Izushi Ware

Delicate, pure, white porcelain

By Art Research Center, Ritsumeikan University

By: Art Research Center, Ritsumeikan University in collaboration with Kyoto Women's University

Blue-and-white base with plum tree, Izushi ware (江戸時代後期~明治時代前期) by Ogi Hisayasu KilnOriginal Source: The Museum of Ceramic Art, Hyogo

Porcelain made in Toyooka, Hyogo Prefecture

Izushi porcelain was begun by Izuya Yazaemon in 1784. In the beginning, he produced only stoneware; however, in 1793 after bringing back kiln techniques from Arita in Hizen (present-day Saga prefecture), he shifted his focus to the production of beautiful white, durable porcelain using locally quarried Kakitani pottery stone. Thanks to the industrial promotion policy of the ruling Izushi clan, kilns funded by town merchants flourished during the Tenpō era (1830–1844). Several such kilns continued to survive under various types of management after the Meiji Restoration (1868). Each kiln produced characteristic porcelains that imitated Chinese and Japanese ceramic styles, including sometsuke (underglaze cobalt blue painted on white porcelain), overglaze enameling using colored overglazes such as red or gold, and white porcelain with three-dimensional decorations. In 1876, members of the former Izushi clan rulers stopped receiving income (samurai stipends known as roku) from the central government as a result of the abolition of domains and establishment of prefectures, Instead, they founded an association called Eishinsha to function as a training center to help people in the locality learn a trade and to improve the quality of local products. Eishinsha focused on producing ceramic works for export with delicate decorations made with excellent craftsmanship. They also exhibited their products at world expositions held in the West. Following the implementation of the Meiji government's deflation policy, Eishinsha ceased to operate in 1885 due to slack export and resulting management difficulties. Artisans, however, did not cease producing porcelain, and Izushi Ware production continues even today.

Stoneware bowl with brown glaze, Izushi ware (江戸時代後期) by Irisayama kilnOriginal Source: The Museum of Ceramic Art, Hyogo

A rare example of early Izushi stoneware

The free flowing glazes—brown iron, copper green, and cloudy-white straw ash glaze—make this piece look like a modern abstract painting. This is a rare example of stoneware created in the early days of Izushi ceramic production.

Blue-and-white porcelain bowl with landscape, Izushi ware (江戸時代後期) by Inabaya kilnOriginal Source: The Museum of Ceramic Art, Hyogo

Inspiration from Chinese porcelain

Between the middle and latter half of China's Qing dynasty (between the latter half of the eighteenth century and the first half of the nineteenth century), Chinese dishes made at Dehua kilns in were exported to Japan. This dish, with a Chinese landscape, may have been created in imitation of Dehua porcelain. A signature reading "Taikyokuyama" on the underside tells us that it was made at the Inabaya kiln

Blue-and-white porcelain with three friends of winter, Izushi ware (江戸時代後期) by Daikokuya kilnOriginal Source: The Museum of Ceramic Art, Hyogo

Inspiration from Arita ware

This sometsuke plate is decorated in an underglaze blue pigment consisting mainly of cobalt. In the inner center is a roundel of pine, bamboo and plum surrounded by intricate arabesque design. It could easily mistaken for Arita ware, made in Kyushu, because Arita produced dishes with the exact same design during the same period. The words Nagakiyama sei (made by Nagakiyama) inscribed in the base, however, reveal that this was instead made by the Daikokuya kiln in Izushi.

Blue-and-white porcelain incense box with qilin, Izushi ware (江戸時代後期) by Terayashiki kilnOriginal Source: The Museum of Ceramic Art, Hyogo

This porcelain incense container (kōgō) would have been used for holding small pieces of aromatic wood to be burned during chanoyu tea gatherings. This particular example comes with detailed brushed painting of a kirin (qílín in Chinese), a mythical divine creature said to appear whenever an emperor in China ruled with benevolence. An inscription inside the lid gives reads "Made by Shōryūken, Izushi Castle, Tajima Province," which specialists know to mean that it was made at the Kagoshimaya kiln.

Blue-and-white porcelain pot with Chinese poem on tea (明治2年) by Terayashiki kilnOriginal Source: The Museum of Ceramic Art, Hyogo

Inspiration from Kyoto ware

This large earthenware teapot (dobin) was used for holding bancha (a low grade of tea for daily use) or hōjicha (pan roasted tea). On the upper part of the body is a famous tea poem by the Chinese poet Lu Tong (?–835) of Tang Dynasty who is revered in the world of sencha (steeped green tea) culture. On the lower part are Chinese figures depicted happily drinking sencha. It has been confirmed that the models for earthenware teapots with such designs were the works of Kyoto potter Nin’ami Dōhachi (1783–1855), telling us that Izushi potters were also appropriating the styles of Kyoto Ware.

Blue-and-white porcelain with landscape, Izushi ware (江戸時代後期~明治時代前期) by Ogi Hisayasu kilnOriginal Source: The Museum of Ceramic Art, Hyogo

Inside a blue-painted cartouche surrounded by clouds stand Chinese figures standing on a frozen lake within a snowy landscape depicted in relief. This interesting piece exemplifies the features of ceramics made for export to the West during the Meiji period (1868–1912).

Izushi Ware - Vase with peony (明治時代前期) by Hase kilnOriginal Source: Tanaka Hiroshi Collection, The Museum of Ceramic Art, Hyogo

The large concave cartouche in the body of this vase is adorned with peonies in high relief. The reverse side is similarly decorated with relief lotuses. Around these are painted designs of clouds and a dragon in red and gold, creating giving the vase a sense of lavishness and luxury. The glaze choices are done in the style of Kutani ware ceramics from Ishikawa prefecture, which were popular export products during the same period.

Vase with birds and flowers, Izushi ware (明治時代前期) by Inage kilnOriginal Source: The Museum of Ceramic Art, Hyogo

More than ten different types of birds of various sizes (including ducks, wagtails, and sparrows) frolicking by the waterside are depicted in colorful, vibrant overglazes. Such large, luxurious works were made at kilns around Japan for export to the West.

Basket-shape white porcelain vase with rose, Izushi ware (明治時代前期) by Eishin-shaOriginal Source: The Museum of Ceramic Art, Hyogo

This white porcelain vase made to look like a cane or bamboo plaited basket has roses in high relief with decorative petals less than 1 mm thick. With the vogue for Japonisme sweeping across the West in the latter half of the nineteenth century, ceramics became one of Meiji Japan’s primary export industries. What was considered most desirable in such export ceramics was skillfully crafted ornament and brilliant overglaze decoration.

Blue-and-white water pot with bamboo and pomegranate, Izushi ware (明治時代前期) by Eishin-shaOriginal Source: The Museum of Ceramic Art, Hyogo

Bamboo, which remains green throughout the four seasons, is seen in China as symbolizing a noble monarch who is not easily influenced by people or circumstances. Bamboo is frequently used as a motif in painting and crafts. The design of this pitcher suggests that it was made for use as a fresh-water ewer (suichū) at sencha (steeped green tea) tea gatherings.

Water pot with birds and flowers, Izushi ware (明治時代前期) by Eishin-shaOriginal Source: The Museum of Ceramic Art, Hyogo

The pine and the crane, both symbols of longevity, are colorfully brush painted in detail on the side. This ewer is similar in shape to a blue-and-white sometsuke pitcher; in fact, both types were formed in the same mold. There are many other examples of white porcelains with this shape, which is known to have been a standard shape made by Eishinsha.

Basket-shaped white jar with chrysanthemum and lily, Izushi ware (明治32年頃) by Izushi Porcelain Company and Tomoda Yasukiyo (1862-1918)Original Source: Tanaka Hiroshi Collection, The Museum of Ceramic Art, Hyogo

Despite being made of porcelain, the chrysanthemum and lily reliefs in this work are stunningly realistic. On the underside is written In English that this is by Mr.Yasukiyo Tomoda of Izushi Porcelain Company." Tomoda Yasukiyo (1862–1918) operated a company called the Tomoda-gumi , which produced pigments and glazes for ceramic decoration in the style of wares from Kanazawa, Ishikawa prefecture, where he was born. He moved to Izushi upon receiving an invitation to head the Hyogo Prefecture Izushi County Ceramic Testing Workshop, which opened in 1899. He remained in this post until 1906 after which he returned home in the same year.

Plate with underglaze decoration of white herons (明治時代) by Izushi Porcelain CompanyOriginal Source: The Museum of Ceramic Art, Hyogo


The scene of rocks and a white heron resting in the rain is complemented by a gentle gradation in the background. This kind of gradation was not possible using traditional East Asian techniques; such expression only became possible after until colored underglaze techniques were introduced from the west to Japan in the Meiji period. Izushi kilns began producing wares with colored underglazes after Tomoda Yasukiyo, who had studied the technique, was invited to move to Izuchi in 1899.

A set of white porcelain coffee cups and saucers, Izushi ware (明治35年頃)Original Source: The Museum of Ceramic Art, Hyogo

These coffee cups and saucers are decorated with zigzagging patterns, and the cups have dragon-shaped handles. Their wooden storage box is inscribed with the words “35th year of Meiji” (1902). Following the turn of the century (approx. 1897–1906) the production of Western-style dishes for export to the West took off at kilns around Japan. Meanwhile, Western-style dishes for the domestic market were also produced as the Japanese lifestyle gradually became westernized.

"Sora", Izushi ware (2004) by Nagasawa Eishin IV (1938-)Original Source: The Museum of Ceramic Art, Hyogo

Ceramicist Nagasawa Eishin I worked alongside Tomoda Yasukiyo at the Hyogo Prefecture Izushi County Ceramic Testing Workshop. The current fourth-generation Nagasawa Eishin (born in 1938) took over the hereditary name in 1979. He received the special award (tokusen) at Nitten (Japan Fine Art Exhibition) in 1995 and 2000. This work in white porcelain, based on traditional Izushi ware style, is shaped with utterly simplicity and devoid of decorations. The faint blue glaze thinly veiling the shoulder gives it a sense of freshness.

Credits: Story

Photo provided by The Museum of Ceramic Art, Hyogo

Text written by Hiroshi Kajiyama, The Museum of Ceramic Art, Hyogo

English Translation by Eddy Y. L. Chang
Edited by Melissa M. Rinne, Kyoto National Museum

Exhibition created by Yamazaki Natsuho, Watanabe Aoi & Sakashita Riho, Kyoto Women's University Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Directed by Maezaki Shinya, Kyoto Women's 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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