【Introduction to traditional crafts】 ~Shigaraki ware (Shiga Prefecture)~
2022.12.8 About Japan's Traditional Crafts
【Production area of Shigaraki ware】
Shigaraki Town, Koka City, Shiga Prefecture
【What is Shigaraki ware?】
Ceramics produced around Shigaraki-cho, Koka City, Shiga Prefecture.
The potter’s clay is not limited to one, but clay such as “Gairome”, “Mizuchi” and “Kibushi” are mixed and kneaded.
The potter’s clay made in this way has elasticity, so it is possible to make pottery with plenty of thickness and large size.
Shigaraki ware is also popular as tea pottery, but it is prized by those who love tea because of the tasteful rustiness of the charred parts after firing.
In 1951, when Emperor Showa visited Shigaraki, the existence of Shigaraki ware came to be known throughout Japan when raccoon figurines greeted him by waving the Hinomaru flag.
Emperor Showa himself has been collecting raccoon dog figurines since he was a child, and there is a famous episode where he composed a poem.
In September 1975, it was designated as a traditional craft.
【Features of Shigaraki ware】
The two most important features of Shigaraki ware are that it uses rough soil and is highly fire resistant.
The soil contains a lot of silica and feldspar, so the surface is rough and it is also famous for its high quality.
In addition, the fire color that stands out in the whitish soil of Shigaraki is called kamaaji.
The kiln taste changes depending on the temperature at the time of firing, how it is fired, etc.
Thanks to this kiln taste, the delicate and warm color of Shigaraki ware is obtained.
When the craftsmen fire their work, they put it in the kiln, but the burned out firewood becomes ash.
The hem of pottery that is buried in ash turns blackish brown and is called charred.
By applying charring and glaze, Shigaraki ware creates a soft atmosphere as a whole.
In addition, charring is sometimes called “ash overgrowth”.
【History of Shigaraki ware】
It is said that Shigaraki ware originated in the middle of the Nara period when Emperor Shomu built roof tiles for Shigaraki Palace.
It was nearly 1,300 years ago, so you can see how old Shigaraki ware is.
During the Kamakura period, water jars were mainly made.
However, as tea culture developed in the Azuchi-Momoyama period, the production of tea utensils flourished.
Masterpieces such as tea utensils were also born, and the unique “wabi” and “sabi” of Shigaraki ware that have been felt since those days are still being handed down.
In the Edo period, pottery used in daily life (earthen pots, sake bottles, etc.) began to be produced, and it also developed as a commercial item.
After the Taisho period, many braziers were produced, and by the Meiji period, about 80% of the braziers sold in Japan were made of Shigaraki ware.
Even today, many people continue to love Shigaraki ware for its distinctive earthy flavor and warmth.
It is popular not only for daily necessities such as tea utensils and tableware, but also for flower vases, ornaments, interior items such as tiles used in houses and shops, and garden items such as lanterns.
Shigaraki ware has been selected as one of the six ancient kilns of Japan.
The six ancient kilns of Japan are the representative six production areas of the ceramic kilns that have been continuously produced from the Middle Ages to the present.
Besides Shigaraki, there are Echizen (Fukui Prefecture), Seto (Aichi Prefecture), Tokoname (Aichi Prefecture), Tanba (Hyogo Prefecture), and Bizen (Okayama Prefecture).
【Production process of Shigaraki ware】
Shigaraki ware is made using soil collected from the ancient Lake Biwa layer.
The soil collected from the ancient Biwako layer is clay that has been deposited for 4 million years, and is characterized by a large amount of highly refractory clay minerals.
The warm colors of fire and the natural feel to the touch are the result of the craftsmen’s use of this clay.
Once the soil is dug out, the pottery clay is made.
Several types of soil and raw materials such as “Gairome,” “Mizuchi,” and “Kibushi,” which were introduced earlier, are crushed, water is added, and they are thoroughly kneaded.
After that, depending on the type, a clay kneading machine is used to further knead the clay.
The potter’s clay thus produced is molded into the pottery to be produced.
Even if you say molding work in one bite, it changes depending on the completion condition of the potter’s clay and the temperature and humidity at that time.
It can be said that this is a place where potters can show their skills.
In addition, pottery clay hardens when it is baked, so when molding it, make it larger than the finished size.
A potter’s wheel is mainly used for molding, but a tatara board is sometimes used for shapes that are difficult to mold on a potter’s wheel (such as ovals).
A pattern is added to the molded vessel, and it is processed by shaving.
Typical patterns include the pine bark pattern (a pattern that resembles the bark of a pine tree) and the inka pattern (a pattern made with small flowers).
In the case of a work that requires a picture, the craftsman will use a brush to draw the picture.
Materials that are often used for decoration include ‘Oniita’ and ‘Gosu’.
After painting and unglazing, glaze is applied to the base using a brush or ladle.
The glaze is made by mixing limestone, iron oxide, and feldspar.
By glazing, the surface of the ceramic becomes vitreous.
If craftsman bake it after applying the glaze, the glaze will melt and the color will change to a gorgeous color.
Various colors can be expressed depending on the glaze used, so it is possible to catch a glimpse of the techniques and individuality of the potters and craftsmen.
If the glaze is too thin, the color may not change and the pottery may remain bare.
On the other hand, if it is too dark, it will not melt even when baked, so it may not come out as beautiful as the craftsmen want. It is a work that requires the outstanding skills of craftsmen who require years of experience and intuition.
After arranging the works in the kiln, the temperature is set to 1200°C or higher for final firing.
One traditional method is the climbing kiln.
Since the pottery is fired using firewood, the ash of the firewood reacts with the clay to vitrify, creating a texture unique to Shigaraki ware.
This is a natural glaze formed by melting the attached ash, and is called “vidro glaze”.
Currently, there are potteries that use “gas kilns” and “electric kilns” in addition to climbing kilns.
Although the temperature of the fire is stable, the temperature and humidity of the environment also affect the finished product, so the condition of the work cannot be determined until the kiln is opened.
In this way, firing work is carried out while combining “technology that matches the times” and “tradition from the past.”
After firing for more than 24 hours, the work is removed from the kiln.
Even when the kiln is taken out, the temperature is about 200°C, so it is necessary to be careful not to get burned or otherwise seriously injured.
Once the work is taken out, the mouth and bottom are carefully polished one by one to complete the work.