Changes in Tokoname Ceramics
The origins of Japanese pottery go back to Sueki in the 5th century
AD and the influences which have had an impact on Japanese Pottery
have come from Buddhism culture and the Ancient Chinese civilization.
These influences in their turn were instrumental in the development
of green glazed pottery, "sansai" or three colored glaze
and ash glazed pottery.
In the 12th century Japanese society changed from the Ancient
Period and moved into the Middle Ages. It was around that time that
pottery first made its appearance in Tokoname. Ash glazed pottery
was the typical type of pottery produced at the time as a direct
consequence of contact with the Sanage Kiln near Nagoya, a main
center for ash glazed pottery. In the hills of the Chita Peninsula
many kilns began to operate at the same time. These kilns which
were the forerunners of the "anagama" worked from the
12th to the 14th century. The pieces produced at this time have
been denominated "Ko Tokoname" or Old Tokoname ware. These
pieces were free from superfluous decoration and were noted for
their simplicity and robust execution and are today highly prized
for the naturalness of form. The pieces were characterized by a
light brown color and a natural green ash glaze on the shoulder
of the pots which were a breakthrough compared to the production
typical of the time.
In the 15th century the kilns in the Chita peninsula area began
to be concentrated in Tokoname and to be fired near villages. The
size of the kilns began to experience a rapid change in terms of
size. As a consequence large pots began to be produced. These pots
were mainly very large storage jars. In the 16th century the main
thrust of production pottery in such centers as Seto, Mino, Bizen,
Shigaraki and Tamba were wares for the Tea Ceremony but Tokoname
was the exception in that it continued producing the usual pieces
From the 17th to the early 19th century (The Edo era) ceramic production
changed considerably and was essentially concentrated on teawares,
flower vases and pottery related to the production of sake in Tokoname.
During this time the name of the potters first made its appearance
on the pieces. At the end of the Edo era the "Ogama" was
the typical type of kiln in use and in addition to this the "Noborigama"
or climbing kiln began to operate as well. It was also at this time
the production of the "Shudei" teapot went into operation.
This type of pottery is still standard to this day. Before that
the teapot was imported from China because the production technology
was unavailable to the potters of Tokoname.
Towards the end of the 19th century, Japan went through a period
of rapid industrialization and this greatly influenced the production
of pottery in Tokoname. This led to the introduction of mass production
which was used in the manufacture of ceramic pipes, building materials
such as roof and floor tiles and material for cladding buildings,
sanitary ware and vessels for the storage of "shochu"
(Distilled rice wine). The ceramic tradition made a dramatic change
from small scale domestic production to an industrial scale of manufacturing
for a mass market. The traditional pieces being produced at this
time (unglazed teawares and flower vases) also the shudei and sencha
pieces (made exclusively for green tea) went into full scale production.
In Tokoname glazed ware (as opposed to the natural ash glazes before)
began to appear at this time. Carving as a popular decorative technique
began to have a strong influence and had its origins in the popular
traditions of the West at that time. Coal fired kilns began to replace
the traditional wood fired kilns at the beginning of the 20th century.
At the end of the 19th century more and more ceramic production
was directed towards export for the first time. For a while the
large vases made of shudei clay with the dragon motif formed the
bulk of the export wares but this soon went out of fashion. The
next item to be of major importance was biscuit fired pieces with
Japanese lacquer together with ceramic toys and ornaments. These
innovations set the pattern of production which prevailed until
the Second World War.
Further improvements in industrial production soon after the War
meant that gas,electricity and oil became the major source of power
in the production of pottery in Tokoname. In the ceramic field the
potters active at the time were influenced by the traditions of
the Arts and Crafts Movement and European avant-garde and as a result
a new movement surfaced. In the traditional field there was a revival
in traditional techniques which saw the appearance of Old Tokoname
style pottery and the revival of traditional firing techniques.
Towards the end of the 20th century the production of pottery on
Tokoname shows a great diversity due to the great variety of influences
and the 900 year history of ceramics in Tokoname.
Next > Chronological table of Tokoname