【Introduction to traditional crafts】 ～Kasama ware (Ibaraki Prefecture)～
2022.12.5 About Japan's Traditional Crafts
【Production area of Kasama ware】
Around Kasama City, Ibaraki Prefecture
【What is Kasama ware?】
Ceramics produced in the area around Kasama City, Ibaraki Prefecture.
Since ancient times, it has been popular as a souvenir for those who visit Kasama Inari Shrine (one of the three major Inari shrines in Japan, along with Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto City and Toyokawa Inari Shrine in Toyokawa City, Aichi Prefecture).
Today, Kasama ware is used for a wide range of purposes.
It has come to be used not only for daily necessities such as teacups and teapots, but also for interior goods such as flower vases and objects with innovative designs.
In 1992, it was designated as a traditional craft.
【Features of Kasama ware】
The characteristic of Kasama ware is that it is “durable” and “resistant to stains”.
This is because gairome clay, which is fine-grained yet sticky clay, is used as a raw material.
It is durable and resistant to dirt, so it is widely used in daily life, including kitchen utensils such as water jars, earthenware bottles, tableware, and earthenware pots.
Gairome clay, which is mainly used in Kasama ware, contains a lot of iron, so the base turns brown after firing.
Therefore, rather than gorgeous painting, decoration techniques such as “glaze” “flowing” and “overlaying” are often used.
In Kasama ware production areas, while respecting tradition, a culture of freedom has been fostered in which artists can freely express their individuality.
There is no representative design, and the unique style of each artist, who is not bound by existing molds, is also a major feature.
Kasama ware continues to evolve as various decorative techniques are added to this unique climate.
※Glaze → vitreous powder. It is used to add luster to the surface of unglazed pottery and to prevent liquids from seeping into it.
【History of Kasama ware】
Kasama ware, which is said to be the oldest in the Kanto region, began in the Edo period.
Choemon, a Shigaraki ware potter, began teaching pottery production to Hanemon Kuno, the head of Hakoda Village, Kasama City today.
Kasama ware developed under the influence of the Kasama clan’s strong protection.
At first, the main products of Kasama ware were mortars, bottles, and jars.
However, taking advantage of its strong and unbreakable characteristics, many daily necessities were produced.
As a result, the number of ceramists also increased significantly.
Time advances, postwar.
Ceramic artists from all over Japan who want to create a new trend gather in the Kasama region.
The fact that Ibaraki Prefecture established the Ceramics Guidance Center to train potters must have been a big factor.
The number of Kasama ware potteries continued to increase even in an age when people’s lives were becoming more westernized and plastic products became mainstream.
Today, Kasama ware is produced in a wide range of fields, from cheap and practical daily necessities to artistic objects.
Kasama ware has a long history since the Edo period, but there are almost no old customs.
While firmly preserving the traditions that should be inherited, ceramic artists continue to challenge unprecedented innovations.
New techniques are born through friendly rivalry among artists, and they will continue to open up new worlds of ceramic art.
【Production process of Kasama ware】
First, the soil is dug up.
The main raw materials used are “Gairome Clay” and “Kasama Clay”.
One of the characteristics of the soil that can be obtained in the Kasama area is that it is granitic and contains a large amount of iron.
It is the work of making clay by mixing water with the excavated soil and kneading it.
After the soil is added to the water, it is stirred well to remove impurities such as stones and sand, and only the fine-grained soil is collected using a technique called elutriation.
In addition, there are cases where clay is made using machines.
This is an important work because the quality of the clay making affects the subsequent processes.
“Kikumomi” is the process of removing air from the soil and homogenizing the whole.
It is kneaded like chrysanthemum petals, so it was named “Kiku（＝chrysanthemum）momi”.
There are three main molding methods: “rokuro molding”, “hand twist molding”, and “molding”.
Potters choose the appropriate method depending on what they are creating.
Among them, potter’s wheel molding is said to be a “star process”, but it is a more delicate and difficult work than it looks.
It is even said that it takes 10 years of training to fully master it.
⑤Decoration of base material
It is the work of decorating the base material and designing it.
At this point, the base material is still soft, so the patterns are carved using bamboo.
In addition, there are other methods such as “mudding” and “brushing”.
The main drying methods are “sun drying”, “drying in the shade” and “hot air”.
If there is unevenness in the dryness, it may cause cracks, so it is necessary to be careful.
After it is thoroughly dried, it is placed in a kiln at about 800°C and fired for 10 to 15 hours.
Unglazed pottery cannot be put back into the clay, so it is important to check carefully before putting it into the kiln.
After the unglaze is completed, undercoating is done using “paint”, “iron”, “cobalt”, etc.
The color tone may change depending on the glaze, so adjust the shade of the color while checking the overall balance.
After the underglazing is finished, the glaze is applied from above.
Various types of glazes can be made by changing the raw materials.
For example, there are the following types.
・Milk-white glaze, etc.
Ceramic artists use different glazes depending on what they are making.
There are several methods of applying the glaze, the most common of which are “dipping” and “flowing”.
Either way, it’s basically a manual process.
Before firing, you have to check if there are any scratches.
Items that have no problems are packed in the kiln in order.
It takes about 20 hours at a temperature of 1250-1300°C, and is carefully and thoroughly fired.
⑪Finishing and inspection
Once fired, the kiln-out lacquerware is finished one by one.
Finishing operations include smoothing the bottom.
Finally, inspections such as checking for cracks are completed, and the finished product is ready.
【Relationship between Kasama ware and Mashiko ware】
“Mashiko ware” is famous in Mashiko city, Tochigi prefecture.
And Mashiko ware inherits the manufacturing method of Kasama ware.
From this background, it is said to be a “brother production area”.
The two production areas were hit hard by the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, with workshops and kilns collapsing.
After the disaster, Kasama and Mashiko worked together to start various efforts to help each other recover.
This initiative is called “Kasamashiko”.
By the way, “Kasamashiko” is a word made by combining “Kasama” and “Mashiko”.
In 2020, “Kasashiko” was certified as a Japan Heritage by the Agency for Cultural Affairs.