Age-old pottery ware of renown that transmits the refined art of tea drinking

Yatsushiro Ware: Renowned pottery ware from Kumamoto Prefecture
Produced in Yatsushiro city in the southern part of Kumamoto prefecture, Yatsushiro Ware is a pottery representative of the prefecture with 400 years of history. During the Edo period refined wares with unique inlay patterns became widely known across Japan.
The origin of the name
Yatsushiro Ware is also known as Kōda Ware. Both names comes from the fact that the kilns for firing the ware were located in Kōda, Yatsushiro county. Since Meiji era (1868-1912) pottery works have been marked with the Kōda seal, resulting in the popular use of the name Kōda Ware. Yatsushiro Ware kilns were first established in Naragi of Kōda, moving later to Hirayama in the south, before being relocated to Hinagu after Meiji. 
The long journey of Yatsushiro Ware potters
At the end of the 16th century Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1537-1598) dispatched an army to the Korean Peninsula, as a result of which people from various walks of life traversed the sea from the peninsula to Japan. Among these people were those working with pottery who established kilns in Kyushu (including Karatsu Ware, Arita Ware, Agano Ware, Takatori Ware, Satsuma Ware) and in Yamaguchi (including Hagi Ware).  
The people who became Agano Ware potters first arrived in the Hizen and Karatsu regions (northern part of Saga prefecture), before finally relocating to Buzen and Agano (Tagawagun Fukuchimachi in Fukuoka prefecture) to establish kilns there. They became profoundly involved with the Hosokawa family that ruled Buzen and Kokura, producing ceramic teaware at times. 
Sa’enba kiln site (Kita-Kyushu city, Fukuoka prefecture)
The kiln was built to the west of Kokura Castle. In its heydays raw materials were procured from various places and brought here to be used by Agano Ware potters to create a variety of pottery wares. 
Some Agano Ware potters relocated to Higo (with the Hosokawa family) and settled in Yamaga, Shōdai and Makizaki near Kumamoto Castle) in the north and Yatsushiro in the south to begin a new pottery-making life. Of these, Kizō and his family relocated to Yatsushiro with Hosokawa Sansai, lord of Yatsushiro Castle.  
The kiln was relocated from Naragi to Hirayama in the south in 1658, where Yatsushiro Ware continued to be fired throughout the Edo period. Today, the remains of the eight-chamber climbing kiln can still be seen.
The techniques of Yatsushiro Ware
Yatsushiro is widely known for its inlay technique, but there are also many other techniques used to make various types of wonderful wares that deserve much more attention than has been given. 
Inlay technique
The most prominent technique used to make Yatsushiro Ware is its unique inlay patterns. The inlay is made by first indenting patterns into the clay with tools such as spatulas while the clay is still soft, after which clay of a different colour is used to fill the indented areas. White clay is used for white inlay, while iron-rich clay is used to create black inlay.  The transition of styles over time evident in works also makes Yatsushiro Ware very appealing.  
Incense burner with inlay of kyōgen-bakama design
This incense burner created in the 18th century is characteristically covered with an inlayed pattern. 
Mizusashi water container with inlay of young pine design
This mizusashi (water container for tea ceremony) with inlay of organized lines representing a young pine tree is exemplary of the type of fine inlay applied to Yatsushiro wares during the 19th century. 
Other techniques
Besides inlay, many other techniques are also applied in the making of Yatsushiro Ware. These include brush marking on white clay, underglaze iron decoration, thermal shrinking where the clay is biscuit fired without any glaze, firing of clay covered in generous amounts of iron glaze with rich content of iron, and flowing glaze using two types of glaze.
Porcelain with blue-and-white decoration
Sometsuke (white porcelain with cobalt blue decoration) and white porcelain wares have been produced since the latter half of the Edo period (19th century).
Illustrated guide to designs for official orders
Illustrated guides such as this one were used during the Edo period (1603-1868) to create pottery wares according to official orders from domain lords and other high-ranking customers.

Traditional inlay being applied to the clay. Agano Hiroyuki (12th generation Agano Kiln Kōda Ware potter)

The Yatsushiro Municipal Museum (Mirai-no-mori Museum) houses a permanent collection of Yatsushiro wares.

Kyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory
Credits: Story

Edit, text & images provided by:
Yatsushiro Municipal Museum

English translation:
Eddy Y.L. Chang

This exhibition is created by:
Wake Aimi, Kyoto Women's University

Illustrations edited by:
Aruga Yuu, Kyoto Women's University

Project Directers:
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.