【Introduction to traditional crafts】 ~Echizen ware (Fukui Prefecture)~
2022.12.21 About Japan's Traditional Crafts
【Production area of Echizen ware】
Echizen Town, Nyu District, Fukui Prefecture
【What is Echizen ware?】
This pottery is produced in Echizen-cho, Nyu-gun, Fukui Prefecture, and is one of the six ancient kilns of Japan.
The six ancient kilns of Japan refer to the six representative kilns that have continued production while traditional Japanese techniques have been handed down from the Middle Ages (Heian to Sengoku period) to the present day.
Outside of Echizen, the following are certified.
・Bizen ware (Bizen City, Okayama Prefecture)
・Tamba ware (Sasayama City, Hyogo Prefecture)
・Shigaraki ware (Koka City, Shiga Prefecture)
・Seto ware (Seto City, Aichi Prefecture)
・Tokoname ware (Tokoname City, Aichi Prefecture)
In March 1986, it was designated as a traditional craft.
【Features of Echizen ware】
The main characteristics of Echizen ware are the following three.
・Fired without glaze
・I often don’t paint
・It is a pottery that has intermediate properties between pottery and porcelain (stoneware)
No glaze is used, but the ash from the firewood that is used during firing falls on the vessel and melts, naturally forming a glaze.
This is called “natural glaze”, but the charm of Bizen ware is that it is not designed on purpose and has a texture.
As mentioned earlier, Bizen ware is stoneware, but it is also called “half porcelain” or “yakijime”.
There is no painting, but the simple brown color does not get tired.
In addition, Bizen ware is strong and impervious to water.
Over the years, it has been widely used as daily necessities such as jars for storing water, pots, sake cups such as “Ochoko” and “Guinomi”, tea utensils, and kitchen utensils such as mortars.
【History of Echizen ware】
Echizen ware is said to have started around the end of the Heian period, about 850 years ago.
Originally, they were baking Sueki, but it is said that they started making pottery by incorporating the techniques of Tokoname and using Yakijime.
In the latter half of the Muromachi period, it began to be transported from Hokkaido to Tottori prefecture by Kitamae-bune.
The Kitamae-bune was a ship that was engaged in the westward route of “Osaka-Shimonoseki-Hokkaido”.
In this way, Echizen ware came to be traded in a wide range of regions, and its name recognition increased, spreading and developing nationwide.
In the Meiji era, westernization progressed in Japan, and the demand for pots and other items dropped in an instant.
Some kilns found a way out on the high-end route, but Echizen ware, which consistently produced daily necessities from the beginning, continued to decline.
The turning point came after World War II.
Investigations of ancient kiln sites have been conducted, and the cultural value of Echizen ware, which has continued for many years, has come to be re-evaluated.
The Echizen Pottery Village, which was built in 1970, was a further boost to the reconstruction.
Potters from all over the country, as well as tourists, have come to gather in large numbers, and the number of potteries has increased at a stretch.
Echizen ware has achieved a V-shaped revival.
【Production process of Echizen ware】
①Making the bottom
It starts with collecting the soil that will be the raw material.
The three main types of soil that are peculiar to the Echizen-cho area are “akabeto,” “aoneba,” and “takotsuchi.”
After collecting, mix and make clay.
After the clay is mixed with water, it is stirred well to remove impurities such as sand and stones, and perform elutriation, which leaves only fine-grained soil.
After the elutriation is complete, the craftsmen want the clay to be sticky enough to be shaped, so they let the clay sit for a while.
After that, the clay for pottery is completed after “Kikuneri”.
Kikuneri is a method of kneading to remove air from the soil.
It is called Kikuneri because it looks like a chrysanthemum.
The molding method used differs depending on the shape of the vessel to be produced.
Use a potter’s wheel.
After placing the wooden base, fix the soil firmly to make the bottom soil of the vessel.
・Square and other complex shapes
Mix clay and water to make “slurry”.
Pour the “slurry” into a mold made of gypsum and mold it.
Slurry is a liquid mixture containing minerals and sludge.
After making a string of 5 to 10 cm in thickness and 40 cm in length, the yorizuchi is twisted with both hands and wrapped around the bottom soil.
Repeat the same work and stack up many layers, not just one layer.
This method is called “rotation molding”.
A trowel called a “hagatana” is used to remove unevenness on the surface of the clay that has been piled up many times into a cylindrical shape.
・The outside of the vessel
Rub the joints in the joints of the steps from top to bottom with a hagatana to smooth out the surrounding area.
・Inside of vessel
Spread out the clay with a hagatana so that the sides are fan-shaped.
When the bottom half of the completed shape is completed, it is dried once.
This is to ensure that it can withstand the weight of the upper half that is about to be made.
After it has dried sufficiently, repeat steps 2 and 3 to create the upper half of the vessel, and the overall image is complete.
Wet a cotton cloth with water and put it on the top of the bowl.
“Mouth-making” is the art of using both hands to spread out the clay and create the desired shape of the mouth.
It is possible to make any shape by using fingers, so it is a process where craftsmen can show their skills.
After completion of mouth-making, the vessel is baked at a high temperature of 1,200-1,300℃.