seto yaki

About Seto ware (Seto yaki) you should know as one of Japanese pottery

Seto ware is widely used for everything from everyday use such as tea bowls, plates, and teacups to ornaments such as beckoning cats. Seto ware, which is used by many people even today, has a long history and continues to be produced until the present day. We are proud of its long history and introduce Seto ware, which is still loved by people today.

What is Seto ware?

Seto ware is a general term for pottery produced in Seto City, Aichi Prefecture, located exactly in the middle of Tokyo and Osaka. Due to Seto's historical background, both pottery and porcelain are produced, which is unusual for ceramic. In Japan, Seto ware is so well known as pottery that it is called "Setomono" as a synonym for pottery. We will explain the characteristics and history of Seto ware, which has a long history and is counted as one of the "Six Ancient Kilns of Japan" and one of the "Three Great Ceramic Wares of Japan".

Characteristics of Seto ware

Seto ware is characterized by its beautiful paintings and patterns using colorful glazes. The clay from Seto is characterized by its low iron content, which makes it possible to produce a white finish when baked, and thus Seto Yaki is well suited to a wide variety of glaze colors. Seto Yaki is used for various purposes such as plates, bowls, tea utensils, and sake cups, but it is also used for a wide range of other purposes such as fine ceramics and architectural ceramics. Another attraction of Seto ware is that it is one of the six oldest kilns in Japan and has a long history of more than 1,000 years. Let's check out the history of Seto Yaki, which has been spun without ceasing to burn.

History of Seto Yaki

Seto ware was first produced at the end of the Heian period (794-1192) and has continued to be produced until the present day. The history of Seto Yaki, which has repeatedly developed and declined with the passage of time, further enhances the value of Seto Yaki.

Late Heian Period: The Beginning of Seto Ceramic Ware

Seto Ceramic Ware originated from the production of "Sue ware" introduced from Korea around the 5th century. After developing into one of the leading ceramic regions in Japan, around the 10th century, production of ash-glazed ceramics with glaze began, which is said to be the beginning of Seto ware. At that time, Seto ware was the only pottery that used glaze, which is also the difference between Seto ware and pottery from the other Six Ancient Kilns in Japan.

Kamakura and Muromachi Periods: Import of Ceramics from China and Koseto Production

In the Kamakura period (1185-1333), large quantities of excellent ceramics such as celadon and white porcelain were imported through the Japan-Song trade. The aristocrats and temples of the time valued Chinese porcelain, resulting in a change in demand for Seto ware. The change in demand led to a shift in production to mainly tea bowls, plates, and bowls without glaze.

Meanwhile, in the Muromachi period (1333-1573), wabicha (tea ceremony) became popular with Sen no Rikyu, and tea ceremonies were held frequently. The tea utensils used for tea ceremonies were shifted from Chinese to domestic products, and Seto ware became popular as it satisfied the demand of many tea masters. The pottery produced from the end of the Heian period to the middle of the Muromachi period is called "Koseto" and is considered rare and valuable. Seto ware produced during this period is called "Koseto" and Seto ware produced during these 300 years is said to be of high value.

Edo Period: Decline of Pottery and Beginning of Porcelain Production

In the Edo period after the Azuchi-Momoyama period, porcelain called Imariyaki and Arita-yaki spread rapidly throughout the country, and the sales channel for Seto ceramics gradually narrowed. Seto also began to produce porcelain and planned to somehow secure a sales channel, but unfortunately, it declined for a time because of its inferior quality to Imariyaki and Arita-yaki.

However, a turning point came in the late Edo period when Kato Tamikichi trained in Kyushu to learn the techniques of porcelain manufacturing. By bringing the technology back to Seto, the porcelain production technique was dramatically improved. Seto ware regained its former vigor and the production of porcelain expanded in Seto. These events led to the production of both ceramics and porcelain in Seto. In today's Seto, pottery is called "Hongyoyaki", which means to carry on the traditions of the past, and porcelain is called "Sometsukeyaki", which means "Some-suke ware", because of the development of delicate and beautiful Sometsuke ware.

Meiji Period to the Present Day: Seto, the Pottery Capital of Japan, is Established Over Time

After the Meiji Era, new techniques and products were researched and developed, and new pottery such as tiles, insulators, dolls, and novelties were produced in addition to tableware such as tea bowls and plates. While mechanization and mass production were promoted in the Seto ceramic industry, the artistry of pottery was also established, and the industry grew to the point where it was said that "there is nothing that cannot be made in Seto". After that, while overcoming the rough times of the Great Depression and World War II, Seto established itself as the "Pottery Capital of Japan" through the establishment of pottery schools and pottery testing centers, and the expansion of the transportation system through the construction of new railroad lines.

Representative Kiln: Seto Hongyogama

The representative kiln of Seto ware is Seto Hongyogama, which is based in Seto City. The kiln has been producing Seto ware from the Edo period to the present, and is a well-established kiln with a history of 250 years. Currently, less than 10 people produce 25,000~30,000 pieces of pottery per month entirely by hand, and the company is focused on maximizing production while maintaining the highest quality. The fact that the work is done by hand, rather than by machine, leads to the inheritance of techniques and the production of ceramics with a rich flavor and warmth from the people.