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Arita Ware(Sara Prefecture)

'Arita Ware' is the most representative when we talk about the ceramics of Japan. Arita ware is produced in Arita-cho (ありたちょう) at Saga-ken, Kyushu; and it is the earliest place where ceramics are produced. It is appointed as a traditional craft of the country in 1977, and 'Imari Ware' is even more well-known in the world as a brand name.

This History of Arita Ware

Arita ware's history began in the late of 16th century, the Nabeshima lord brought a group of potters from Korea to Japan when he was in the army of Toyotomi Hideyoshi. It initiated the chance for Japan to learn and grasp the skills of ceramics making from another country, and infused its culture to create its own ceramics. One of the potters called Yi Sam-Pyeong discovered high-quality porcelain stone at Izumiyama, which was suitable for ceramic production. As a result, this established the beginning of ceramics development in Japan.

Starting from the late of 17th century, Arita Ware was sold not only domestically but also internationally (mainly in Europe). As Arita-cho was not located near the sea, all the shipments were made from the nearest port in Imari. Therefore, ceramics that produced in Arita may also named as 'Imari Ware', especially for the overseas. Japan started railway service after Meiji restoration, Arita Ware did not need Imari port for shipment to other cities in Japan. Therefore, it became independent brand unit from 'Imari Ware'.

The Characteristics of Arita Ware

The significant characteristics of Arita ware are light and thin, using white porcelain matching with traditional Japanese patterns in blue, similar to blue-white porcelain from China. They are smooth almost like glass yet solid. They are suitable for daily as they are durable, heatproof and uneasy to scratch. Arita ware has developed many different styles over its long history, from the styles including Koimari, Kakiemon, Kinrande, etc. The most special kind that was presented to the rulers of Japan was called Nabeshima style (from Saga prefecture), made in government owned and operated kilns. It is considered to be the most prestigious porcelain among all of Arita ware.

1. Koimari Style

In the 17th century, Chinese porcelain were very popular and in demanded all over the world; thus the beginning of Arita ware imitate the patterns and styles of Chinese porcelain as their blue print and sold their pieces inside Japan. Unfortunately during late Ming and early Qing Dynasty a civil war was happening as a result there was a shortage of supply for Chinese porcelain, thus Japan has taken over the supply chain of porcelain to Europe.

On grounds of the incident in the era, Koimari style specifically means using 2 types of techniques to produce Arita ware during Edo period: 'SOMETSUKE' (そめつけ) and 'KINRANDE' (きんらんで). 'SOMETSUKE' means "blue and white" or "underglazed blue" whereas 'KINRANDE' means adding gold clay or gold glitter on the brightly coloured ceramics for expressing the richness of the piece. Somehow the Koimari style shows the Chinese mood in a great extent.

2. Kakiemon Style

A classic feature of Kakiemon style is the milky-white body named 'NIGOSHIDE' (にごしで) or 'NIGOSHIDEKIJI' (にごしできじ). Asymmetrical design compositions are placed carefully against the milky-white ground.

The earliest design compositions had great impact from China (e.g. flower and bird illustration and Phoenix figure), thereafter transform to Japanese culture which mainly painted on Japan's nature (e.g. plum blossom, bird, deer, red autumn leaves and fall grass). Glazing colours began with red, green, yellow and indigo and added violet and gold. Since the first generation of Sakaida Kakiemon have a preference for using vermillion as the main colour tone, nigoshide craft also named as 'AKAE' (red painting). It is said that he has been through a lot of testing, and create an ideal red colour that matched with the milky-white body. As a result, this 'AKAE' type of red was close to the colour of almost well ripe persimmon ('KAKI' in Japanese), hence 'KAKIEMON' was named.

3. Nabeshima Style

Nabeshima refers to the high-quality porcelain Arita ware produced in Lord Nabeshima of Saga Domain's Kiln at Okawachi in Edo period. This Kiln was owned and operated by the government. Therefore, all the ceramics produced in Nabeshima were made to use them themselves and gave them to other feudal lords as prestige gifts. Since they were prestigious porcelain made as gifts, so the production were very detailed and rigorous. Potters did not have any concerns on profits as all of their productions will be sold to feudal lords, hence they can pursue on the techniques and skills thoroughly. Consequently, the specification and patterns of this type were well developed as a unique Japanese style, which coordinate with the trend of aristocracy in Edo period.

The feature of Nabeshima style is based on sometsuke and overgalze with red, indigo and green. This is acknowledged as the most delicate porcelain in Japan and especially named as 'IRO-NABESHIMA'.


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