There have been a variety of pottery from ancient times in Japan: Do you know Tokoname ware?

You may not have heard of it, but might have already had its products. This is how ubiquitous it is across the country.

In this article, we are going to introduce Tokoname ware as we strongly recommend those tea lovers know it.

What is Tokoname ware?

Tokoname ware is the pottery that has been produced from old times in and around the town of Tokoname facing Ise Bay in the west coast of Chita Peninsula in Aichi. It is one of the Six Ancient Kilns of Japan.

The population of Tokoname during the heyday was about 55,000, 1 in 6 citizens was involved in the pottery industry, and there were more than 400 offices there.

Tokoname ware is famous for its kyusu teapot. The Tokoname teapot is designated as an Intangible Cultural Heritage, which resulted in designating the late 3rd Yamada Jozan, who was a holder of the Tokoname teapot method, as a living national treasure.

Now when you google “Tokoname ware” , the result would come up with Tokoname teapots. Teapot is synonymous with Tokoname ware.

Features of Tokoname ware

The feature of Tokoname ware is its vermilion color. The vermilion color is made with clay called “shudei” that contains rich iron oxide, which brought the time when Tokoname ware was called “akamono (= red products)” and distributed.

Another characteristic is that Tokoname ware is made without glazing called “Yuyaku” on the surface. But lately, some products are purposely glazed to make different colors other than vermilion.

Tokoname kyusu teapot

The Tokoname teapot is quite famous and the top teapot market share of Japan. The reason why the Tokoname teapot is so popular is because “it makes tea taste better”.

“Shudei”, the clay

As mentioned before, the clay called “shudei” to make Tokoname ware contains rich iron oxide. The iron oxide reacts to tannin, the compound of bitterness, and reduces the bitterness, which makes tea taste smooth and less bitter.

No use of glaze

Tokoname ware is porous, which causes tons of small holes on the surface. Those small holes absorb extra impurities of tea, which makes tea taste better and clear.

Serameshu (Ceramic mesh) infuser

Tokoname teapots have a built-in infuser.

Unlike the metal infuser, the built-in infuser is made out of delicate ceramic. The ceramic infuser enables the tea to be poured out till the last drop as it prevents clogging. Also, it doesn’t affect the taste of tea itself because the unpleasant metal taste won’t be mixed in tea.

History of Tokoname ware

Tokoname ware is one of the oldest of the Six Ancient Kilns of Japan, which originated back in the Heian period.

Pottery like teacups began to be made out of good quality clay from the Chita Peninsula by baking them, which resulted in building many kilns in the late Heian period. It is said that there were 300 kilns at the most.

In the Kamakura period, Tokoname ware was shipped out nationwide.

Later, from the late Edo period to the Meiji era, techniques from other countries like Europe and China were actively integrated and that accelerated the volume of production dramatically.

At the same time, red bricks began to be produced as well as tableware like teacups.

Since then, the techniques have continued to improve day by day, the productions have been more varied, and the quality has been improving.

January 08, 2023