Yokkaichi Banko-yaki, with its attractive coloring produced by iron | traditional crafts in Mie

Yokkaichi Banko ware
Source: Japan Traditional Crafts week 2017

Banko-yaki is a Traditional Japanese craft with 300 years of history

Yokkaichi Banko-yaki is pottery made in
Yokkaichi and Komono Town, Mie Prefecture. It has a history of about 300 years.
It is designated as a traditional craft by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and
Industry. It used to be made mainly for daily use, but now kyusu (teapot) and
earthenware pots are representative items. The reason for this is the excellent
heat-resistant earthenware. In particular, the production of earthenware pots
accounts for nearly 80-90% of the domestic market share. In recent years, products
of all sizes and shapes have been produced, including a wide variety of ceramic
plates, tajine pots, rice kettles, and charcoal stoves.

This pottery is made from petalite, a
high-quality mineral found in Yokkaichi, where it is produced, and contains a
large amount of petalite. Petalite is highly heat-resistant and can be used
over an open flame, making it suitable for earthenware pots and kettles for
daily use. This clay is also the raw material for Banko-yaki, which is made
using a technique that mixes leaf feldspar with heat-resistant lithium ore.
This is perhaps the greatest feature of Banko-yaki that is not found in other
production areas. For this reason, earthenware pots are particularly popular,
and all types of pots are being made these days, including earthenware pots for
cooking rice and tagine pots. And Banko-yaki kyusu are made of an iron-rich
clay called shi mud. When a kyusu molded from purple clay is fired, it turns a
deep purple color and becomes more lustrous with each use.

Banko ware
Source: Mie-Brand


What is the history of Banko-yaki?

Banko-yaki was started in the mid-Edo
period by Nunami Rozan, a wealthy merchant and tea master in Kuwana. At that
time, the Nunami family ran a pottery shipping wholesaler called Bankoya.
Nunami Rozan was a very well-educated man who created a variety of works based
on the techniques of Kyoyaki pottery. Some of his works incorporated exotic
designs such as “Dutch letters” and “chintz patterns,”
which were considered rare at the time, and were popular among many people.

The name “Manko Fueki” is said to
have come from his use of the seal “Manko Fueki” to indicate that he
wanted his work to be handed down to future generations. In 1720, as Western
learning and art gradually became popular in Japan, Tozan’s works began to show
innovative designs and shapes reminiscent of foreign countries, and his pottery
became popular among Japanese cultural figures. The popularity of Rozan’s
pottery became popular among Japanese cultural figures. The popularity of
Tossan’s pottery became so great that he received orders from the Shogun’s
family. Tossan then built a kiln in Koume, Mukojima, Edo, and began to produce
“Edo Banko” pottery.

Brothers Yusetsu Mori and Chiaki Mori
inherited Banko ware left by Rozan

After Rozan’s death, Banko-yaki was temporarily
discontinued, but in the late Edo period, Mori Yusetsu and his younger brother
Chiaki began to produce Banko-yaki again, called “Yusetsu Banko”. 
At first, the pottery reproduced the
atmosphere of Ko-Banko, but gradually found its own expression and soon became
popular. Also, during this period when sencha tea was becoming popular,
Arisetsu studied sencha teapots and created a teapot made of a wooden mold.
This kyusu was very thin and had a dragon engraved on the inside. Furthermore,
the development of pink glaze and the kyusu with gorgeous colored paintings
became popular in the West.

The Development of Banko-Yaki and the Birth
of Yokkaichi Banko

During the Meiji period (1868-1912), Banko
ware was exhibited at the Paris Expo and the Kyoto Expo, where it received many
awards and high acclaim. At the same time, many pottery similar to Aritsuse
Banko, called Kuwana Banko, was produced in the Kuwana area of Mie Prefecture,
but after the Meiji Restoration, it was absorbed into Banko ware produced in
Yokkaichi, which became a commercial center. Yokkaichi Banko” began when
Chuzaemon Yamanaka built a kiln to help the residents of the area that had been
damaged by flooding. He learned how to make pottery himself, passed it on to
the residents, and donated tools and materials.

Yokkaichi Banko developed rapidly as an
industry, but by the middle of the Meiji Era (1868-1912), white clay, the raw
material for the kilns, was no longer available, and the industry stagnated.
This led to the development of a new type of teapot made of red clay, called
“kurobiki” (purple clay), which became the main product of Yokkaichi

The Emergence of Semi-Porcelain and Japan’s
Largest Domestic Earthen Pot Production

In 1911, Torajiro Mizutani succeeded in
developing semi-porcelain by combining porcelain clay and earthenware clay.
This semi-porcelain ware, which had good underglaze coloring and the warmth of
clay, and could be used to make even larger pieces, was named “Taisho
ware” to commemorate the Taisho Era, which began in the year following its
development. With the development of semi-porcelain, demand for Banko-yaki ware
increased nationwide, making it one of the leading ceramic production areas. In
the late Showa period (1926-1989), technology to increase heat resistance was
also advanced, and Banko-yaki became Japan’s largest domestic producer of
earthenware pots.

Manufacturing Method & Process

1. The clay making process

This is the process of creating the clay
that will be used as the base material. Each potter’s clay is blended with
iron-containing red clay and yellow clay to make the base clay.

2. Molding process

Several types of clay are evenly mixed to
remove air from the clay. This process is called “Kiku-momi (chrysanthemum
rubbing)” because the kneaded clay looks like the petals of a

After the clay has been
“natauchi” (pounded) to equalize its hardness, it is ready for the
molding process. There are three molding techniques: “rokuro
molding,” “oshikata molding” using a wooden mold, and
“tehineri molding. Molding with a wooden mold is a unique technique
invented by Mori Yusetsu, who was involved in the revival of Banko-yaki, and
has been handed down to the present day.

The wooden mold is formed by attaching a
piece of cloth or Japanese paper to a wooden mold for each part, wrapping a
thin layer of clay around it, and removing the wooden mold. A kyusu consists of
a body, a lid, a handle, a spout, and a tea strainer, so each part is formed in
the same way.

3. Patterned surface process

This is the process of decorating the
surface of the kyusu. Typical patterns include sukashi-mon, buri, sen-suji,
ishime, mushikui, matsubi, hari-tsuke, chigire-suji, kushime, inka, keshikake,
dotataki, turtledove (diamond cut), and rokubei. In addition to the 14 types of
patterns required for traditional crafts, a variety of patterns continue to be
created, even modern ones.

4. Finishing and Drying Process

After drying, the body, lid, handle, spout,
and tea strainer are joined together. Adjustments are made, such as shaving the
bottom of the kyusu (teapot base) and the lid knob, and each part is polished
using a special polishing canner and leaves.

5. Carving process

Patterns are applied with a carving knife
to pieces that have not yet undergone the process of carving on the base. There
are various carving techniques such as “line carving,” “pull
carving,” and “curved knife carving.

6. Unglazing Process

The “yakishime” technique, in
which no glaze or underglaze painting is applied, is the original traditional
method of Banko-yaki, but if glaze or underglaze painting is to be applied, the
pottery is unglazed at approximately 800°C. This process is called
“unglazing. There are two methods of glazing: dipping the ware into a glaze
container and pulling it out, and pouring the glaze over the ware using a hand

7. Main firing

The final firing is carried out at
temperatures between 1180°C and 1200°C for one day and night. The
“reduction firing” technique produces the unique maroon color of
Yokkaichi Banko-Yaki. Reduction firing is a firing method that reduces the
amount of oxygen in the kiln, causing incomplete combustion and firing in a
steaming state. The color of the same potter’s clay varies depending on the
amount of oxygen and temperature during firing.

8. Overglaze painting

Decoration is done after firing. Techniques
include mori-e, akae (red glaze), kinsai (gold glaze), ginsai (silver glaze),
itching, blotting, line drawing, and others. Yokkaichi Banko-yaki teapots
produced through these processes are highly regarded as teapots that bring out
the best flavor of tea, as the iron in the base reacts with the tannin in
sencha green tea to soften the astringency of the tea.

Japanese pottery
Source: https://eee-plan.com/event/43233


The best place to find Banko-no-Sato Kaikan
at local pottery fairs and in Yokkaichi City. 
You are sure to find your favorites there,
as there are pieces from all kinds of Banko-yaki potteries.

Bankonosato Kaikan
Address : 4-8 Toei-cho, Yokkaichi City, Mie
Phone : 059-330-2020
Hours : 9:00-17:00 (Shop is open
Closed: Mondays (except national holidays),
summer holidays, year-end and New Year holidays

Online store: https://bankonosato.com/ 
(This site is only available in Japanese,
so we accept requests for product searches. Please ask us from the comments)

Banko ware
Source: Web Toki fair

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