Yokkaichi-banko ware Yokkaichi banko yaki
Unique color and depth of flavor produced by red clay
Porcelain inheriting the spirit of being eternally unchanging
Yokkaichi Banko Ware is a form of porcelain produced in Yokkaichi City, Mie Prefecture. For a long time, articles for everyday use such as teacups and plates, as well as ornaments such as vases have been produced here. Today, shidei teapots and earthenware pots are typical products, and it is no exaggeration to say that Banko Ware accounts for 80-90% of all the earthenware pots produced in Japan.
The characteristic of Yokkaichi Banko Ware is its excellent heat resistance, which is produced from the potter’s clay used in its production. The potter’s clay for earthenware pots is mixed with around 40% petalite, which is a lithium mineral that is resistant to heat. This provides reinforcement and produces heat-resistant properties capable of withstanding direct heat and heating of empty vessels. This is a patented technique of Yokkaichi Banko Ware and cannot be seen elsewhere. Also, small teapots are fired using shidei clay, which contains a large amount of iron. The iron contained therein produces a peculiar color through reaction with flames, and also attractive is the way in which its flavorful lustre increases through use.
In the middle of May each year, the Banko Festival is held around the Banko Shrine in Yokkaichi City. Many people visit from around Japan, and as well as being able to frequently encounter potters’ works exhibited from local potteries, these works can often be bought at moderate prices.
The history of Banko Ware stretches back around 300 years. In the Gembun Era (1736-1740) of the Edo Period, Rozan NUNAMI (1718-1777), a trader whose passion was tea, opened a personal kiln in what is now Kuwanacho, Mie Prefecture, and started baking tea utensils. The origin of the name of Banko Ware is said to come from the stamping of NUNAMI’s own works with the symbol of “Banko fueki”, which means, “To have a life that never changes throughout eternity”.
Banko Ware ceased to exist for a while after Rozan’s death, but around 30 years later, at the end of the Edo Period, it was revived by the antique dealer brothers Yusetsu and Senshu MORI. It was at this time that small teapots for use with sencha tea, which became more popular compared to matcha tea, was born. Banko Ware has been named differently as time passed, from “Kobanko” to “Yusetsu Banko” and “Meiji Banko”. Banko Ware, which did not originate in Yokkaichi, came to be called “Yokkaichi Banko Ware” and became established in Yokkaichi after the beginning of the Meiji Period. This area developed as one of Japan’s leading ceramics-producing areas thanks to the presence of a port, the ease of procuring coal fuel, and suitability for distribution in the capacity of a trade port.
General Production Process
- 1. Clay processing
The process produces the clay that provides the unglazed pottery. Each pottery has its own proprietary mixture, but potter’s clay is produced by blending red clay (which contains iron) with yellow clay.
- 2. Casting of unglazed pottery
Several types of soil are blended together equally, and air from inside the soil is removed. This process is known as “chrysanthemum kneading” because the kneaded clay resembles chrysanthemum petals.
The casting process begins after the “natauchi (or tsuchi-goroshi)” process which evens out the hardness of the clay. There are three casting techniques: lathe casting, pressing by means of a wooden mold, and hand twisting. Casting with a wooden mold is a peculiar technique devised by Yusetsu MORI, who was involved with the revival of Banko Ware, and continues to be used even in modern times.
Cloth or Japanese paper is affixed to wooden molds for each part, on top of which thinly spread soil is coated and the wooden model is removed to leave a cast. Small teapots consist of a body, lid, handle, spout and tea strainer, so each of these parts is cast by means of the same method.
- 3. Patterning of unglazed pottery
This process involves decorating the surfaces of small teapots. Typical patterns include watermark crests, biri, stripes, stone grain, mottled, pine tree bark, pasting, finely cut lines, comb marks, printed flowers, engobes, dobetataki, tortoise shell (diamond cut), and rokubee. Various patterns continue to be produced, from the 14 types of pattern under requirements for traditional handicrafts through to more modern designs.
- 4. Finishing/drying
After drying, the body, lid, handle, spout and tea strainer are joined together. Adjustments are made by cutting the bottom (base) or lid knob of the small teapot, and polishing is performed using special polishing planes for each part or the leaves of trees.
- 5. Carving and patterning
This work involves chiseling patterns into items where patterns have not been applied. There are various carving techniques, such as line carving, pulled carving and curved blade carving.
- 6. Bisque
Traditional Banko Ware originally used the techniques of glazing (application of enamel) and bisque firing (in which there is no undercoating), and here bisque firing at around 800°C is performed when glazing or undercoating. For the application of glaze, there are methods such as “dipping”, in which articles are dipped into a container filled with enamel, and “pouring”, in which enamel is poured over the articles using a hand ladle.
- 7. Glost firing
Glost firing is carried out at 1,180°C to 1,200°C for an entire day and night. Yokkaichi Banko Ware’s characteristic adzuki bean color is produced by using a technique known as “reduction firing”. Reduction firing is a method firing by producing incomplete combustion and a steam-baked state through reduction of oxygen inside the kiln. Even the same potter’s clay will change in color when firing, depending on the volume of oxygen and temperature. Clay also becomes tighter through reduction firing, so its size will become smaller than prior to firing.
- 8. Decoration
After baking, decoration is carried out. There are are various decoration techniques, including overcoating, slip trailing, gradation and line drawing with mori-e, aka-e, gold glazing and silver glazing.
Small teapots in Yokkaichi Banko Ware produced by means of such processes are highly praised for the way in which they highlight the sweetness of tea, as the iron contained in the material reacts with the tannin of sencha to soften the astringency of tea.