Ceramics incorporating sacred sand from Itsukushima Shrine

What is Miyajima osuna ware?
Miyajima osuna ware are ceramics from Hiroshima prefecture made by mixing sand (suna) from the main shrine at Itsukushima Shrine with clay. It originated in the mid-Edo period (1615–1868) and continues to be produced today in the city of Hatsukaichi in Hiroshima, which looks out over Miyajima.  After it was founded in 593 AD, Itsukushima Shrine was originally dedicated to the deities of navigation and safe travel. In the Edo period, in Aki province (the former name for the Hiroshima region), a custom called Osunagaeshi (returning the sand) developed. When embarking on a journey, travelers would take some of the sand from under the main shrine building for protection and, upon their safe return, they would return the sand to the shrine mixed with sand from their destination locale. The sacred sand from the shrine, known as "osuna," fulfilled the role of protective talisman. One traveler who had safely returned from a journey made a ceramic vessel incorporating the sand that he had brought back and gave it as an offering to the Shrine. This event was the first step toward the ceramic tradition of Miyajima osuna ware.        
The history of Miyajima osuna ware
The manufacture of unglazed pottery containing sand from underneath the main Itsukushima Shrine building began in Miyajma in the Bunka era (1804–18) of the Edo period. These items, which were used in rituals, came to be known as osuna ("honorable sand") ware or shinshayaki ("divine sand ware"), because sacred sand was used. These ritual objects also came to be sold as souvenirs to worshipers. In the Bunsei era (1818–30), with the aim of stimulating industry, the lord of Aki had pots containing Itsukushima Shrine sand made on the mainland near the island of Miyajima to be transported to the island and sold to worshipers as osuna ceramics. Many people from all over Japan came to worship at Miyajima, and so the fame of osuna ware spread far and wide. Although they has had some dips in popularity, osuna ware ceramics survived through the Meiji (1868–1912), Taishō (1912–1926) and Shōwa (1926–1989) periods of the twentieth century and are still preserved by many people today. Today’s Miyajima osuna ceramics are the direct descendants of these original pots. Three producers are currently involved with Miyajima osuna ware, namely Kawahara Gen'eidō, established in the Taishō period, Yamane Taigendō, and Kawahara Keisaigama, which spun off from Kawahara Geneidō in the Shōwa period.
Miyajima osuna ware production process
How are current-day Miyajima osuna ceramics produced? Let us take a look at the production process for Yamane Taigendō’s maple leaf motif series.
Adding sacred Itsukushima Shrine sand
After having received prayers at the shrine, the sacred sand is added bit by bit to the clay during kneading. The size of the grains of sand are varied in accordance with the characteristics of the clay being used. In this series, fine grains are used. The clay used is mainly from Saijo-cho in the city of Higashihiroshima.
When the sand has been added properly, the clay is shaped with a potter’s wheel or a mold. 
A maple leaf is now attached before the clay has dried.
Glazing is carried out with the maple leaf attached, and the maple leaf is peeled off after the glaze has dried.  The maple leaf motif is colored brown, peach, blue, yellow or green.
Bisque firing, glazing, and firing
After firing at a low temperature in the kiln, the pieces are covered with a transparent glaze, and fired again at a high temperature. 
Modern-day Miyajima osuna ware
There is a wide range of Miyajima osuna ceramics, from ritual vessels to tea ceremony utensils, vases and crockery. In addition, much about the current state of Miyajima osuna ware can be learnt from both the ordinary, mainly ash-glazed items and the works of art by artists at each producer. Kawahara Geneidō has a studio and retail outlet opposite Miyajimaguchi Station, and Yamane Taigendō and Kawahara Keisaigama both have galleries (Gallery Yoh and Gallery Keisaigama, respectively). At these venues, the producers display and sell both their standard items and their special pieces. Yamane Kōya , the acclaimed third-generation artist at Yamane Taigendō and a leading figure in modern-day Miyajima osuna production, is boldly beginning to create new ceramics using Hiroshima and Miyajima clay, in addition to the Miyajima ceramics made with sacred sand.
Origami crane-glazed incense burners
“Origami crane-glazed incense burners” are pieces with the ash of origami cranes incorporated into their glaze. In Hiroshima, talk of origami cranes immediately calls to mind the cranes sent to the Peace Park from all over the world. These cranes are ritually burnt in the Miyajima Misen Daiponsan Daishōin temple as a prayer for peace. Yamane Kōya uses the ashes of the burnt cranes in order to incorporate the prayers for peace into the ceramics. Such images of origami cranes and of cranes with outspread wings are often expressed in white porcelain. 
Original  candle holders
Candle holders have also been made using ashes from the eternal fire at the Daishoin.   Thus, for the current generation, prayers for peace originate from Hiroshima, or Miyajima, and items have been produced that attempt to link that idea to local ceramics. As an approach to Miyajima o-suna ware for our age, this will probably be added to a page of history. It will be interesting to see what kind of developments come next.
By: Art Research Center, Ritsumeikan University in collaboration with Kyoto Women's University
Credits: Story

Information provided by Yamane Taigendo

Text written by Shimizu Aiko

Photo by Okamoto Akinori

Exhibition created by Kobayashi Yuka amd Sakashita Riho Kyoto Women's University Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Edited by Melissa M. Rinne, Kyoto National Museum

Directed by Maezaki Shinya, Kyoto Women's University

Credits: All media
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