What comes up on your mind when you hear “pottery”?
There are so many types of pottery such as ; artistic ones with exquisite painting decorations like an art work, gorgeous ones with red and gold painting, and ones with a glossy surface. Do you know there is a type of pottery that is simply made without any painting decorations to utilize the texture of clay?
What is Bizen ware?
Bizen ware is the pottery produced in Bizen, Okayama.
It is one of the Six Ancient Kilns of Japan and originated more than 1000 years ago.
Now, we are introduce one of the oldest existing pottery brands in Japan
Features of Bizen ware
Bizen ware has features coming from its process of producing.
Bizen ware is a simple type of pottery to enjoy the material itself as it is baked with no painting decorations or glazing.
Although it has no colorful or gorgeous decorations, each one of the products would become “one-and-only” because the hue turns out differently according to the conditions of clay, temperature and humidity, charcoal and ash to use.
Although Bizen ware does not look vibrant at all, its hue that’s naturally made looks more tasteful the more you look, and you would never get tired of it.
High Strength and Solidity
Bizen ware is strong as it is fired at 1200 - 1300 ℃ for about 2 weeks. It is even said that Bizen ware never breaks even when thrown down on the ground.
So, many Bizen ware products such as pots that need to be solid, vases and huge water jars are produced.
Making tea taste good
Bizen ware has many small holes because it is not glazed. That is why Bizen ware makes tea taste good: Tea would taste nice and clear as the small holes absorb extra impurities in the tea.
Also, it is said that Bizen ware even makes water taste better: The iron-rich clay to make Bizen ware is baked at a high temperature, which leads to effects of high far-infrared rays that make water taste better.
Making cut flowers last long
Bizen ware is often used to arrange cut flowers: The small holes let air through, which makes the flowers last long.
History of Bizen ware
Bizen ware has a history of over 1000 years from back in the Heian period.
The Heian period when Bizen ware originated
Bizen ware is originally a result that Sue pottery, that had been imported from Korea in the Kofun period, changed over the time.
Sue pottery was popular among the people for daily use in the late Heian period as it would hardly break with its high strength.
Later, Sue pottery developed in many places nationwide, and one of them is Bizen ware. Then it would gradually get close to the current appearance in the Kamakura period.
Flourished with Wabi-cha in the Muromachi period.
While Wabi-cha (current Japanese style tea ceremony) developed during this period, Bizen ware, whose simple design would match with the concept of Wabi-cha, became popular.
Later, to the middle of the Aduchi-Momoyama period, Bizen ware would have a heyday as the tea ceremony developed.
Crises from the Edo period to the Meiji era.
The popularity of Bizen ware drastically faded while the trend of tea ceremony had shifted and gorgeous pottery had got to come out.
It continued to go into a decline in the Meiji era.
Comeback in the Showa era and present
Although Bizen ware had gone into an unstoppable decline for periods, it made a comeback when the potter Kaneshige Toyo had been designated as a living national treasure, and Bizen ware had been designated as a traditional craft.
Since then, Bizen ware with authentic Japanese simple design has been highly valued and continues to attract people in and out of Japan.