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Karatsu Ware


The name, Karatsu, is from Karatsu domain once existed in northwestern Kyushu (current Nagasaki and Saga prefectures). The original Karatsu ware production started around Kishitake castle from the end of Muromachi era (1336-1573) to the beginning of Azuchi Momoyama era (1568-1598), however, the production expanded all around in Karatsu domain when the castle load Hata family brought Korean potters in when Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s invasion to the Korean peninsula.

Making use of the techniques such as glazing and baking methods like Noborigama (long, narrow kiln built along a slope) and Keri-rokuro (pottery wheel turned by foot) brought from Korea, Karatsu ware artisans created various styles and produced numerous potteries. Karatsu ware became famous all over Japan, and people lived in western area even started to call potteries as “Karatsu-mono”.

In particular, the plane but naturally glazed or drawn surface and friendly but calm look was loved by tea artists, and always counted in the top three production areas for tea utensil. In Edo era (1603-1967), Karatsu ware was designated as the official pottery of Karatsu domain. After Meiji era (1868-1912) started and Tokugawa Shogunate ended, Karatsu ware once declined, but soon recovered for the Living National Treasure, Nakazato Muan renovated the Old Karatsu style.

The forming is made by pottery’s wheel or by hands and sometimes plane sliced clay and stamping tool is used. In addition, Tataki technique (put a piece of wood inside to expand clay by hitting it) for bigger vessels is employed. To decorate the surface, carving, brush marks, inlaying, scratching are used. When baked, they are put in a kiln at 1300 Celsius degree after glazed.

The planes and naturalness are still loved by lots of people. Karatsu ware was designated as Traditional Craft by METI (Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry) in 1988.

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