Web Japan > NIPPONIA No.32 > Special Feature*
NIPPONIA No.32 March 15, 2005

Special Feature*
Civil war raged nation-wide during the Warring States period (1467-1568), and potters in Seto fled north over the mountains to Mino (today, southern Gifu Prefecture). There they pioneered new styles unique to Japan, best represented by Kiseto, Seto-guro, Shino and Oribe ware.
It was around this time that the tea ceremony began attracting a following. The custom of drinking tea came from China in the late 12th century, and by the 16th century it was fashionable to host functions focused on the ceremonial serving of tea. Tea masters translated artistic sensibilities into customs encompassing many aesthetic disciplines.
The yellows, whites, blacks, greens and other hues of Mino ware show the influence of Chinese and Korean pottery, but the asymmetrical shapes and abstract patterns are truly original. The tea ceremony created a need for tastefully designed tea bowls, plates, dishes, incense boxes, flower vases, candle holders and more, all representing Japanese ceramic aesthetics.
With the Momoyama period (late 1500s) came the end to civil war, the unification of Japan, and the perfection of the tea ceremony. This was a time of transformation for Japanese pottery. Toyotomi Hideyoshi launched a military campaign on the Korean peninsula, and this created opportunities for samurai enthusiasts of the tea ceremony to bring Korean potters to Japan and have them construct kilns. Many new production centers—including Karatsu, Agano, Takatori and Satsuma—were established in different parts of Kyushu, and in Hagi, not far from there. Karatsu ware was by far the most varied, and output was high—tea bowls, flower vases, and many everyday items were shipped all over the country.
Porcelain appeared in Japan only in the early 17th century, when Korean potters began making it. This was an important milestone in the development of Japanese earthenware. Before long, a porcelain clay now called kaolin was discovered at Izumiyama in Arita, Kyushu, and it was found to be ideal for making thin, light, strong porcelain. With its blue-dyed illustrations on white backgrounds and its dramatic style, it quickly became the rage all over Japan. Because it was shipped from the nearby port of Imari, it became known as Imari ware. The influence of Korean porcelain was evident in the early days, but before long vast quantities were being imported from China and studied avidly by artisans in Japan. This greatly boosted the quality of domestic ware. One artisan, Sakaida Kakiemon, invented a way to add soft orange-red tones, and this led to marvelous colored illustrations accented by a milky-white background.
European royalty and nobility, charmed by the beauty of Oriental art, vied with each other for the best Imari ware. Soon, artisans in Meissen (Germany), Delft (the Netherlands) and other centers in Europe were copying Imari ware, including Kakiemon items. This was the golden age of Japanese ceramics.
In 17th century Kyoto, Nonomura Ninsei developed his own style—regal designs one would expect from the imperial city, and a new world of colored fantasy. Ogata Kenzan, Okuda Eisen and Aoki Mokubei expanded this refined world of Kyo ware, setting the stage for the development of today's Kiyomizu ware.
Nabeshima ware iroe oju mon dish. Exquisite, refined example of illustrated porcelain. 18th century. Height: 5.8 cm; rim diameter: 20.3 cm; bottom diameter: 11.0 cm. Property of Tokyo National Museum.
In the 1800s there was a boom in the ceramics industry throughout the country. The gosu-akae red glaze style and the shonzui and other design styles from late-Ming China achieved unwavering popularity and live on in Japanese tableware today.
Made-in-Japan ceramics were exhibited at international expositions in Paris in the late 19th century, giving Imari, Satsuma and Kutani ware another opportunity to influence European artisans. The craze for things Japanese soon influenced the evolution of art nouveau.
This development of Japanese ceramics shows the tremendous influence of the Korean peninsula and China, but it also shows how Japanese sensibilities and lifestyles helped to create a unique art and industry.


   Special Feature*    Bon Appetit!    Japan Travelogue
   Living In Japan    Japanese Animals and Culture
   Sumo(2)    Cover Interview    In Japan Today