Agano ware Photo:Fukuoka City

Agano ware Agano yaki

Rare variety of lightweight ceramics
derived from the tea ceremony culture


What is Agano ware ?

Agano Ware is a form of ceramics and porcelain produced around the town of Fukuchi in Tagawa County,
Fukuoka Prefecture. The characteristics of Agano Ware are its highly dignified texture, lightweight properties and light production, stemming from its development as a tea bowl for use in tea ceremonies.
The foot on the base is tall, producing a bachi-kodai (Shamisen plectrum base) shape with an extended fringe. It can be said that another characteristic of Agano Ware is that many different types of enamel used, such as blue-green enamel, iron enamel, white-brown enamel, and transparent enamel, producing a diversity of vessels with different colors, textures, luster and patterns. The typical enamel used in Agano Ware is green rust enamel using oxidized copper, which has an attractive vivid blue color. Ceramics using iron enamel have a feel like that of yuzu peel, and mottled enamel finishes the unglazed pottery with an individualistic texture that has an evenly lined grain that seems to have been eaten by insects. While there are an infinite variety of vessels, they all boast a shared grace and sublime quality that highlights the wonder of their contents.


Agano Ware is said to have begun in 1602 when Tadaoki HOSOKAWA, the lord of the Kokura Domain famous for being a master of the tea ceremony taught by Sen no Rikyu, invited Sonkai (whose name was later changed to Agano Kizo Takakuni), a potter from Korea’s Joseon Dynasty, who built a climbing kiln in Agano in Buzen Province.
The foundation of Agano Ware was established during the short 30-year rule of the Hosokawa family. In 1632, although Sonkai moved to Higo in Kumamoto due to the provincial transfer of the Hosokawa family, his child, Magozaemon TOTOKI, and others remained in Agano and continued with Agano Ware under Ogasawara, the next lord of the domain. In the middle of the Edo Period, the climbing kiln that Sonkai had built was praised as one of seven kilns in distant provinces by Enshu KOBORI, the tea ceremony instructor of the House of Tokugawa, and became widely known throughout society. Thereafter, too, Sonkai’s climbing kiln continued to be used for the official business of successive generations of lords until the end of the Edo Period when the Ogasawara family ruled. Going into the Meiji Period, the abolition of domains and the establishment of prefectures is thought to have caused a temporary decline in Agano Ware, but in 1902 it was revived by Kuhachiro KUMAGAI and others with support from Tagawa District.

General Production Process

Agano ware - General Production Process Photo:Fukuoka City

  1. 1. Base clay excavation Clay is sought in the mountains of Agano, and good quality clay is collected. The collected clay is subsequently dried.
  2. 2. Grinding (turning the clay into powder) The collected clay is finely ground by machine. Next, the ground clay is sieved and is sorted into good quality clay. Clay with large particles remaining in the sieve is thrown away.
  3. 3. Clay filtering (filtering clay in water) Sieved good-quality clay is placed inside a water tank and mixed with water. Good quality clay is produced by means of a technique known as “elutriation”, wherein this water is filtered and fine-grain clay is sorted. After reducing moisture contained in the clay using a dehydrator, the clay is aired to dry.
  4. 4. Clay kneading (mechanical kneading) Clay that has been hardened into a rectangle is kneaded by machine and molded into a cylindrical form.
  5. 5. Hand kneading (kneading again by hand) Clay that has been kneaded by machine and laid down is now kneaded slowly by hand. At this point, time must be spent kneading in order to ensure that air contained in the clay is extracted.
  6. 6. Casting (producing a form with a lathe) Clay that been sufficiently kneaded is cast using a lathe.
  7. 7. Half-drying, finishing, and drying Cast clay is aligned in a place assembled in a shelf shape, and is then aired until it dries to a half-dried state. Once the articles have been half-dried, the base is planed and handles are attached to finish. The finished articles are then flatly aligned and are further dried for a period of several days under sunlight.
  8. 8.Bisque Completely dried vessels are fired inside the kiln. This bisque firing process makes it easier to apply enamel and to produce color deformation due to firing in the kiln. Vessels are loaded inside the kiln without gaps between them, and are baked for around 5-6 hours at a temperature of about 800 to 850°C. Only the baked items deemed to be acceptable by the artisan proceed to the processes of glazing and glost firing.
  9. 9. Glazing Articles that have successfully passed the bisque firing stage are coated with enamel, or glaze. By glazing and firing, a glassy texture is produced together with beautiful color and luster. The typical enamel is blue-green enamel, which contains copper. This enamel has an appealing vivid blue-green color change that occurs during firing. A wide range of other enamels is also used, including iron enamel, white-brown enamel, ash glaze, tri-colored enamel, transparent glaze and irabo glaze.
  10. 10. Glost firing Wood-fired kilns and gas kilns are used for glost firing. In the case of gas kilns, pots are fired for around 10 hours after loading into the kiln. This process is called “glost firing”.
    The color and texture of baked Agano Ware uses an abundance of enamel, so various hues and textures can be produced. This porcelain is produced with a great diversity of colors and textures, including “yuzu skin”, which has the feel of yuzu peel; “mottled enamel”, which has a beautiful granular skin that reveals the material of the pottery in a mottled form; “wood grain”, which produces a wood grain pattern using clay with two colors; and “tri-colored”, where three kinds of enamel can be enjoyed in a single vessel.

Where to Buy & More Information

Takumi Art & Craft Gallery

Takumi Art & Craft Gallery

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