Hagi ware

Hagi ware Hagi yaki

Using this elegant porcelain
will build its character for the best


What is Hagi ware ?

Hagi ware is a form of porcelain produced mainly in the area around the town of Hagi in the Yamaguchi prefecture.
Hagi ware is rarely decorated, instead it remains as simple as possible to make the best use of its clay. One of Hagi ware's most important characteristics and what makes it such a unique pottery is the fact that its raw materials as used in the simplest way to make sure that it keeps its original texture. This simplicity and the use of raw materials is the reason why you won't find two similar Hagi ware items. The individuality of this porcelain is produced by using what are called "penetrative cracks" which create an expansion and contraction of the enamel resulting in changes on the surface of the pottery called "the seven disguises" (nanabake). Hagi ware also changes during its firing, bringing it an unpredictable final touch.
Hagi ware is often used for tea utensils, and notches can often be seen on the feet of such utensils. These notched feet were brought to Japan by the Korean Joseon dynasty (1392- 1897) which is the root of Hagi ware. There are various theories about their purpose but in Hagi ware, which has only little decoration, they are an important component that changes the impression and whole look of the pottery. Hagi ware uses a paste made of three different clays (daidou, mishima and mitake) that are all extracted in a different place. The clay obtained by mixing them together has a good, light texture with excellent heat retention, making it a great choice for tea utensils.


The history of Hagi ware goes back to the year 1592, during the Azuchi-Momoyama period (1573-1600) and the Japanese invasions of Korea of Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI (1592–1598). The culture of the tea ceremony was given great importance at that time, and the Korean dynasty of Koryo (918–1392) had produced tea ceremony utensils that were highly prized. Toyotomi instructed the feudal lords to invite Korean potters to teach their knowing in Japan, as a result of which many potters moved from Korea to Japan. In 1604, at the beginning of the Edo period (1603-1868), potters Ri Shyakko and Ri Kei moved to Hagi from the Korean Joseon dynasty, having been invited by Terumoto MORI, who would later go on to found the Hagi domain, and it is said that the roots of Hagi ware lie in the kilns that they built for official business.
At the beginning, the techniques used for the Koryo dynasty teacups were adapted without any changes, but various schools with different techniques and designs were later created. There was also a reappraisal of traditional culture in the latter part of the Meiji period (1868-1912), with a new style that was produced by Kyuusetsu MIWA.
Moving into the Taisho period (1912-1926), Hagi became so popular that it was referred to in the expression "1 Raku, 2 Hagi, 3 Karatsu", referring to the most famous Japanese potteries. Rapid economic growth in the postwar period led to the continued development of Hagi ware, and in 1957 it was nominated for selection as an Intangible Cultural Asset. Also, recognition as Living National Treasures was accorded to Kyuuwa MIWA (a descendant of Kyuusetsu MIWA) in 1970 and to Jusetsu MIWA (the son of Kyuuwa MIWA) in 1983. Finally it was designated as a traditional handicraft in 2002.

General Production Process

Hagi ware - General Production Process Photo:Yamaguchi Prefectural Tourism Federation

  1. 1.The original clay A special paste is created by mixing 3 types of clay (daidou, mishima and mitake) and the paste is different for each piece. The pottery clay is sometimes also blended.
  2. 2.Straining Sand and pebbles are removed by drying and grinding the original clay, and stirring it in a water tank. This is repeated several times, and finally the clay that has settled is removed and dried.
  3. 3.Clay stamping After extracting most of the moisture, the process of "clay stamping" is carried out by stamping clay on a stool, removing bubbles through stamping, and preparing the condition of the clay.
  4. 4.Clay kneading The clay is kneaded by hand and adjusted while checking its condition. This is carried out 70 to 80 times in one direction, and then 70 to 80 times in another direction.
    This process is essential for ensuring that the hardness of the production is uniform.
  5. 5.Casting A form is created with the potter’s clay.
    The casting can be done with a potter’s wheel or by hand with a mold.
  6. 6.Drying in the shade Moisture is removed from the cast items by drying them in the shade for 2 or 3 days.
  7. 7.Cutting A plane is used for cutting and adjusting the form.
    At this time, traditional decoration is also carried out, such as cutting and applying brush marks on the feet utensils, handle of vases, etc.
  8. 8.Decoration While the piece is half-dried, mud produced by mixing white clay with water, is applied.
    The surface’s color is adjusted too.
  9. 9.Unglazed firing The piece is dried and then fired for the first time. This is carried out at a temperature of 700 to 800℃ for 15 to 16 hours.
    Unglazed firing is carried out to improve the strength of the piece, but depending on the purpose of the piece, it is not always necessary.
  10. 10.Glazing Glazes such as ash glaze and straw ash glaze are applied. The firing gives the glaze a glassy quality, producing a surface. Ash glaze gives a transparent finish, and straw ash glaze a milky white finish.
    There are two methods of applying glaze : a "complete dipping" in which the piece is submerged in enamel or a "ladle dipping" in which enamel is poured onto the piece. The appropriate method is selected according to factors such as the shape of the piece.
  11. 11.Loading pots into the kiln Traditional Hagi ware pots are set inside climbing kilns with multiple small chambers, using a method called "balanced loading" in which multiple pieces are piled on top of circular boards. Balanced loading is often used in Hagi ware because it ensures maximum flame entry. However, other techniques may be preferred depending on the situation : "shelf loading" and "saggar loading" where items inside a container are piled up for baking.
    After being loaded into the kiln, all areas apart from the horizontal opening for inserting kindling are blocked with bricks and mud.
  12. 12.Firing After closing all of the baking chambers, the fire starts from the bottom chamber. The temperature is raised to around 1250 to 1300℃ for firing.
    Since the quantity of kindling must be adjusted while observing the temperature based on the color of flames, the kiln requires constant supervision all day long when firing.
    Once the desired temperature is reached, a color sample is retrieved and the glaze condition is checked. When the color sample reaches the intended state, the opening is blocked and the fire is put out.
  13. 13.Removal of pots from the kiln After putting the fire out and leaving the pieces to cool naturally for a few days, the sealed entry is broken in order to remove the pieces.

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