Pottery Towns of Southern Japan A vibrant and dynamic center of pottery creativity

"Many Japanese find that simplicity is more appealing than glitter and complexity, because one can only understand the beauty of simplicity through experience and the steady accumulation of knowledge."


Kiln chimney and firing wood in Bizen, Japan

The clay found in Imbe is sticky and fine, with a high iron content and, traditionally, much organic matter that is unreceptive to glazing. Bizen-yaki (Bizen ware) is characterized by significant hardness due to high temperature firing, its earthen-like, reddish-brown color, absence of glaze, although it may contain traces of molten ash resembling glaze, and markings resulting from wood-burning kiln firing.


Kiln in scenic Onta, Japan

The earth for the pottery is found in Onta in the mountains. It normally comes in the form of rocks and needs to be ground to a pulver. This is done by the usage of traditional water scoops or mills called kara-usu, which rely purely on the flow of the river. The wooden mills grind the earth into a powder, which is then washed and filtered multiple times to purify the material. It is then dried, sometimes over a large oven.The village is a tightly-knit community, with families of potters going back generations. The work such as the purification of the earth is done by women, while men are responsible for actually creating the wares. Pieces are never signed by an individual but only with the sign of the Onta village. This is to signify that the production of a single vessel was the combined work of the community, not just one person.


Multi-chambered kiln in Karatsu, Japan

Fired in climbing kilns, Karatsu-yaki (Karatsu ware) is made from a clay high in iron and can be undecorated or decorated with an iron-based underglaze, giving an earthy, simple, and natural feeling to the pieces. It is known for its sturdiness and simple style and is considered a traditional Japanese handicraft. Bowls, plates, and other implements are often used in tea ceremonies.

"In Karatsu-yaki (Karatsu ware) decorations are simple and restricted. Too many detailed paintings on the plate make it 'noisy'. They are distracting when the food is presented. So the plate has just the right amount of the blank space left for us to feel what you would call the "Beauty of the Empty Space". That's what makes Karatsu-yaki so special. The food and the plate complement each other"


Kiln for porcelain in Arita, Japan

Arita-yaki (Arita ware) is a broad term for Japanese porcelain made in the area around the town of Arita. The first porcelain made in Japan followed the discovery of porcelain clay near Arita near the end of the 16th century. It is characterized by translucent white finish and the colorful underglaze. The overglaze enamel is characterized by delicate designs in a wide array of colors, while the white porcelain seeks beauty in form with no decoration at all.



Clay quarry in Arita, Japan

Woman processing clay in Onta, Japan

Hydropower is used in clay processing Onta, Japan

Clay processing in Onta, Japan

Clay quarry in Bizen, Japan

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