The use and beauty of wares that complement people’s daily lives 

Satsuma ware includes white Satsuma porcelain and black Satsuma which is produced using coloured clay and iron glazes that turn black or brown after firing. In contrast to white Satsuma being mainly used as official ware, black Satsuma was used for daily use by people, earning the nickname kuromon (‘black thing’). Various types of black Satsuma vessels and containers vital to daily living have been made and they include pots and jars for storage, cooking utensils like mortars, as well as tableware items like bowls, plates, sake bottles and cups. 
The history of Satsuma ware began in 1598, when some 70 potters from the Korean Peninsula were brought back to Satsuma by the Shimazu troops who had been dispatched to Korea under Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s campaign. These Korean potters settled and established kilns in three areas of Satsuma, namely Tateno in Kagoshima city, Naeshirogawa at Higashi’ichiki-chō in Hioki city, and Tatsumonji at Kajikichō in Arira city. More kilns were also later built at Nishimochida (Aira city), Hirasa (Satsumasendai city) and Tanegashima (Kumage district), with wares characteristic of each area being created. 
For this reason, black Satsuma comes in various types, each created at different kilns in Kagoshima and made using a wide range of colours and glazing techniques. Naeshirogawa and Ryumonji are the two major production areas.
Choka — the most domestically distributed Satsuma ware 
The most representative black Satsuma is the choka, meaning earthen teapot in Kagoshima dialect. The word is usually represented by the Chinese characters 茶家, but sometimes also千代香 or 猪牙. A well-known type today is the black chaka, a stylish shōchū (distilled liquor) warmer, which is mainly designed with a wide body that resembles the beads on an abacus. This shape, however, originated in the Shōwa period, and during the Edo period it was common to make the body round. 
During the Edo period, chaka was a major Satsuma ware distributed domestically. It was an essential daily item, often designed with three legs to be used for heating tea or herbs over fire. Distribution of chaka made at Naeshirogawa flourished during the latter Edo period, expanding to regions outside the Satsuma domain such as Edo (Tokyo) and Osaka and becoming an important source of profit for the domain. 
There is a novel with illustrations that describes the wide distribution of chaka (Satsumateapot) and it is called Chūshin Setomonogura, written in 1802 by Jippensha Ikku who is known for his other work Tōkaidō Chūhiza Kurige. In the book he replaces the main characters of the famous story of the 47 ronin (Kanadehon Chūshingura) with ceramic wares in an interesting and comical way. In his comic version of the 47 ronin, a Satsuma teapot is injured with a sword by a charcoal extinguisher pot for its rough treatment of the pot. As a result of this, the charcoal extinguisher pot is ordered to die by hara-kiri and the Seto wares who served under him band together to avenge its death, successfully killing the Satsuma teapot. The fact that Satsuma teapot was chosen as the enemy in this story shows that it was a type of ware that the common people of the Edo period were very familiar with it as a daily item.
The tataki (hitting or beating) technique of Naeshirogawa 
The Korean potters brought with them the tataki technique for creating large jars and flowerpots 420 years ago. This technique continues to be used today in its original form. The shape, usage and name of the tools used today are nearly the same as those described in Kōrai-den Tōki Kigen Seizō-sho that records the production ceramic wares during the Edo period.   The tataki technique involves placing a clay ball over the potter’s wheel and hitting the clay with a particular rhythm while turning the potter’s wheel little by little to create a circular bottom for the ware to be made. 
The body of the vessel is built up by layering thick ropes of clay to a certain height. A tool for support called toke is then placed against the inside wall and a tool called shure is used to hit the outer surface to stick the ropes of clay together and thin down the clay. Once the basic shape is done, a tool called uchifutte (for the inner side) and another called sotofutte (for the external side) are used to sandwich the clay to even the thickness and surface. Finally, the mouth of the vessel is shaped while turning the potter’s wheel.
In the early Shōwa period (the late 1920s), Yanagi Sōetsu (also known as Muneyoshi: 1889-1961), a Japanese philosopher and founder of the mingei (folk craft) movement in Japan, considered Black Satsuma Ware as one of the pillars of the Mingei Movement.  
Firing of Ryumonji climbing kiln 
At Ryumonji, raw materials produced locally are still being used today as in the past to make a variety of vessels including ones made with black glaze and blue drip, Sancai glaze, as well as the rare samehada (‘shark skin’) glaze and jakatsu (‘serpent and scorpion) glaze. The firing method used is the same as that used during the Edo period, using an ascending kiln and firing continuously for 30 hours at up to 1250˚C. Under this high temperature the vessels inside the kiln shrink nearly 25% smaller. Ascending kiln is vital to bringing out good textures when making vessels with samehada glaze and jakatsu glaze that are representative of the Ryumonji Kiln.
Mugs waiting to be fired. Reddish brown glaze is a mixture of several types of local clay.
The reddish brown glaze prior to firing turns jet black after being fired under high temperatures.
Samehada glaze 
One of the techniques representative of the Ryumonji Kiln is the samehada or ‘shark skin’ glazing. This technique takes advantage of the shrinking of glaze when fired under high temperatures, creating fine crimps all over the vessel without cracking. This texture is considered to be fine quality and it is a difficult texture to achieve, only possible when fired at a certain section of the ascending kiln. 

Ryumonji potteries also attempted to export their wares during the Meiji period, and samehada wares became particularly popular overseas as Same-yaki.

The glazes used to make black Satsuma ware were limited to black, brown and soba-coloured glaze with a tint of green up to the post-war period. In recent years, however, many creative ideas for vessels using vibrant colour glazes have begun appearing.

The Chōtarō Kiln in Ibusuki makes a variety of vessels that have glazing effects that resemble floating ice, waterfalls and other patterns.

The Chōtarō Kiln in Ibusuki makes a variety of vessels that have glazing effects that resemble floating ice, waterfalls and other patterns.

Sprayed glaze raised to represent the Senpiro Waterfall in Yakushima, Black Satsuma Ware

Sprayed glaze raised to represent the Senpiro Waterfall in Yakushima, Black Satsuma Ware

Experiencing Ryumonji Ware
Visitors can see the Ryumonji ware workshop, ascending kiln, as well as the making of the raw clay and glazes using traditional method, while enjoying shopping at the Gallery. 
Kyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory
Credits: Story

Information provided & Supported by:
SATSUMA DENSHOKAN
Kagoshima prefectural historical museum, REIMEIKAN
The International University of Kagoshima Regional Research Institute
Kagoshima-ken Satsuma-yaki kyodo kumiai
Ryumonji-yaki kigyo kumiai
Araki Ceramic Kiln
Ibusuki Tyotaro gama
Hiokinanshu-gama

Text written by:
Fukaminato Kyoko, Kagoshima prefectural historical museum, REIMEIKAN

English Translation by:
Eddy Y.L. Chang

This exhibition is created by:
Toriiminami Saori, Kyoto Women's University
Kasai Takae, Kyoto Women's University

Project Directors:
Dr Maezaki Shinya, Associate Professor, Kyoto Women's University
Dr 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.
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