“Arita (有田) and Imari (伊万里) are two towns in western Saga Prefecture [located north of Nagasaki, on the island of Kyushu] that are known for pottery. They were the first place in Japan where porcelain was produced about 400 years ago after kaolin – the mineral essential to making porcelain – had been found at a local mountain and craftsmen with the necessary skills had been brought from Korea into the country. The new technology was an extremely valuable resource for the local ruler because porcelain was better and stronger than contemporary pottery and sold very well inside and outside of Japan. The town of Arita and the isolated mountain village of Okawachiyama served as the two main sites of production, while Imari served as the port from where the finished products were shipped out.” – www.japan-guide.com
“The Kyushu Ceramics Museum [opened in 1980] has been accumulating ceramics and porcelain from every corner of Kyushu with a focus on Hizen porcelain. On display in the museum are the period features and the history of Kyushu porcelain. The museum also showcases the art work of modern day artisans. The exhibition rooms are separated into five where visitors can acquire a deeper understanding of the character, art work and history of the ceramics of Kyushu.” – www.welcomekyushu.com
The Museum, which is open to the public free of charge, also spreads ceramic knowledge among the general public as well as conductin research activities and studies of ceramics.
“Nabeshima ware (鍋島焼 Nabeshima-yaki) is a type of Japanes pottery, specifically an unusually high-quality porcelain Arita ware. It was produced in Lord Nabeshima of Saga Domain’s kiln at Okawachi near Arita in the Edo period for the use and profit of the family. The name therefore derives from the family. The Okawachi kiln was already in use, and continued to make other wares at the same time. Production began around 1700, and continued until the late 19th century, with similar wares being produced elsewhere by descendants of the master lineage to the present day. Unlike most Arita ware, the designs drew on Japanese rather than Chinese traditions, especially those of textile design, and are often marked by a free use of empty space.” — Wikipedia
The Shibata Collection, exhibited in a large lower level gallery, contains over 10,000 porcelains that were donated to the Kyushu Ceramics Museum at the end of the 20th century by Mr. and Mrs. Shibata. The exhibition room has a rotating selection of approximately 1,000 porcelains from the collection that is focused on the Edo period (1603 – 1867).
After lunch in the town of Arita, we had the opportunity to visit the studio and gallery of one of Japan’s “Living National Treasures”, appointed by the Japanese government for his contribution to the porcelain art form, Imaizumi Imaemon XIV. His family’s studio has been producing masterpieces of porcelain since 1644 and each piece is regarded as a “National important intangible cultural property.” The web site, http://www.imaemon.co.jp/english/, notes: “Iro-Nabeshima (porcelain with multi-coloured overglazed enamel) by Imaemon is created based on techniques dating back to the Edo period (mid-17th century). These techniques have been preserved for about 370 years. Characterized by a distinctive gracefulness, the Imaemon colored porcelain is greatly appreciated till this day. The superb techniques preserved at Imaemon Kiln have been designated as an Important Intangible Cultural Property of Japan. The mission of Imaemon is to pass the art of the shogun era down to posterity and make people’s daily lives better and more enjoyable with our colored porcelain. These are our fundamental philosophies. Tradition does not just mean maintaining old techniques, tradition also means using old techniques to create new values for modern people. Always maintaining these philosophies, Imaemon Kiln produces two styles of porcelain: works of Imaizumi Imaemon XIV, which pursue the grace of modern Imaemon, the second, works that preserve the traditional Iro-Nabeshima style of the Edo period. Day after day, the creative work at Imaemon is continued in the hope that the art will help preserve genuine Japanese culture, which appreciates the four distinct seasons and people’s links with heartwarming hospitality for each other and with objects.