Akazu ware

Akazu ware Akazu Yaki

One of Japan's Six Ancient Kilns
clay cultivated at the foot of Mt. Saruna


What is Akazu ware ?

Akazu ware (called Akazu yaki in Japanese) is a form of pottery produced around Akazucho in the eastern part of the city of Seto, Aichi prefecture. This craft is a type of Seto ware, one of Japan's Six Ancient Kilns. Together with Bizen, Tamba, Echizen, Shigaraki, and Tokoname, Seto ware is considered to be one of the most outstanding Japanese kilns with traditions that remain today.
This craft was the first to use the technique of glaze enamel application, even among Japan’s Six Ancient Kilns. This started from ash glaze in the Heian period (794-1185), after which iron glaze and koseto glaze appeared in the Kamakura period (1185–1333), and by the beginning of the Edo period (1603-1868) there were seven types of established glazing techniques. Also, twelve types of decorating techniques were developed, including flower printing, where patterns are embossed and comb marks, where wavy forms, dotted lines, and swirl patterns are drawn.
In order to keep the tradition of Akazu ware alive, traditional techniques have been inherited and the next generation diligently works to produce new pieces. This craft can be found in a variety of forms, ranging from art pieces and flower vases, to tea utensils and general dining goods.


Akazu ware has been around for a long time, as it developed from the base of Mt. Sanage in the city of Seto during the Kofun period (300-538) and said to be based on Sue ware which existed in the Nara period (710-794). This craft had the appearance of ash glaze (Japan’s oldest form of enamel) from the Heian period (794-1185) onwards and developed diverse techniques like pasting and embossed carving.
Going into the Azuchi-Momoyama period (1568-1600), the appearance of enamels such as kiseto glaze, shino glaze and oribe glaze, together with the growth of tea ceremonies and flower arrangement, led to Akazu ware being treated as a priceless treasure, particularly tea bowls. Elegant pieces with iron decorations that evoke the Azuchi-Momoyama period are still produced today. The Owari domain was established around Nagoya Castle during the beginning of the Edo period (1603-1868). As the official kiln of the Owari domain, Akazu ware came to be produced in large quantities in forms ranging from high-grade tea utensils to tableware for everyday use.
There are now more than sixty traditional kilns in Seto, and the area has grown to become Japan’s largest ceramics center.

General Production Process

  1. 1. Mixing potter's clay The first process is producing the clay with material from Seto, like Honyama-kibushi clay, Honyama-gairome clay, and Akazu mountain clay. The excavated clay and stones are ground, sieved, and then soaked in water. Once the clay gathered at the top has separated, it is placed for a while in a drying cabinet called a muro. The clay is then retrieved and air that has accumulated inside is expelled by pushing with hands or feet. Then, the clay is twisted and kneaded.
  2. 2. Casting The main casting methods can be split into three types: lathe casting, slab casting, and hand forming. For lathe casting, clay is placed on a rotating stand and is shaped into a vessel. There are hand- or foot-driven lathes, as well as electric lathes. For slab casting, models are produced by piling sliced clay on top of slabs. This technique is used when making box-shaped containers and square plates. Finally, the general term for production by hand without using tools is tebineri (hand forming). There are combined techniques such as modeling by hand after producing the base model with a lathe and modeling by turning the clay into a coil shape.
  3. 3. Decoration of unglazed pottery Once the form has been made, the piece is finished by adding the spout of a small teapot or the feet of a teacup, if required. After adding these small parts, the item is decorated. There are twelve decoration techniques used in Akazu ware: spatula marking, paddling, burring, spatula engraving, sharpening, texturing, openwork, Mishima handling, flower printing, comb marks, embossed carving, and pasting. Various tools such as combs and nets are used to draw patterns.
  4. 4. Undercoating Before glazing, an undercoat is applied. Patterns are directly drawn onto unglazed pottery with a brush. Red dye, asbolite and yellow ochre are used as pigments.
  5. 5. Glazing The traditional handicrafts of Akazu ware can be broadly categorized into seven types of enamel: ash, iron, oribe, kiseto, shino, ofuke, and kozeto.
    Ash glaze, which was used for tableware of the nobility during the Heian period, is when ash from the kiln has dissolved on the surface. Iron glaze is fired using different types of clay from the Kamakura period onward, which is also when various decoration techniques were developed, like flower printing and decorating with the same type of clay of the piece. Oribe glaze generally refers to blue oribe glaze specifically while kuro-oribe glaze is classified as an iron glaze, and e-oribe glaze is classified as an ash glaze. Kiseto glaze is a type of yellow colored iron glaze, with an iron content percentage of around ten percent, and is used for tea utensils, plates, and bowls. Shino glaze uses akazu feldspar, which has low iron content and is white colored, hence the general name white shino.
    Ofuke glaze items are decorated with zaffer imported from China, have been fired by reduction, and is a type of ash glaze. Kozeto glaze has mainly been used for tea utensils like tea containers, is a type of iron glaze and has parts where black and dark reddish-brown colors are mixed together.
  6. 6. Firing While initially set to a low temperature, the heat is gradually raised to between 1170-1250℃ (about 2138-2282℉). The piece will be fired for about 24 to 30 hours.
  7. 7. Soaking in horse chestnut tannin If meant to be oribe glaze, the freshly fired piece is soaked in a liquid of horse chestnut tannin for about a day. By having tannin permeate into the cracks of the glaze, surface oxidation is eliminated.

Where to Buy & More Information

Akazuyaki Center

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