Ichi-Ido, ni-Raku, san-Karatsu (first Ido, second Raku, third Karatsu) is a popular refrain used to rank tea implements used in tea ceremony. Karatsu ware has long been admired by a great many tea masters as masterpieces from ancient times.
As the saying goes, “Bizen for sake bottles and Karatsu for large sake cups,” Karatsu ware is a popular choice as a drinking vessel, giving you the pleasure of encounter with a timeless piece of Karatsu ware.
Imari Nabeshima Ware
The official kiln for the Saga Domain was located in the valley of Mt. Okawachi in Imari during the Edo period, where highly-refined, special porcelain pieces collectively referred to as “Nabeshima” were created to be dedicated to the Tokugawa shogun family.
Today’s porcelain retains these sophisticated skills and has adopted new techniques, carrying on about 350 years of history and traditions as “Imari Nabeshima ware”.
Since about 1590, Takeo ware (old Takeo), an incredible array of ceramics, including large dishes, bottles, pots, tea bowls and earthenware jars using techniques in iron painting, copper green glaze, iron glaze, brush marks and paddling, have been sent to different areas around Japan and exported to Southeast Asia. Today, there are about 90 potteries in the area that continue to use these traditional techniques to create unique and diverse pieces of art.
Hizen Yoshida Ware and Shida Ware
Hizen Yoshida ware appeared on the scene around 1577, with the pace of manufacturing accelerating rapidly during the Kanei era (1624-1644) around the time that Naozumi Nabeshima, the feudal lord of the Hasuike Domain, invited Korean potters to Mt. Yoshida to produce porcelain. Even today, potters strive to improve techniques without being constrained by style. Shida ware has produced goods for everyday use since the latter half of the 17th century, including many sometsuke-style dishes featured playful caricatures of people and animals.
Early in the 17th century, Korean potter, the first Sanbei Kanagae (also known as Yi Sam-pyeong) and others discovered high-quality porcelain clay, which is used as the raw materials for porcelain, in the Izumiyama region of Arita, thereby ushering in the full-scale production of porcelain. In the 400 years since, an extensive variety of porcelain has continued to be produced from tableware to fine arts and crafts.
Mikawachi was developed as the official kiln for the Hirado Domain about 400 years ago, where handiwork and tea implements that mastered the essence of the techniques were created without becoming entangled in the rough economic waves of Edo period. These expressed delicate grace and were delivered to the shogunate and Imperial Court as gifts. Mikawachi ware has also made waves in Europe, including the Netherlands, because of the porcelain’s pure whiteness and transparent thinness. Works from this period are in collections at the British Museum and other museums around the world.
The Nakano kiln is a domain kiln of the Hirado Domain opened in Nakano in Hirado by the lord of Hirado Domain, Shigenobu Matsura. Nakano ware are pottery pieces produced with a technique passed down from generation to generation using a “sometsuke-style underglaze” on which patterns were painted using gosu (zaffer) to compliment the unique textures on the stoneware with white clay. It has been revealed that porcelain pieces which were strongly influenced by Jingdezhen porcelain, the world’s best ceramics at the time, had also been produced.
Hasami ware has maintained a strong connection to the lives of ordinary people from the early days of the Edo period to today and has also had a significant influence on Japanese food culture. Porcelain that keeps pace with modern life is being produced, even as the traditions and techniques cultivated over the porcelain’s long years of history and tradition are upheld.