Iwami ware Photo:Shimane Perfecture

Iwami ware Iwami yaki

Widely used throughout Japan as bottles for storage
Excellent cold and breakage resistance, low water absorbency


What is Iwami ware ?

Iwami Ware is a form of pottery produced around Gotsu City in Shimane Prefecture.
The characteristics of Iwami Ware are its strength and low water absorbency, with a surface that is resistant to salt, acid and alkali. Large water jugs known as handou are famous, in addition to many small articles produced for daily use, such as tea utensils and tableware, and their resistance to acid and salt also makes them suitable for the storage of dried plums and pickled leeks.
Iwami Ware uses locally collected, good quality clay that is close to porcelain. In addition to products coated with deep dark reddish-brown kimachi enamel, which contains iron, transparent enamel products using yunotsu stone, which contains alkali components are also popular. Ocher products are made by coating articles with transparent enamel and baking by means of oxidized firing where the flame is completely combusted, while blue products are made when baked through reduction firing with a flame of incomplete combustion.


Iwami Ware is said to have begun when warriors dispatched to the Japanese Invasions of Korea in 1592-1610 returned to Japan, bringing back Riroushi, a Korean potter, who produced pottery in what is today known as Hamada City in Shimane Prefecture and Kakinoki Village in Kanoashi District.
In the place now known as Gotsu City in Shimane Prefecture, authentic porcelain manufacturing was taught in 1765, and the production technology for small ceramics such as katakuchi bowls and tokuri sake bottles was inherited by Rokuro IRI-E, a potter invited from the Iwakuni Domain in Suo Province. The production method of large ceramics such as water jugs is said to have been initiated when potters from Bizen Province visited Gotsu City in Shimane Prefecture in the 1780s (during the Tenmei years).
At the end of the Edo Period, the chief retainer of the Hamada Domain promoted production increase for the ceramics industry, which led to the whole region of Gotsu City in Shimane Prefecture growing into a major base of pottery production centered on water jugs.

General Production Process

  1. 1. Mixing After excavating original clay, which is the raw material for production of ceramics, lumps of 30 to 40cm are left to dry for six months or longer in a place with a roof so that the clay becomes easier to disperse in water in later processes. Drying makes toxic substances contained in the original clay easier to dissolve in water and easier to remove.
  2. 2. Elutriation and drying After producing muddy water by dispersing original clay in water, grit, sand and pebbles are removed from the muddy water. Thereafter, muddy water is first dehydrated using an oro, and is then moved to a bowl, where dehydration is continued by means of natural drying until moisture content reaches about 25%.
  3. 3. Chrysanthemum kneading Using both hands, clay is kneaded outwards, air bubbles inside the clay are removed, and moisture is homogenized. Chrysanthemum kneading derives its name from the fact that the form becomes like that of chrysanthemum petals when kneading. Once kneading has been completed thoroughly, the clay is divided according to the size of the lathe being used, and air bubbles are completely removed by further thorough kneading of the clay.
  4. 4. Lathe casting Clay for which chrysanthemum kneading has been completed is placed on top of the lathe, and a form is prepared using a bamboo ladle and the palm of the hand.
    Forms are produced using techniques such as lathe casting, slab building and forming by hand to suit the type of pottery being produced, and the pieces are dried after being finished and planed.
    With Iwami Ware, when producing large jugs that can hold up to 72 liters, a technique is used whereby an artisan pulled a rope wrapped once around the feet of a lathe in time with the rhythm of another artisan carrying out the casting work. A feature is the method of establishing stakes in order to prevent slippage when pulling.
  5. 5. Drying Vessels that have been cast are aligned in an orderly way and dried.
  6. 6. Bisque The unglazed pottery of the vessels is strengthened, and they are baked at around 800°C to make it easier to apply enamel.
  7. 7. Glazing Enamel suited to the articles is selected, such as enamel with the main raw material of kimachisabi stone from the Izumo region, and is applied from above.
  8. 8. Dipping (for small articles) For small ceramic articles, the feet of the articles are held and the articles are dipped into buckets containing enamel.
  9. 9. Loading pots into the kiln The glazed vessels are lined up inside the kiln in an orderly manner.
  10. 10. Firing The inside of the kiln is set to a high temperature of around 1,250 to 1,280°C and full-blown baking is performed. Articles baked at high temperature have low water absorbency and excellent strength. After firing, the articles are naturally cooled and then carefully removed from the kiln before performing a final inspection.

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