Tea Ware | Hagi Ware

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There are various types of pottery and porcelain in Japan. Among them, this article is about Hagi ware, which is deeply involved with “tea.”

What is Hagi ware?

It is a type of pottery produced mainly in Hagi City, Yamaguchi Prefecture and designated as a traditional craft. Hagi ware has been developed as tea pottery, praised like “Raku first, Hagi second, and Karatsu third.” This expression reflects the rating by or preference of tea ceremony masters, which shows how Hagi ware has been highly valued for many generations.

Features of Hagi ware

Hagi ware is featured by numberless fine cracks on it due to its clay type and production process. These cracks are called “Kannyu.” After using a tea utensil for many years, the ingredients of tea and the like gradually permeate Kannyu to make a subtle change to the color of the tea utensil. This phenomenon is called “Chanare” or “Hagi-no-nanabake” among tea ceremony masters, who appreciate Hagi ware as a Chawan (tea bowl) that changes its expression according to its user. In addition, while there are 100 potteries of Hagi ware but few of them employ volume production. Most of them are small-sized potteries and active as artists. This is why Hagi ware has many one-of-a-kinds.

Hagi ware is popular as tea pottery. Most of the products are simple with the untouched materials utilized. Very little coloring and decoration are done. As a result, it is easy to see the changes of color and design influenced by the condition of clay, the day’s temperature and humidity, and the firing process. Fans can spend a fun time on finding a favorite product among various designs and color tones. Hagi ware requires more care for maintenance than other types of pottery, but the process of gradually producing an original ceramic is the charm and feature of Hagi ware.

History of Hagi ware

The history of Hagi ware dates back to 400 years ago.

Early Edo period: Hagi ware was created

Japan of the time was experiencing a great Chawan boom even called “pottery war.” Many Daimyo (Japanese feudal lords) had potters brought from Korea. In fact, the originator of Hagi ware was not Japanese but the Korean potters Li brothers, who were summoned to Japan that time. Li brothers started producing pottery for Terumoto Mori, a Daimyo and tea ceremony master. This led to today’s Hagi ware.

Meiji period to Showa period: Non-tea-pottery production began

In the Meiji period, Hagi ware established its position by receiving several awards and building a deep relationship with the Omote-senke school. The expression “Raku first, Hagi second, and Karatsu third” emerged. However, to get over the depression of that time in Japan, besides tea pottery, they started producing daily necessities and ornaments such as touristic accessories for foreigners.

Postwar period to present

After the war, Japanese economy recovered and the entire pottery industry, not only Hagi ware, remarkably developed. Even another pottery boom occurred to increase the number of kilns across the country. Then, individual artists of Hagi ware became active in pottery production, which made Hagi ware known as a representative of Japanese pottery, not limited to tea pottery.

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