In Japan, there are many types of pottery including the 47 designated traditional crafts. Among them, this article introduces “Echizen ware,” one of Japan’s Six Ancient Kilns.
What is Echizen ware?
Echizen ware is a type of pottery that is produced in and around Echizen Town located in western Reihoku District, Fukui Prefecture. It is a member of Japan’s Six Ancient Kilns (Japanese heritage), along with Bizen ware, Tokoname ware, Seto ware, Tamba ware, Shigaraki ware. Its history is long. Over 200 pottery sites have been discovered so far.
Features of Echizen ware
Let us see the features of Echizen ware
Simple and touch daily goods
The most notable feature of Echizen ware is its toughness. Since the clay used for Echizen ware contains much iron, which offers high heat resistance, it can be fired at high temperatures so that the clay gets hardened with heat. This makes the vessel strong and watertight to be used as daily utensils such as jars, grinding bowls, pots, and storage bowls.
It makes tasty tea
The clay used for Echizen ware contains much iron, which reacts with bitter ingredients of tea to weaken the bitterness of tea and make a mild flavor. Also, since Echizen ware does not use glazes, it has small holes on its surface. They absorb unnecessary impurities of tea and make pure and tasty tea.
Late blooming masterpieces
Echizen ware is highly evaluated now. However, it was sort of disregarded a short while ago. Around the Edo period, Echizen ware was here and there as daily necessities of common people in their life. No one regarded it as an artistic or craft product. No historical values were found in it. The turning point appeared in 1952. After old kiln sites of Echizen ware were investigated, Echizen ware was designated as Japan’s Six Ancient Kilns. Furthermore, several names that existed for it were unified into “Echizen ware,” which successfully promoted it as a craft product.
History of Echizen ware
Echizen ware took a long time to see the light of day, but its history dates back to 850 years ago in the Heian period. Back then, they mainly produced daily necessities and kitchen utensils such as jars, grinding bowls, and pots. At the end of the Heian period, they started producing the characteristic “Yakishime ceramics,” which are fired and hardened at high temperatures without using glazes.
In the late Heian period, they started shipping by boat to areas that covered from Hokkaido to Tottori, which popularized Echizen ware to make it a part of general life.
However, the situation changed dramatically from the end of Edo period to the Meiji period. Luxurious pottery such as tea utensils became popular and the whole country was modernized incorporating Western culture. The demand for Echizen ware as a simple-looking commodity producer kept decreasing.
There had been long patience since then until the excavation of Echizen ware’s old kiln sites discovered its historical values in 1942. After that, the number of potteries increased and more and more tourists visited Echizen for Echizen ware. It made a great comeback, keeping its position today.