Local specialties

Introduction to Tobe-yaki Ware

Introduction to Tobe-yaki Ware

In the Edo period, Tobe-yaki ware was produced in this region using whetstone waste as a material, and fired in an ascending kiln* using pine wood that grows abundantly in the area. Today, nearly 230 years later, history and tradition are still going strong.

Four types of Tobe-yaki ware are officially designated Traditional Crafts of Japan: hakuji (white porcelain), sometsuke (cobalt blue underglaze), seiji (celadon, or jade green, porcelain), and tenmoku (iron-glazed). All these make use of local ceramic stone as a raw material. Since the designs are practical and relatively modern, Tobe-yaki ware is greatly admired throughout Japan.

In recent years, young artists have started to innovate, rather than stay strictly within the boundaries of tradition, in terms of materials and design. As a result, Tobe-yaki ware is attracting great attention for its embodiment of the spirit of skilled handicraft.

*A kiln with several ascending chambers built on a sloped surface, allowing heat to rise through convection.

  • Hakuji (white porcelain)
  • Sometsuke (underglaze cobalt blue)
  • Seiji (celadon porcelain)
  • Tenmoku (iron-glazed)

Types of Tobe-yaki ware

Kotobemono (Antique Tobe-yaki ware)

Tetsue shochikubai tokkuri (long-necked sake bottle, decorated with pine, bamboo and plum tree designs in iron underglaze)

Tetsue shochikubai tokkuri (long-necked sake bottle, decorated with pine, bamboo and plum tree designs in iron underglaze)

Kotobemono is a generic term referring to Tobe-yaki ware from its earliest beginnings, and porcelain manufacturing up to the early Meiji era.

Ceramic objects for daily use, such as tokkuri (sake bottles), oil pots, dishes, bowls, katakuchi(spouted sake serving pots), etc. have good qualities in potters’ wheel throwing techniques and precision when it comes to modeling the base of the object. They have simple but charming iron underglaze decorations, which can depict pine trees, bamboo, plum trees, wisterias, sheaves of rice, sparrows or fish, and can sometimes also feature inscriptions. These designs are still appealing to our modern perception, and suitable for everyday use. From an oversize tokkuri decoratedin iron underglaze, to a small oil pot, the unique features and qualities of traditional Tobe-yaki ware are easily recognizable.

Sometsuke peony tokkuri (long-necked sake bottle, decorated with peony designs in cobalt blue underglaze)

Sometsuke peony tokkuri(long-necked sake bottle, decorated with peony designs in cobalt blue underglaze)

Kotobemono porcelain includes objects from the establishment of Kanbara kiln to cobalt blue decorated ceramic ware from the early Meiji era. The simple designs of the early era became more sophisticated over time. Among various types of objects, such as pots and tea services, tableware such as Kurawanka-te-chawan (rice bowls for daily use) is very common.

Goshosai-mono, produced by the Ito Pottery during the Meiji era, are particularly beautiful in form, decoration and color, representing a high point in the sophisticated design of nishiki-e (brocade picture) porcelain.

Ceramic ware from the Meiji, Taisho and early Showa eras

Nishiki-de gyokai-mon kabin (vase decorated with fish and sea shell designs)

Nishiki-de gyokai-mon kabin (vase decorated with fish and sea shell designs)

Here we refer to ceramic ware from the middle Meiji to the early Showa era, pre-World War I.

From the discovery of high-quality ceramic stone and the development of modern production techniques introduced in the early Meiji era, it was possible to mass produce high-quality porcelain as a result of improvements in kiln design and the firing process.

Larger objects could also be produced, of which there are some of particularly elegant design, in terms of form and color. Features specific to this era can be seen also in sometsuke dai-tokkuri (large sake bottles decorated using gosu (cobalt blue)) and large vases of white porcelain.

Nishiki-e ceramic wares, which are colorfully decorated with traditional glazing, use traditional white porcelains. There are also beautiful ceramics such as somenishiki which are colored over the traditional sometsuke decorations.

Modern Ceramic Ware

Kushime (comb-patterned) vase

Kushime (comb-patterned) vase

Needless to say, modern vases inherited the traditions of white porcelain and sometsuke. Tobe-yaki ware was given the official designation of a Traditional Craft of Japan by the Japanese government in 1976.

As Tobe-yakiware was influenced by abstract art after World War II, its forms and designs have changed significantly. This can be especially seen in regard to vases.

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