5 Recommended Types of Pottery to Buy in Japan

In Japan, there are many styles of pottery made by traditional methods. Here are 5 types of pottery that give you, just by looking at them, the feeling of an authentic Japanese spirit.

1. Hagiyaki (Yamaguchi)

Hagiyaki is earthen that the whole of Hagi in Yamaguchi is involved in making. It was established nearly 400 years ago when Mori Terumoto, a military commander of the Sengoku era, invited the Lee brothers, Korean potters, to Hagi. Hagiyaki has 2 unique characteristics. One is Kan’nyu, a state where small cracks are formed by mixing soil and glaze. The other is Nanabake, where tea is allowed to permeate the earthen and change its color. One of the charms of this pottery is that its visual aspects will continue to change over time. Hagiyaki aims for simplicity, and is colored either light peach or white. This would be perfect for those who appreciate simple designs.

2. Aritayaki, Imariyaki (Saga)

Aritayaki is porcelain mainly created in Arita and is also called Imari or Imariyaki. It was established in 1616 when the Korean potter Sampyeong Yi brought the art of porcelain to Arita. There are three types of Aritayaki: Koimari, Kakiemon, and Nabeshima Hanyo. Koimari has a luxurious appearance infused with red and gold, Kakiemon displays asymmetrical paintings of nature, and Nabeshima Hanyo is a beautiful blue color. Aritayaki is recommended for those who enjoy traditional Japanese patterns. There is still some pottery interspersed through Arita today, and there are festivals for porcelain. Arita would be an interesting location to visit.

3. Bizenyaki (Okayama)

Bizen is stone made in Bizen, Okayama. Bizen is considered one of the six old kilns of Japan, and Bizen pottery is said to be an evolved model of Japan's ancient earthenware. Bizen is heated without painting and without using glaze, so the texture of the soil is readily apparent. The color will differ slightly between items based on adjustments made before heating. Although the design is simple, the charm of Bizen stone is that it is always different. It is also less likely to break, compared to other potteries, as it is heated longer at high temperature. Drinking beer from a Bizen glass tastes better than from a regular glass, as the rough surface of the Bizen creates a nicer foam when the beer is poured.

4. Shigarakiyaki (Shiga)

Shigaraki is stone made in the Shigaraki area in Koka, Shiga. This area is one of the six old kilns of Japan and was established nearly 1300 years ago. Shigaraki has the rough sensation of the soil, a scarlet color, and dark green burn marks. It is known to have a wabi-sabi quality (highest of aesthetic qualities valued in traditional Japanese arts representing impermanence and imperfection) to its appearance, but the variety of designs is increasing with modern manufacturing methods. The soil of Shigaraki is also suited to the creation of large pottery items. Generally, Shigaraki is known for the famous lucky tanuki (mythical creature resembling a raccoon dog) statues but there are many other items available, like table, roof tiles, umbrella stands, flowerpots, and various ornaments. It would make a great souvenir to buy yourself a cute tanuki statue as a memento of your trip.

5. Kutaniyaki (Ishikawa)

Kutani is pottery with overglaze enamels created in Kanazawa, Komatsu, and Kaga in Ishikawa. It was established in 1655 when Saijiro Goto, who studied ceramic art in Arita, opened a pottery store in Kutani. His pottery was exported to foreign countries in the Meiji Era (1868 - 1912), and was well-received at the Vienna Exposition in 1873. Antique items are called Ko-kutani, meaning "old Kutani". In Kutani, there are various styles of painting such as Gosaite, which uses red, yellow, green, purple and navy; Aote, which uses green, yellow, purple and navy; and Akae/Kinrande, which mainly uses red. Bold use of colors and beautiful paintings of mountains, water, and birds are the charms of this pottery. Kutani tableware would make any simple food look delicious.

The types of pottery introduced here are available in various styles in stores in the respective areas of origin. They are also available in department stores and stores specializing in tableware.

*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.

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