Kutani-Yaki | Unique designs with overglaze enameling


Is Kutani-Yaki Ceramic or Porcelain? Porcelain?

Kutani-yaki is both ceramic and porcelain. It is defined as pottery with overglaze enameling done in Kutani. There are differences in usage and handling between ceramic and porcelain. If you know their characteristics and how to distinguish between them, your selection of Kutani-yaki will be much more fulfilling.


  • The raw material is clay, which has a warmth.
  • The entire piece has a thick, chunky feel.
  • When you flick it with your finger, it makes a dull sound.          
  • The color of the clay directly appears on the base of the pottery. This is the easiest way to distinguish between ceramic and porcelain.


  • The raw material is china stone (a type of stone), which is white and hard
  • Thin, light and strong
  • When flicked with a finger, it makes a metallic “ding” sound.    
  • The base of the porcelain is glazed, and the white color is a characteristic of porcelain.
Kutani ware
Source: ARAKI

History of Kutani-yaki

The origin of Kunani-yaki

Kutani ware was first produced in 1655, when Saijiro Goto, who had learned pottery techniques in Arita under the order of the Kaga Clan, opened a kiln in Kutani Village, Enuma County. However, the kiln was closed after less than 100 years. The reason for this is still unknown, but the pieces fired during this period are now called “Ko-Kutani.

For 100 years after the kilns were closed, Imariyaki was the most common type of pottery in Japan. However, the success of the porcelain industry in Seto in the late Edo period triggered the production of Kasuga-yama-yaki and Wakasugi-yaki in Kaga as well. The success of Wakasugi ware also encouraged the Daishoji clan, which had once produced Ko-Kutani ware, to revive Ko-Kutani ware. The central figure in this movement was Yoshidaya Den’emon, a wealthy merchant in Daishoji. In 1823 (Bunsei 6), he built a climbing kiln next to the ruins of the old Kutani kiln in Kutani Village and began to produce Kutani ware the following year.

The turning point for famous craft

In the Meiji period (1868-1912), Kutani Shoza’s colored gold brocade became famous, and large quantities of Kutani ware were exported overseas. The Vienna Exposition of 1873 was the catalyst for this trend. The name “Japan Kutani” became widely known as “Japan Kutani”.

Even today, Kutani-yaki porcelain, which has been cultivated through tradition, has a unique charm with its dynamic and austere colors, and along with Kakiemon, Iro-Nabeshima, and Ninsei, it is a representative example of Japanese overglaze enameled ceramics. Today, it is used as a gift by the Imperial Household Agency and was presented as a wedding present to Prince Charles of the United Kingdom, and is widely used by prominent foreign people and is now greatly appreciated as Japanese beauty. Living national treasures such as Tokuda Hachikichi III, Yoshida Binori, and Nakada Nishikigama have created Kutani-yaki with modern and elegant colors and developed its tradition.

Kutani-yaki with snoopy

The charm of Kutani-yaki overglaze enameling

Kutani-yaki is one of Japan’s representative colored porcelains. Its characteristic and most attractive feature is “overglaze painting. The excellence of overglaze enamels is so magnificent that it is said, “There is no Kutani without talking about overglaze enamels.

Uwetsuke is a technique of painting patterns with pigments on the glaze of ceramics after firing and re-firing. The characteristic of Kutani-yaki overglaze enameling is the five-color technique (commonly known as Kutani-gosai), which is characterized by the beautiful color effects and graceful patterns of red, yellow, green, purple, and navy blue. The harmony of colors is also attractive, such as the Aote Kutani Nuri-Utsuri hand, which uses green, yellow, purple, and navy blue.

 While they are popular as everyday use vessels, the picturesque and gorgeous patterns are also used as vessels to color the occasion of a Hare (a special occasion). They are used as gifts and souvenirs, and, as mentioned earlier, are also known as crafts warranted by the Imperial Household Agency. In particular, Ko-kutani has high artistic and antique value, and is of great interest to many people. Many people also feel romanticized by the fact that the same type of pottery was produced at the Arita kiln, which is full of mysteries.

Kutani-yaki with Kitty
Source: Flower Miffy

Production Process

1. crushing the potter’s stone

First, the raw ceramic stone is mined and crushed into a fine powder using a crusher. The powder made by crushing the ceramic stone contains impurities, so it cannot be used as is. The powder is then soaked in water and filtered to remove impurities. Once the impurities are removed and excess water is dispersed, the clay is kneaded to remove air, and the clay is ready to be used.

2. molding

Various methods are used to form the shape of the pot, including chokuro, string making, hand-building, tatara making, and casting. After shaping, the fine details such as shaving the base, attaching the back, making the knobs, finishing the edges, and carving patterns are done. Once finished, the pot is dried in the sun and unglazed at 800 to 900 degrees Celsius for about 8 hours. After unglazing, the color of the clay changes from gray to skin tone, increasing its strength and making the next processes (glazing and underglazing) easier. 3.

3. glazing and main firing

After underglazing is completed, glaze is applied. The glaze used is called “hakuyaku” (white glaze), which is characterized by its transparency when fired, and becomes glassy during the firing process. The glassy coating on the surface of the ware strengthens the ware and prevents it from being stained. The glaze should neither be too thick nor too thin. It is important to apply the glaze quickly, carefully, and evenly. After the glaze is applied, the vessel is finally fired in the main kiln at a high temperature of 1,300°C for about 15 hours. 4.

4. overglaze painting

Colors are applied using overglaze paints. The patterns and colors used for the overglaze painting vary depending on the type of Kutaniyaki. Before painting, the bone is sometimes painted with black gozu. Kotsugaki is the process of drawing contour lines and is also used in Japanese painting. After the overglaze painting is completed, the piece is fired at 800 to 1,000 degrees Celsius. This firing process fixes the overglaze paints into the glaze, resulting in beautiful colors.

 Depending on the design of the pottery, such as Eiraku style, gold or silver overglaze painting may be applied. Gold leaf is applied to the gold glaze, while silver leaf is applied to the silver glaze, and the glaze is then applied over the gold or silver glaze and fired again. The firing temperature is approximately 400 degrees Celsius, and Kutaniyaki is complete when the final firing is complete.


Kutani-yaki is one of Japan’s representative colored porcelains, and its greatest appeal, simply put, is its patterns. The most fascinating aspect of Kutani-yaki is, simply put, its patterns, which are called “overglaze enameling. This Japanese traditional craft is said to be “Kutani without overglaze enamels,” and the excellence of the overglaze enamel decoration is so magnificent and unrestrained. If you have the opportunity, please take a Kutani Yaki in your hands and enjoy the beauty of Japan that lived in Kaga Hyakumangoku.


Wajima Nuri


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