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BIZEN POTTERY

One of the most traditional kilns in Japan.

We will introduce you to the world of Bizen Yaki which is famous in Okayama prefecture.

 

Discription

Bizen Pottery is a type of pottery produced in and around Bizen City, Okayama Prefecture. Bizen Pottery is considered to be one of the six oldest kilns in Japan, and along with Shigaraki, Tanba, Echizen, Seto, and Tokoname, it is positioned as one of the most traditional kilns in Japan.
Bizen Pottery is characterized by its unique manufacturing method that does not use glaze. Generally, glaze is used to make pottery shiny and water resistant, but Bizen Pottery does not use glaze, which gives it a rustic look. However, Bizen Pottery does not use glaze, which makes it look rustic and lusterless. Glaze is also used to create patterns, but since there is no glazing process, each piece of pottery has a different pattern, and the fact that no two pieces of pottery are the same is another attraction of Bizen Pottery.

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History

Bizen Pottery is the result of a gradual change in the manufacturing method of Sueki ware from the Kofun period. It is said that Bizen Pottery began in the Heian period (794-1185) when bowls, plates, boards, and roof tiles were produced at the foot of Mt.Kuma.

In the Kamakura period (1185-1333), the reddish brown color is considered to be one of the characteristic colors of Bizen ware, and in the Muromachi period (1336-1573), the clay of the Bizen area called hiyose came to be used. It is also said that Bizen Pottery was loved by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who practically ruled the country at that time, and Sen no Rikyu, who mastered the way of the tea ceremony, during the Azuchi-Momoyama period.


Especially in the tea ceremony, the simplicity of Bizen Pottery was deeply loved by many people because it matched well with the spirit of apology and sabi in the tea ceremony. Today, the spirit of Bizen Pottery is still inherited.


In 1956, Kaneshige Soyo was selected as a living national treasure as a Bizen potter, and since then, many other living national treasures have been produced, including Fujiwara Kei and Yamamoto Tohshu.

 

General Production Process

01. Collecting hiyose(clay soil)

The selection of the clay is one of the most important parts of the entire production process, as the process of not using glaze immediately brings out the quality of the material itself. The soil used for Bizen Pottery is mainly high quality hiyose, which is dug up from about 3 to 5 meters underground in the rice fields around Bizen City. The collected soil is sometimes actually fired to determine whether the soil is good or bad. Also, the collected soil needs to be acclimatized by exposing it to the weather for a year or two.
After that, it is sorted by several methods.

02. Kiku-neri(knead)

After the clay is sorted, it is added to water and allowed to sit for a few weeks to a few months until it reaches a suitable hardness, and then it is mixed with black soil by tamping.
Soil is roughly kneaded with bare feet. The soil is then left to rest for another six months to several years. When it is finally time to use the soil, it is milled again. This is called "Kiku momi" and is kneaded by hand to remove air before use.

03. Molding & Using a spatula

Once the clay is ready, the production stage begins. There are many ways to make pottery, including non-machine methods such as string making and board making, and methods using a potter's wheel, but the basic method of forming pottery is the same as for other pottery.

After molding, the vessel is placed on the wheel and the pattern is applied using a spatula.

 

04.Kiln-packing & Fire preparation ceremony

Bizen Pottery is not fired in the kiln immediately after forming the shape. The key is to leave it to nature and let it dry properly. If any cracks appear during the natural drying process, the pottery is returned to the soil again.

Once the pottery is thoroughly dried, it is time to fill the kiln. Since the finished product will differ depending on where it is placed, it is necessary to carefully calculate the amount of time it will take to fill the kiln.

Bizen ware is lit on an auspicious day to ensure that the piece will turn out well.

A prayer is said to the gods and the fire is lit.

05. Firing (pottery)

Firing in a kiln can be divided into several processes.
First of all, the first and second days are spent firing wood using only the two firing ports at the front of the kiln, which is called "Kuyushi". Kuyushi increases the strength of the finished product.From the third day, the temperature of the kiln is gradually raised by 3~5 ℃ per hour during the burning process to make it harder to crack.When the temperature exceeds 400℃, the kiln is fired at a medium temperature of 7~10℃per hour.When the temperature exceeds 800℃, the temperature is raised at a rate of 10 to 15℃ per hour, and finally the kiln firing is continued to keep the temperature around 1150℃ to 1300℃. The kiln firing process takes approximately one to two weeks.

06. Removing pots from Kiln & Finishing touches

After the firing process is completed, the kiln is not opened immediately, but all the firing ports are closed and the kiln is allowed to cool down slowly over time.

Bizen Pottery is then carefully removed from the kiln, polished by the hands of craftsmen, and inspected before being sent out into the world.

 
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Where to Buy?

Okayama Prefecture

 Bizen Pottery Traditional Industry Hall

There are more than 4,000 pieces on display, and the rich individuality of these pieces is appreciated by connoisseurs.

 

To know more details, click below!