Discover Wabi-Sabi of Hagi Pottery: The Timeless Allure of Seven Transformations

Discover Wabi-Sabi of Hagi Pottery: The Timeless Allure of Seven Transformations

In the world of the tea ceremony, Hagi ware has been called "Ichi-raku, Ni-hagi, San-karatsu "* and has been loved by tea masters.Hagi ware pottery shows different tints as it is used over and over again.Let's take a look at Hagi-yaki this time.

*A rating system for tea ceremony utensils, with Raku ware ranking first, Hagi ware ranking second, and Karatsu ware ranking third.

What is Hagi ware?

Hagi ware is a traditional craft produced in Hagi City, Yamaguchi Prefecture, in western Japan.It is popular mainly as utensils for the tea ceremony, and a variety of patterns are produced by the blending of clay, the application of glaze, and the action of firing in a climbing kiln.

The colors and decorations are more subdued than flamboyant, and there are no painted patterns.The original texture and beauty of the clay gives it a warmth reminiscent of human skin, and it can be said that this pottery allows you to enjoy the feel of the clay.Hagi ware is also characterized by its soft clay, which absorbs water and allows tea and sake to permeate the clay after years of use.

As a result, the color of the tea bowl changes, and it can be said that the real appeal of Hagi ware is that no two pieces are the same. It is fun to cultivate your own special bowl.In 2002, Hagi ware was certified by the national government as a traditional craft, and today, in addition to tea ceremony utensils, Hagi ware has expanded into everyday items such as tea bowls, plates, tumblers, and vases.

Characteristics of Hagi ware

Hagi ware is characterized by its unique soft texture and a fine crack-like pattern called Kan-nyu (penetration) caused by the clay and glaze used to produce it.In addition to these features, "Nanabake" and "Kodai" are also introduced.

Change in appearance: Nanabake

Nanabake in Hagi ware refers to the change in appearance that occurs when tea or sake gradually permeates the vessel after many years of use. When the glaze on the surface of a vessel becomes finely cracked, it is called "Kan-nyu", and tea and sake permeate the vessel through the crevices of these cracks.

The more the vessel is used, the more the color of the vessel changes, creating a wabi-sabi atmosphere.The pattern is not flashy, but it is perfect for those who are looking for a simple and rustic vessel.

Raw material: clay with high water retention and permeability

The "Nanabake" of Hagi ware is brought about by soil from the Hagi region.The soil from the Hagi region is soft and has rough grains, making it highly water-retentive, permeable, and heat-retentive. "Kan-nyu" occurs due to the difference in shrinkage rates between the soil and the glaze.

Two main types of clay are used for Hagi ware: "Daido-duch(Daido clay)i" and "Mishima-tsuchi(Mishima clay)”.Daido clay is a white that brings out the basic clay flavor and characteristics of Hagi ware. Mishima clay is a reddish-black clay with high iron content and is necessary to produce the texture and color of Hagi ware.

The artist blends this Daido clay and Mishima clay in a unique balance to create the clay that forms the basis of the piece.

Appearance and Decoration: Simple Design

hagi pottery kyusu cups
Hagi Pottery Kyusu and cups

Hagi ware is characterized by a rustic style that takes advantage of its natural texture and is rarely painted or otherwise decorated. The combination of clay, the degree of glaze application, and the accidental influence of the flame during firing add to the unique flavor.

For this reason, limited shades of color, such as the skin tone and loquat color of the Daido clay, and the brown and grayish-blue of the Mishima clay, are the main colors used. Recently, however, advances in glazing and firing techniques and the demand for diverse designs have led to the production of a wide variety of colors and designs for tea utensils, daily tableware, and small articles.

Slit in the bottom of a tea bowl: Kodai

The rings around the body and waist of a tea bowl are called "Kodai," and those from which a portion is removed are called "Kiri-Kodai" or "Wari-Kodai. This Kiri-Kodai is also considered a characteristic of Hagi ware, but in fact this technique exists not only in Hagi ware.

However, Hagi ware as a whole does not have a Wari-Kodai.As Hagi ware developed as a tea ceremony ware, the pursuit of figurative expression in the Kiri-Kodai and its distinct impression came to be known as a characteristic of Hagi ware.

Another theory that has been spreading for some time is that Hagi ware was intentionally incised to make it easier for the common people to use, and this is also recognized as a characteristic unique to Hagi ware.

History of Hagi Ware

The history of Hagi ware dates back to 1592, when Hideyoshi Toyotomi invaded Korea.Hideyoshi ordered the invasion of skilled potters, and the lords who went to war brought many Korean potters back to Japan.The war is also known as the "pottery wars," because the potters invited to Japan at this time founded Arita-yaki porcelain and other ceramics in western Japan.

The history of Hagi ware began when the brothers Ri Fukko and Ri Kei, who came to Japan from Korea at this time, opened a kiln in the Hagi domain. At that time, there was an imperial kiln for making ceramics to be presented to the Hagi domain, and they began to produce mainly Korean-style tea bowls. In the early days, the kiln was producing tea bowls according to the Koryo style, but later various schools of tea bowls were born.

tea ceremony
tea ceremony

Later, the number of kilns decreased with the changing times, but the popularity of the tea ceremony revived in the Meiji period (1868-1912), and the kilns came back to life again. The kilns continued to develop during the postwar period of rapid economic growth, and in 1957 they were designated as a Selected Intangible Cultural Asset.

In 1970 and 1983, respectively, Miwa Kyusetsu X and Miwa Kyusetsu XI were recognized as Living National Treasures, and in 2002, they were designated as Traditional Crafts. It can be said that Hagi-yaki has had a great influence on Japanese ceramic culture, inheriting various schools and techniques throughout its history.

Three Representative Hagi ware Potteries

We introduce three representative kilns that are still making Hagi ware pottery today.

Hatano Shigetsu Kiln

The two generations of this kiln, father and son, made by Mr. Zenzo Hatano and his son Hideo, use their own unique techniques to produce their pottery. They are committed to preserving tradition while taking on the challenge of new approaches. They primarily use climbing kiln firing, pursuing their own unique process of wood splitting, straw firing, and glaze mixing.

Zenzo has garnered particular attention for his work known as the Scarlet Series. He has developed a unique technique of firing some areas without glaze, and then turning those areas a brilliant reddish-orange color. His works have received many awards, including the Minister of Education Award, and in 2002 he was designated an Intangible Cultural Asset by Yamaguchi Prefecture. His son, Hideo, is also a talented potter who studied under his father and has received awards such as a prize at the Nitten (Japan Fine Arts Exhibition) and has held solo exhibitions.

The kiln is located in the Horiuchi and Denken area, where high-ranking warriors once lived, and has an imposing appearance. Its atmosphere allows visitors to feel the history of Hagi just by visiting.

Senryuzan kiln

This pottery is characterized by the deep flavor produced by traditional Hagi ware pottery production that adheres to classical methods.This kiln was founded in Bunsei 9 and has its roots in the Obata ware of the late Edo period.

Since its founding, the kiln has continued to produce pottery using classical methods while cherishing the traditional techniques and spirit, and is committed to handling all processes in-house, including clay preparation and glaze mixing.Traditional Hagi ware pottery making using kick potter's wheel and climbing kilns produces many classic and gentle Hagi ware pieces.

Okada Kiln

Okada Kiln's works exude a refined elegance created by its more than 200 years of history and gentle personality.The climbing kiln has been used since the opening of the kiln up to the present, and its history and thickness can be felt. The works fired in the climbing kiln are especially important, and they range from tea ceramics and works of art to daily-use vessels.

Yutaka Okada has received numerous awards at the Japan Traditional Crafts Exhibition and the Japan Crafts Exhibition, and is recognized as an intangible cultural asset by Yamaguchi Prefecture. His work exudes a gentle elegance with the texture of transparent glazed clay, and his delicate style creates the beauty and depth of kiln-formed tints, and he is constantly expanding his expression of Hagi ware pottery.

His son, Yasushi, produces works with a unique texture, called "light blue glaze," which is characterized by its transparent blue color.