Japanese Ceramics Gallery

The history of Japanese ceramics begins with Jomon earthenware, said to be the earliest earthenware in the world. The earthenware was followed by Yayoi earthenware and then in the Kofun period (fourth-seventh centuries) Hajiki (Haji ware) and haniwa terracotta figures were produced. In the fifth century, importation of new pottery techniques from the Korean Peninsula led to the birth of Sue ware (early stoneware). Natural ash glaze was found around this period. During the Asuka and Nara periods (538-794), green-glazed ware and Nara sancai (three-colored glazed ware) developed under the influence from pottery of China and the Korean Peninsula. As time moves in to the Heian period (794-1185), Sanage kiln in Aichi Prefecture started producing ceramics.

From around the end of the Heian period, mass production of yakishime or unglazed, high-fired ware was practiced in different regions such as Tokoname, Atsumi, Echizen, Shigaraki, Tanba and Bizen.
During the Kamakura and Muromachi periods (1185-1568), people valued Chinese products calling them “karamono” and a large number of imitations of Chinese ceramics were produced especially in the Seto and Mino regions. From the latter-half of the Muromachi period, however, new original values derived from chanoyu or tea ceremony gradually dominated the minds of the people of this time and thus the status of domestic wares improved dramatically. Consequently, in the Momoyama period (1568-1615) tea bowls and tea utensils became the prior items for production in many regions, including the Raku ware produced by Chojiro under the supervision of Sen-no Rikyu (1522-91), Kiseto, Setoguro, Shino and Oribe as well as Bizen, Shigaraki, Iga, Tanba and Karatsu. In Kyoto of the Edo period (1615-1868)the elegant Kyo-yaki, a type of stoneware started by Ninsei and Kenzan (1663-1743) which is decorated in overglaze polychrome enamel, swayed the whole nation.
During the 1610s, porcelain was made in Japan for the first time in the Arita region, utilizing the techniques of the potters from the Korean Peninsula. Arita initially headed for blue-and-white porcelain, but later absorbed the overglaze enameling technique as well. According to the archaeological findings from the 1980s onwards, the opinion that the so-called Ko-kutani or early Kutani, which had been believed that it had been produced in present-day Ishikawa Prefecture, was in fact produced in Arita is now the most convincing view. In addition to this Ko-kutani style, an array of magnificent polychrome wares was produced in the Arita region, including the Kakiemon style, Ko-imari style and Nabeshima style.