Arita Ceramics: a History of Beauty and Influence


As you know, we are based in Fukuoka in Kyushu. Arita, one of the most famous cities of Japan for its ceramics, is also located in Kyushu, about two hours away by car from Fukuoka. All tea lovers know Arita tea cups for their beautiful and high quality ceramic also called yakimono in Japanese. You will find on a nice selection of Arita handmade ceramics.

The history of Arita Ceramics, where the world-famous "Ko-imari" was first produced (Arita porcelain is also called "Imari" porcelain), begins with the introduction of porcelain production to Japan from Korea. At the end of the 16th century, Hideyoshi Toyotomi, the political ruler of Japan at that lime, invaded Korea. When his armed forces withdrew from Korea, some of the feudal lords who participated in the campaign under Hideyoshi brought a number of Korean potters back to Japan. Among these potters was one named Ri Sampei (Korean Name Lee Charn-Pyung).

This Ri Sampei discovered kaolin in Izumiyama, Arita, and proceeded to make Japan's first fine white porcelain. The potters, who soon settled down in Arita and became naturalized citizens of Japan, started creating fine white porcelains with a unique Japanese beauty, different from the Korean originals. Arita porcelain was subsequently influenced by the Indien and Persian patterns which were likely introduced to Japan by the way of the Silk Road.

From the beginning of the 17th century, Holland continually ordered large amounts of Arita porcelains by way of the trading port on Dejima, the artificial Island located in Nagasaki Harbour that served as the only link between Japan and Europe. For 250 years, the trading ships of the Dutch East India Company carried Arita porcelains to Europe where the porcelain were loved for their delicate beauty representative of the Orient. The course these ships navigated was the "Ceramic Road on the Sea".

Princes and noblemen of Europe at the time were eager to obtain Arita porcelains. For instance, Arita porcelain was valued above gold and silver by members of the Hapsburg family, the Bourbon family, the Hanover family and other famous families. August the First, the King of Saxony in Germany, was a fanatical collector. He built a ceramic museum with a Japanese style exterior and interior. You can see some of his magnificent collection at the Dresden Art Museum which has over a thousand articles of 'Ko-Imari', porcelain and over 200 examples of 'Kakiernon' porcelain.

August the First also built a ceramic factory in Mizzen, the origin of porcelain manufacturing in Europe. As a result, the various patterns of Arita porcelain greatly influenced European arts, from baroque to rococo.

Arita porcelain is divided into four styles. The first, "Gosho-Style" porcelain was specially made for the Japanese Emperor, 'Mikado". "Gosho" means the place where the emperor lived. lb style is unknown to public tilt recently and it's admitted academically few years ago. Then, "Nabeshima-style" porcelain was made in specialized kilns. It was produced only for the feudal domain of Nabeshima, presented as gifts to generals and feudal lords.

A representative of a Nabeshima-style porcelain painter is the lmaemon House