Banko ware is perhaps not familiar to most of you. However, it is one of the ceramics that tea drinkers should definitely know.

What is Banko ware?

Banko ware is a type of pottery produced mainly in Yokkaichi City and Komono Town, Mie Prefecture. It is designated as one of the nation’s traditional crafts. The number of potteries exceeds 100. It is a representative local industry of Yokkaichi City. The name of Banko ware was derived from a stamp that says “Banko-fueki (constant eternity).” It was engraved by an Edo period wealthy merchant, whose hobby was ceramics. He stamped the message in the hope that his ceramic works would be passed down forever.

Features of Banko ware

Donabe (earthenware pot) and Kyusu (Japanese teapot) are synonymous with Banko ware.

Banko-ware Donabe

Surprisingly, the Donabe of Banko ware accounts for 80–90% of the domestic Donabe production. You can consider most of the domestic Donabe are Banko ware. Your Donabe at home is most likely Banko ware as well. Banko ware is highly resistant to heat. It can be used with open fire, gas stove, and charcoal fire, etc.

Pot earth, a raw material of Banko ware, contains 40–50% of lithium ores with high heat resistance, which strengthens a Donabe to be grilled or even burned without water. These days, high-tech new products such as induction cooking Donabe or tagines (earthenware pots to cook Moroccan cuisine) are actively being developed.

Kyusu as synonym for Banko ware

A Banko-ware Kyusu is as famous as its Donabe. While an iconic product of Banko ware is Kyusu of Shidei (a non-glazed type of ceramics), new types of Kyusu such as character ones and easy ones to throw used tea leaves are becoming popular among a wide range of generations.

A Banko-ware Kyusu is made of red clay rich in iron, which reacts with tannin, a bitter ingredient of tea. It makes tea of a milder flavor with moderate bitterness. Also, it does not use glaze, leaving small holes on its surface. Thanks to these holes that absorb unnecessary impurities of tea, it brews a pure, tasty tea. Besides flavor, it has been receiving tremendous support because of its gradually changing texture and color tone and growing profoundness with use.

History of Banko ware

This section introduces the history of Banko ware.

Edo period: Banko-ware Kyusu was created

Banko ware originated from the engraved wish “Banko-fueki” that was stamped on leisure ceramic works of Rozan Nunami, a wealthy merchant and knowledgeable tea ceremony master in Kuwana. Rozan was good at incorporating exotic novel patterns and shapes. Under the national seclusion of that time, his works gained great popularity among the high society including Japanese intellectual people and the shogunate family.

After the death of Rozan, Japanese tea culture shifted from Matcha to Sencha (steeped green tea). A successor of Rozan was quick to study and invent a Kyusu necessary to make Sencha. The successor’s Banko-ware Kyusu was highly evaluated both in Japan and foreign countries.

Meiji period: Banko-ware grew rapidly through semi-porcelain development

In the Meiji period, Banko-ware fortified its position by receiving many prizes at various domestic and international exhibitions. Around that time, their manufacturing development of semi-porcelain, a type of pottery that is made of porcelain and ceramic mixed together, became successful. This promoted a rapid growth of the Bank-ware utensil production.

Showa Period to present: Donabe became number one in Japan

In the late Showa period, the production of Donabe became number one in Japan with a new technique that improved its heat resistance. Since then, its output has been increasing rapidly. Today most of the domestic Donabe are Banko ware. Kyusu also became so popular that some say “Banko-ware Kyusu is a synonym for Banko ware.” Both Donabe and Kyusu keep gaining new fans.

January 08, 2023