produces the charm of the Kyo ware which is a pottery was deficient in the whiteness as a background drawing a bright picture. Then, he coated glaze on the surface of the pottery, and prepared white canvas. It succeeded in giving a delicate picture. It was suitable in the capital which was the center of culture, and his picture drawn in the use of color refined brightly and touches became the mainstream of Kyo ware. Then, till the present, many potters are baking "the reproduction of Ninsei".


Kutani-Yaki (Kutani ware) :
The history of Kutani ware goes back around 1655 in early stages of the Edo period. Although the kiln of Kutani has been suddenly closed around 1730, a cause is not yet certain. What was burned in the meantime is called Ko-Kutani (old Kutani) after that, and forcible beauty of form peculiar as a representative of a Japanese colorful porcelain is esteemed.
Kasugayama kiln was started by the management of Kaga Han about 80 years after closing of Ko-Kutani kiln in Kanazawa, and it went into the time of revival Kutani. Many kiln, such as "Kasugayama kiln of the Mokubei style", "Yoshidaya kiln which aimed at revival of Ko-Kutani", "Miyamoto kiln of red paint thin drawing", and "Eiraku kiln of gold brocade", appeared, and the wonderful style of painting has been made to each.
After going into Meiji Era, the "coloring gold brocade pattern" of Kutani Shoza became famous, and a lot of Kutani porcelain was exported to overseas. As for today's Kutani porcelain, also compared with before, active production is continued by the origin in the "style of Kamietsuke" of each time. Kutani (Saiyu-jiki) and Ko-Kutani ("Ko" means old). Colorful overglazed enamel decorative porcelain. Porcelain produced in the Kaga area (Ishikawa Prefecture), beginning sometime in 17th century. In Kutani pottery, the five colors (go-sai) reign supreme: red, blue, yellow, purple and green. The origin of these pigments is in Ming Dynasty Chinese porcelains. Yet Kutani retains its own identity and is purely Japanese in the usage of the pigments. One of today's best Kutani masters is Tokuda Yasokichi III. Tokuda's grandfather, the first Yasokichi (1873-1957), is credited with rediscovering many of Kutani's lost traditional glazes. For that he was made an Intangible Cultural Property by the government. Granddad's work was so skillful that his pieces were hard to distinguish from the Ko-Kutani (Old Kutani) and Yoshidaya styles, the epitome of Kutani up to that point.


Seto-Yaki (Seto ware) :
Pottery made in Seto city and nearby areas of modern Aichi prefecture. The Seto area was the center of pottery manufacture in the Kamakura period; koseto (old seto) designates pieces made at this time. At the end of the Muromachi period the center of the pottery manufacture moved to nearby Mino. At that time, wares made in the area from Seto to Mino were called setoyaki. In the early Edo period, some pottery manufacture moved back to Seto. In 1822, Katou Tamikichi (1722-1824) introduced sometsuke jiki (blue-and-white porcelain) from Arita in modern Saga prefecture, and this porcelain, called shinsei (new production) rather than the original Seto ware pottery, hongyou became standard. In the Meiji period, setoyaki adapted Western techniques, gaining great popularity. In addition to plain seto, mujiseto the Mino kilns also produced several types of Seto wares from the mid-16th century, including setoguro (black seto), and kiseto (yellow seto). Kiseto, fired at the same kilns as shino and setoguro wares during the Momoyama period, featured "fried bean-curd" glaze, aburagede developed in emulation of Chinese celadons (Celadon is a term for ceramics denoting both a type of transparent crackle glaze, and a ware of a specific color). It utilizes an iron-rich wood-ash glaze and is reduction fired at a high temperature to produce a celadon-like texture and bone color; in an oxygen-rich kiln, the minerals in the clay and glaze create a distinctive opaque yellow glaze. Motifs are etched in the clay, then highlighted in green. Typical shapes, glazes and decoration all reflect functions in the tea ceremony or kaiseki meal. Setoguro wares were made by removing a black-glazed stoneware vessel directly from a hot kiln at the point of glaze maturation, and allowing it to cool in the open air. The sudden temperature change turned the thick glaze a deep glossy black.


Mino-Yaki (Mino ware) :
A general name for ceramic wares made in the town of Tajimi in old Mino province (now the south-eastern part of Gifu prefecture). Sueki ware from the 7c has been discovered in the area, but Mino was mentioned by name in 905 as a place for fine ash-glazed stoneware. During the Kamakura and Muromachi periods the use of the potter's wheel and a greater variety of glazes created more sophisticated pottery in Chinese-derived styles. During the Momoyama period, when the tea ceremony stimulated the production of tea wares, many Seto potters migrated from Owari Province (Aichi prefecture) to Mino to take advantage of its abundant clay and fuel as well as the patronage of Oda Nobunaga (1534-82 ), leading to the development of distinctive stonewares there. Glazed teabowls, based on Chinese prototypes but adopting Japanese aesthetics,were produced in great numbers. In the late Momoyama period, the Mino potter Katou Kagenobu reportedly brought the secrets for producing karatsuyaki to the Mino kilns, and from the 15c Mino kilns produced Karatsu-style wares. The noborigama (climbing kiln) was introduced from Karatsu. At the same time, Mino kilns also made vessels in the style of igayaki. Mino wares include a range of shinoyaki and setoyaki types, oribeyaki, seiji (celadon), and ofuke a ware made from senso-tsuchi (iron-rich clay) and covered with a wood-ash glaze that turns a transparent pale yellow when fired. White-glazed stonewares first satisfied the demand for Chinese underglaze-decorated porcelain. Porcelain was produced in Mino from the end of the 19c. The excavation of Mino ceramics from daimyou residences throughout Japan testfies to their popularity.


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