Japanese Art – Ceramic Arts

The ceramic arts of Japan made noteworthy progress after Toshiro came back from China in the 13th century, having spent 5 years there studying ceramic arts. He opened his kilns at Seto near Nagoya, which later became a famous pottery center in Japan, and which still keeps its fame.

Roughly speaking, there are two distinct features in the ceramic arts of Japan. One represents the taste of the chajin or devotees of the tea-ceremony, and the other the taste of the feudal lords. The expression of the chajin is some-what eccentric in form and subdued in color ; the taste of the feudal lords rich in colors and beautiful in the ordinary sense of form.

The tea-ceremony became highly popular in the Muromachi Period, and it encouraged the potters in various parts of the country to produce the ceramic wares needed for the tea-ceremony, so that in different places new kilns were established. Among them, Shino-yaki and Jo-o-Shigaraki wares were famous. Shino ware was made by the order of a chajin named Shino Soshin, who instructed a Seto potter of Owari to make him tea utensils. The ware itself was of a rough quality, and it was glazed with a very thick white enamel, crackled and usually painted with a rude floral design. However, a special beauty was found in its glaze and design.

The tea-ceremony became still more popular in the Momoyama Period, and a new kind of tea-bowl called ” Rakuyaki ” was invented by Chojiro and highly appreciated by the adepts of tea-cult, because its soft texture was agreeable to the lips and kept the tea warm longer than did the hard stone-bowls.

It was of such excellent quality that Hideyoshi gave him a seal bearing the character Raku to be impressed on his works. Hence the name Raku-yaki.

Another kind of pottery which represents the rich and colorful taste of the feudal lords had been inaugurated by the feudal generals of Kyushü, who participated in the Korean expedition waged by Toyotomi Hideyoshi in the 16th century. Those generals brought home a number of Korean potters, who instructed Japanese potters in their respective clans.

In such circumstances, the Satsuma clan developed a faience with tasteful polychromatic designs, which is known by the name of nishikide or ” Brocade-like.” Kagoshima, the chief city of Kagoshima Prefecture, is still famous for Satsuma ware.

In the province of Hizen, also in Kyushu, there develop ed famous polychrome porcelain wares named Imari, Kaki-emon and Iro-Nabeshima. They are all highly decorative in rich colors. The special features of Kaki-e-mon are a milky white glaze, picturesque design and a large area left white. The Iro-Nabeshima was turned out in limited quantities from the 0-kochi kilns of Hizen. The ground glaze is extremely smooth and glossy, and seems to have a slightly bluish shade. Its design is natural and realistic, and harmoniously adapted to its color scheme .

In the Imari wares the influence of Chinese or Dutch designs will sometimes be found, and generally they are not so artistic as those of Kaki-e-mon and Iro-Nabeshima. In Arita of Hizen these beautiful polychrome wares are still produced, and they are usually called Arita ware.

The porcelain wares developed in Kyüshü were, however, more or less the imitation of Chinese ‘ or Korean styles. But in the 17th century great potter named Ninsei appeared in Kyoto and he elevated the esthetic standard of ceramic art and expressed a highly Japanese taste. (In the Tokyo Imperial Household Museum there is on view a tea jar, one of Ninsei’s masterpieces.) The jar measures 1 ft. and is decorated with a plum-tree in full bloom, over-shadowed with golden clouds. Its graceful shape and the crimson blossoms, the golden clouds, and slightly bluish-white ground are most pleasing combination.. Another excellent example is owned by Mr. Matasaku Shiobara.

Famous old kilns in Kyushü, Kyoto, Nagoya and Kaga all keep their fame still. In Kyushü, as already described, there are the Satsuma and Arita wares ; in Kyoto the Awata and Kiyomizu wares are known ; and in Kaga there is Ku-tali ware. Nagoya, however, is famous for utensils of daily use at most moderate prices.