6 Notable Styles Of Japanese Ceramics You Need To Know About | CoolJapan

As one of Japan’s most famous and recognisable art forms, the history of Japanese pottery extends far into the past, dating back to as far as the Jōmon period (around 13,000 – 300 BC) when earthenware was first conceived. Almost every prefecture in Japan has their ceramic style, from organic, earthy clay bowls to white porcelain of high decorative quality.

From ancient Japanese pottery kilns to famous ceramic production areas, here are six of Japan’s most notable ceramic styles.

1. Echizen ware

 Echizen ware

Echizen ware. (Photo from: ©Fukui Prefectural Tourism Federation)

As one of the six ancient Japanese pottery kilns in Japan, Echizen ware, or Echizen-yaki (越前焼) comes from Echizen town in Fukui Prefecture, and dates back over 850 years to the Heian period (794-1185). It is unique in that it is fired without using enamel, with resulting pieces taking on simple textures, and its appeal comes in its natural glaze coming from firewood ash covering and dissolving into the pieces while baked at a high temperature, resulting in earthenware that is a mix between porcelain and pottery, known as yakishime.

2. Arita/Imari ware

Arita/Imari ware

Imari ware. (Photo from: ©Kyushu Tourism Organization)

Arita/Imari ware, also known either as Arita-yaki (有田焼) or Imari-yaki (伊万里焼), hails from Arita Town and Imari Town in Saga Prefecture respectively. The ceramics that hail from these two towns are both light and delicate, with outstanding durability and possess a smooth, delicate texture. They consist of a distinctive colour scheme of indigo blue that is brought to life on white porcelain with an asbolite dye, and a vibrant red paint with pigments used as an on-glaze decoration and is a characteristic of Arita/Imari ware. Oftentimes, yellow, green and gold colours are also used as part of the decorations.

Arita/Imari ware can be found at museums and palaces around the world, and there’s even an Arita Ware Market held every spring and autumn which attracts nearly 1.22 million people.

3. Bizen ware

Bizen ware

Bizen ware. (Photo from: ©Okayama Prefectural Tourism Federation)

Another one of Japan’s six ancient kilns, Bizen ware or Bizen-yaki (備前焼), hails from Bizen City in Okayama Prefecture and is considered one of the most outstanding Japanese kilns with traditions lasting to this day. Bizen ware utilises hiyose Bizen clay, a type of clay that only experts can shape into pottery pieces and fire up inside the kiln with skill. Usually unglazed — something only used when applying designs — each piece of Bizen is different and unique, taking on a rustic, organic appearance. There are methods used to create patterns in Bizen ware: one of them is the hidasuki (緋襷) pattern, where pottery pieces are wrapped with rice straw before firing, resulting in a chemical reaction that helps the pieces achieve their contrasting patterns.

4. Kyo/Kiyomizu ware

 Kyo/Kiyomizu ware

Kyo/Kiyomizu ware. (Photo from: Photo AC)

Once upon a time, Kyo-ware or kyo-yaki (京焼) was used to describe all pottery produced in Kyoto, while Kiyomizu-ware or Kiyomizu-yaki (清水焼) referred to pottery produced close to Kiyomizu Temple. Now, nearly all pottery produced in Kyoto is known either as Kyo or Kiyomizu ware. This type of ware was first created during the Nara and Heian periods (710-1185), with production increasing as tea ceremonies grew popular during the Azuchi-Momoyama period (1573-1603). With unique characteristics including intricate hand-painted designs, subtle glazes, and soft pastel colours, Kyo/Kiyomizu ware includes tea bowls, vases, and plates, its exceptional craftsmanship and artistic innovation helping to define it among other pottery styles.

5. Tokoname ware

Tokoname ware

Tokoname ware. (Photo from: Photo AC)

Produced in Aichi Prefecture’s Tokoname region since the 12th century, Tokoname ware or Tokoname-yaki (常滑焼) reflects the traditional aesthetic of Japanese ceramics with its simple, unadorned design and several clay varieties, including a red clay variety which is a signature of Tokoname ware.

Tokoname ware is also known for its practicality, with its pottery often used for tea ceremonies, water jars, and bonsai pots. Its porous clay allows air to pass through, which is beneficial for the growth of bonsai trees.


Dokanzaka. (Photo from: ©Aichi Prefecture)

Today, Tokoname ware continues to be produced by skilled craftsmen and is treasured for its durability, functionality, and rustic beauty. There’s even a famous street in Tokoname called Dokanzaka, a short steep tiled path whose walls are lined with Tokoname-style earthenware pipes and shochu bottles.

6. Hagi ware

Hagi ware

Hagi ware. (Photo from: Adobe Stock)

Originating in Yamaguchi Prefecture’s historic town of Hagi, Hagi ware or Hagi-yaki (萩焼) was first made in the 17th century. It is a type of ceramic that’s rarely decorated, thus maximising most of the features of the clay used to create it. Deep cracks in the clay expanding and contracting the enamel during the firing process result in the surface of the pottery going through form and colour changes known as nanabake or "the seven disguises" bringing unpredictability to its final design. However, one main point about Hagi ware is that the clay is not affected during the firing process and retains heat very well, hence it is used mainly for making tea utensils.