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Satsuma Ware


When talking about Satsuma domain (current Kagoshima prefecture), we have to remind Shimazu family, the domain leader which is known as brave samurai and savvy politician. Satsuma Ware was developed under the support of this special family.

The beginning was when Shimazu Yoshihiro (the 17th lord) brought some 80 artisans from Korea after Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s invasions of Korea. Yoshihiro allowed the artisans use their original name and gave the status of samurai to encourage them make use of their skills in Satsuma domain. Since then, Satsuma Ware developed its uniqueness and now there are six major traditional lines; Tateno, Ryumonji, Naeshirogawa, Nishimochida, Hirasa, and Tanegashima.

Satsuma Ware is also divided into two categories, Shiro Satsuma (white wares) and Kuro Satsuma (black wares). Shiro Satsuma has been made mainly for domain leaders and has beautiful, elaborate decorations on the surface, such as colorful pictures and gold lines (called “Kinrande). The surface is slightly yellowish white, and has tiny cracks called “Kannyu”. Usually, relaxation goods such as incense burners, incense containers, flower vessels, and teacups for tea ceremony are baked as Shiro Satsuma.

Another type, Kuro Satsuma is rather for ordinary goods such as teacups for daily use and sake wares. Since the soil Kuro Satsuma artisans use contains iron, the surface becomes very dark and slightly reddish. This type of Satsuma Ware is widely loved all around the Satsuma area.

In 1867, at the end of Tokugawa Shogunate, the domain leader sent “Nishikide (decorated Shiro Satsuma ware)” made by Boku Seikan to Expo 1867 in Paris and stunned the world. Another Nishikide ware made by Chin Jukan was sent to Expo 1873 in Vienne and this one surged the popularity, too. Nishikide wares made in this period is called “SATSUMA” and still loved by art lovers.

Satsuma Ware was designated as Traditional Craft by METI (Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry) in 2002.

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