mashiko ware

Discovering the Timeless Allure of Mashiko Pottery

What is Mashiko Pottery?

Mashiko Pottery is made in Mashiko Town, Tochigi Prefecture, located about two hours by car from Tokyo.Mashiko-yaki production began in the late Edo period when Keizaburo Otsuka built a kiln.

Mashiko town developed as a production center for daily necessities such as pots, water jars, and earthenware bottles, due in part to the town's excellent clay and its proximity to Tokyo.

The clay produced in Mashiko town contains many air bubbles, which makes it unsuitable for fine work and results in thicker pieces. As a result, Mashiko pottery is characterized by its chunky forms and rustic, warm texture.These are the elements that make Mashiko pottery so attractive.

Characteristics of Mashiko Pottery

mashiko yaki

Mashiko Pottery is characterized by its warm, blotchy texture that evokes a rustic flavor.Its form, which has a somewhat rugged impression, gives a sense of profound and powerful beauty.The clay of Mashiko pottery contains many air bubbles and is not suitable for fine workmanship, giving it a more handmade feel and a sense of intimacy.

In addition, since Mashiko pottery tends to be blackish when fired, a nubby white glaze is devised to apply white makeup. In Mashiko Town, Mashiko Pottery is still actively produced in modern times through pottery fairs, and efforts are being made to promote its popularity.

The History of Mashiko Pottery

Mashiko Pottery has repeatedly experienced prosperity and decline.The history of Mashiko Pottery is closely related to the historical background of the time.

Late Edo Period: The Beginning of Mashiko Pottery

Mashiko Pottery began in 1853 when Keizaburo Otsuka, who had trained in Kasama, Ibaraki Prefecture, found good quality potter's clay in Mashiko Village and built a kiln. During the Edo period, Mashiko was ruled by the Kuroba clan, and Mashiko ware was mainly produced as kitchen utensils such as water jars, mortar and pans, and earthenware bottles.

Meiji Period: The Period that Built Mashiko Pottery's Prosperity

During the Meiji period (1868-1912), demand for Mashiko ware increased, and it was shipped to the Kanto region (including Tokyo), a major consumption center. At the time, only Kasama-yaki pottery was distributed in the Kanto region, but as Mashiko ware began to be distributed, demand for Mashiko ware increased rapidly.

However, Mashiko-yaki sold so well that poor quality products also began to appear on the market.Gradually, Mashiko pottery began to lose its credibility.

Taisho Period : A period of upheaval due to decline and earthquake

During the Taisho Era (1912-1926), Mashiko ware, which could not withstand high heat, was replaced by aluminum and metal tableware due to changing lifestyles.Contrary to the prosperity of the Meiji Era, sales dropped so low that production was temporarily halted in 1920.

However, after the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, demand surged as kitchenware broke down, and Mashiko Pottery produced many everyday items. The kilns were so busy that it was difficult to keep up with the demand for Mashiko ware. Mashiko Pottery became more widespread and its presence increased during this period.

The Career of Living National Treasure Shoji Hamada

In 1924, Shoji Hamada moved to Mashiko and began making tableware and vases.Hamada, who advocated the folk art movement with Muneyoshi Yanagi and others, worked to promote the simple beauty of everyday items, which led to the spread of Mashiko pottery among many people.

As a result, Hamada's ideas had a profound influence on local potters, and Mashiko ware gradually changed its treatment from daily-use utensils to a work of art.

Three Representative Kilns of Mashiko Pottery

There are three representative kilns that produce Mashiko pottery.

Tsukamoto kiln

Founded in 1864, Tsukamoto Kiln is known as the largest kiln in Mashiko pottery. When Mashiko pottery was converting to folk art, and at a time when the business was struggling, Tsukamoto Kiln was contracted to produce containers for "Tougeno-Kamameshi," a station lunch box at Yokogawa Station on the Shinetsu Line.

As demand for the product grew, the company ordered from other potteries, thereby contributing to the stability of the Mashiko pottery industry as a whole. Today, Tsukamoto Kiln continues to produce containers for Touge no Kamameshi.

Tsukamoto Kiln focuses on making products that match the times, and products such as the "kamacco" No. 1 earthenware pot for one person symbolize this attitude.

Enokida kiln

Enokida Kiln is a historic Mashiko pottery, founded in the early Meiji period (1868-1912) and boasting 80 years of history. the fifth generation, Wakaba Enokida and her husband Satoshi, are a couple of potters, and Wakaba's modern style and attention to detail in her pottery is popular among women.

The bright and lively patterns on the dishes are a feature of their work, and they add color to everything from colorful salads to simmered dishes. The chubby texture is typical of Mashiko ware and feels comfortable when held in the hand.

The dotted patterns are painted by Wakaba, the fifth generation of the family, using the technique of applying wax and baking glaze, a technique that has been used for generations. While respecting the traditional style of Mashiko pottery, the pieces incorporating a modern, contemporary style are eye-catching.

Hamada kiln

Hamada Kiln was founded by Shoji Hamada, a potter known as a leader of the folk art movement. Today, the third generation of the kiln is succeeded by Mr. Shoji Hamada's grandson, Tomoo, who produces modern and original works. He prefers to use glazes typical of Shoji's Mashiko pottery, and has inherited his grandfather's style of pottery making that evokes his grandfather's techniques.

Hamada Kiln was established in 1931, and since then, Mr. Shoji, his second son, Shinsaku Hamada, and the third generation, Tomoo, have continued to create pottery in Mashiko, passing on their materials and techniques. Using high quality clay, molded with a kick rocro, using natural glazes, and fired in a wood-fired climbing kiln, their pottery is both traditional and modern in its appeal. While preserving the tradition of Mashiko pottery, Hamadagama continues to evolve toward the future with a new sensibility.

Representative Mashiko Pottery Makers

This paragraph introduces two Living National Treasures who contributed to the development of Mashiko pottery and three popular artists who are still active today.

Living National Treasures

The two Living National Treasures of Mashiko ware are Shoji Hamada and Tatsuzo Shimaoka.

Shoji Hamada

Shoji Hamada was born in Kanagawa Prefecture in 1894. After studying the fundamentals of ceramics under potter Itaya Namiyama, he deepened his ideas of the Mingei movement through his experiences in England and his interactions with many people there.

His pottery-making experience in St. Ives and the fusion of creation and daily life in Ditchling taught him the ideal of living with quality objects in daily life. After returning to Japan, he moved his ceramic base to Mashiko, Tochigi Prefecture, where he worked on his own pottery and promoted the Mingei movement.

In recognition of his achievements, he was designated a Living National Treasure in 1955 and awarded the Medal with Purple Ribbon in 1964.

Tatsuzo Shimaoka

Tatsuzo Shimaoka was born in Tokyo in 1919. He aspired to become a potter after being impressed by the ceramic works at the Japan Folk Crafts Museum during his high school years. After being demobilized from the war, he studied under Shoji Hamada in Mashiko, learning traditional folk art pottery making.

He created his own technique, "Jomon Zogan," which became the central technique for Mashiko pottery in the 1960s. Tatsuzo Shimaoka held solo exhibitions in Japan and abroad, taught ceramics, and received international acclaim.

His dedication to the development of folk art ceramics earned him numerous awards, and in 1996, he was recognized as a Living National Treasure, a distinction he has continued to achieve with distinction.

Popular Artists of Mashiko pottery

Mashiko pottery has many popular artists, and we would like to introduce three popular artists.

Masayo Toyoda

Ms. Toyoda, who continues to make pottery in Mashiko, uses a technique called itchin. She puts clay as soft as whipped cream in a tube and draws patterns by squeezing it out.The process requires a lot of patience as he draws the patterns one by one, but it is possible to create delicate patterns and warm designs.

Nana Goto

Goto does not use a spatula or other tools when grinding her pottery, but rather shapes her vessels with her hands only, in order to preserve the "hand marks" that are unique to handmade pottery.All of her works are graceful and simple, yet colorful.The pottery embodies a beauty that is the opposite of glittering decoration, and is recommended for those who want to experience a sense of suppleness.

Toshiyuki Haramura

Mr. Haramura studied porcelain policy in Arita City.He currently works in Saitama Prefecture and mainly produces porcelain tableware such as white, blue-white, and Sometsuke.His tableware is based on white, but colored with blue and yellow, and each piece is simple yet unique.Please try Mr. Haramura's Mashiko ware without excessive decoration.