Yachimun:Ceramics created in Okinawa since the Ryūkyū Kingdom period.

Traditional ceramics from Okinawa are divided into two types: non-glazed Arayachi (large vessels such as water jars and sake jars) and glazed Jōyachi (including tableware, tea utensils and flower vases).This bottle is used to keep Awamori (distilled liquor) as a festivity gift and returned to the gift presenter later.
In 1682 the administration of the Ryūkyū Kingdom unified the kilns scattering across the kingdom (including present-day Chibana in Okinawa City, Takarakuchi in Shuri and Wakuta in Naha) at present day Tsuboya district in Naha city. Despite Naha city being reduced to ashes during WWII, Tsuboya was spared from great damage and production resumed soon after the war ended. However, when sovereignty of Okinawa was returned to Japan around 1972, restrictions were imposed on the use of climbing kilns in the Tsuboya district, which was undergoing urbanization, to prevent pollutions such as smoke pollution. Potters in the area searched for new ways of firing pottery, with some switching to using gas while others relocated to the outskirts to build climbing kilns. Later, Kinjō Jirō, who was later designated holder of Important Intangible Cultural Property (Living National Treasure) for Ryūkyū ceramics, also moved to live at Yomitan Village in the middle of Okinawa main island to build a climbing kiln. Plans by Yomitan Village to reuse the formal site of the military base there (the Yachimun –no-Sato project) also led to an increase in the number of kilns at the village. Consequently, Yomitan Village became a representative Okinawan pottery production alongside Tsuboya.
Tsuboy in the bygone era
Tsuboya was a district filled with smokes from the climbing kilns until production ended at Agarinu Kiln in 1974, and scenes of pottery firing in this part of Naha remained much the same as during the Ryūkyū Kingdom era. Moving wares into the kiln at Agarinu Kiln, 1963.
Making the clay
The red earth suited for making ceramic clay is found mainly Yomitan Village, Onna Village and around Nago City in central-north main island. Meanwhile, quality white earth suited for white finish is found around Onna Village. During the Ryūkyū Kindgdom period, the clays were transported to Naha port by boat.
Kikumomi clay kneading
The thorough kneading of the clay before placing it on the potter’s wheel is called kikumomi in Japanese. This is called so for the chrysanthemum-like pattern left on the clay as a result of the kneading. Kikumomi is an important step for removing any air within the clay and ensuring an even consistency.
Working the clay on potter’s wheel
The clay is fashioned on a potter’s wheel spinning anticlockwise. The direction the wheel spins greatly differs from that on mainland Japan, where potter’s wheels are generally turned clockwise.
Prior to glazing, traditional Okinawan ceramics are placed to dry naturally without biscuit firing. The time required for drying depends on variables such as the weather and temperatures. The ceramic wares are moved inside and outside according to the conditions to ensure they do not crack or break while allowed to fully dry.
Next, the ceramic wares are glazed. The usual Yachimun glazes used are transparent glaze, iron glaze, cobalt glaze, ash glaze, among others. In addition, other types of glaze such as Ryūkyū Gusu cobalt glaze made by mixing green glaze and iron glaze and a green glaze called Oogusuya made by mixing the ashes of Ficus retusa  with brass. Underglaze decoration are generally painted before glazing.
Firing – 1
For a climbing kiln, fire is set by first piling wood in the bottom furnace opening. This warms the kiln and removes any humidity inside. After this firewood is inserted and set on fire on both sides of each chamber in ascending order. In the case of the Yomitanzanyaki North Kiln, it takes about 72 hours to completely set fire inside the 13 chambers. Generally, the process would begin in the evening and finish around noon four days later.
Firing – 2
A small pot for testing called iromitsubo is used to confirm the conditions of the glazing during firing. 5-6 iromitsubos are placed inside each chamber and are taken out in order to control the firing. This is a process relying on intuition from experience. Iromitsubos are also used to determine the timing for finishing the firing.
Okinawa no Tōki by Hamada Shōji
Hamada Shōji, who was a potter much involved with the Mingei Movement alongside people like Yanagi Sōetsu, loved Okinawa and would visit Okinawa every year to create works at Tsuboya. Okinawa no Tōki (Ceramics from Okinawa) published in 1972 by the Ryūkyū Telegraph and Telephone Public Corporation contains excellent examples of Okinawan ceramics from the Ryūkyū Kingdom period to the modern day. It is an outstanding publication for anyone who wishes to learn more about ceramics from Okinawa.
Yomitanzanyaki North Kiln
The kiln was opened in 1992 inside the Yachimun-no-Sato at Yomitan Village in the middle of Okinawa main island. It is overseen by four independent masters and its thirteen chambers are lit five times a year. Apprentices from around Japan gather here to make clay, mix glazes and fire ceramic wares, handling every process themselves.
Naha Municipal Tsuboya Pottery Museum
Located at the entrance to Tsuboya Yachimun-dōri (road), the museum showcases a wide scope of Okinawan pottery culture centering around Tsuboya ware.
Kyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory
Credits: Story

Supported by:
Yomitanzanyakikitagama Matuda Yoneshi
Naha Municipal Tsuboya Pottery Museum

Images provided by:
Naha Municipal tsuboyayakimono Museum
Yamada Minoru

Text by:
Shikama Naohito

Photo by:
Murabayasi Chikako, Kawase Mika, Yamada Minoru, Shikama Naohito

English translation by:
Eddy Y.L. Chang

This exhibition is created by:
Ueyama Emiko, Kyoto Women's University

Project Directers:
Dr Maezaki Shinya, Associate Professor, Kyoto Women's University
Yamamoto Masako, Ritsumeikan University

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.