Agano-yaki is famous for one of seven kilns in Japan


What is Agano-Yaki?

Agano-yaki is a type of pottery produced in Fukuchi Town, Tagawa County, Fukuoka Prefecture. It was first used as tea ceremony utensils, and by the Tokugawa period (1600-1868), it had become so famous that it was selected as one of the seven kilns of Enshu, and produced many works. Today, in addition to the prestigious tea ceremony utensils, many daily-use items are also produced, including sake cups, flower vases, and eating and drinking utensils. Prices are a little expensive, ranging from 2,000 yen for a small plate, but the colorful and elegant appearance created by the delicate craftsmanship of handmade work is a triple delight to look at, use, and display. They are a wonderful addition to your daily life.

Agano-yaki, which began as tea utensils, is filled with the elegance and sense of beauty unique to the tea ceremony. Lightweight and thinly made, it is a symbol of the spirit of “wabi-sabi,” which means simple and quiet, and has a presence that is not too conspicuous but still attracts people. Some of the products are similar to Iga ware in that they utilize the original color of the clay.

Agano ware

Agano-yaki has three main characteristics

Extremely light and thin

Compared to ceramics from other regions, Agano pottery is extremely light in the hand and thinly made, which creates a very soft feel in the mouth. It has a simple and strong earthen feel, as well as a refined elegance. The spirit of “wabi-sabi” of the tea ceremony is truly alive. Compared to Kasami-ware, the thinness of Agano-ware is clearly visible.

Various colors created by the extensive use of glazes

The variety of glazes used is greater than that of other types of pottery, and the beauty of the various colors woven together is also a characteristic feature. The most famous type is “rokusho-nagashi,” in which a green copper glaze flows over a transparent or white glaze. Basically, they are not painted, but recently some kilns have begun to do so. Combined with variations in color, this produces vessels that are rich in individuality.

*Many other glazes are also used, including straw white, iron glaze, ash glaze, candy glaze, Iraho glaze, shiso glaze, egg glaze, mushigui glaze, sansai glaze, biwa glaze, transparent glaze, total greenish blue, and yuzu skin.

Ceramic seal on the left side of the scroll

Although not often seen on early products, current Agano ware invariably has a leftward swirl pattern within the elevation or near the bottom. The Tomoe pattern is created by turning the potter’s wheel to the left while shaving the base with the planer in a thin line from the outside to the inside.

agano-yaki, Traditional craft

History of Agano-Yaki

The history of Agano-yaki dates back to 1602. It was born from the encounter between Hosokawa Tadaoki, the first lord of the Ogura domain in Buzen, who was taught by Sen no Rikyu, who established the foundation of the tea culture, and Son Kai, a potter of the Yi Dynasty, and is characterized by its roots in “tea ceramics” used for tea ceremonies.

However, with the abolition of the Han system in the Meiji period (1868-1912), Agano Pottery lost the support of the han and faced a crisis of existence. 1884, the main lineage of Agano Pottery, Tosoki Kuhachiro, withdrew from pottery production, and the business temporarily ceased to exist. However, in 1899, local volunteers began to work for the revival of the pottery. In 1938, Genhiko Watari established the Watari Kiln, and Jozan Takatsuru brought in the Agano family from Takada Ware to revive the Takatsuru Kiln.

After the Second World War, the high economic growth period led to an increase in demand for pottery, and many kilns were opened. Today, while preserving the tradition of Agano ware, the pottery continues to evolve and produce a wide variety of vessels.

Manufacturing Method and Process

1. Digging for raw clay

We scour the mountains of Agano to collect good quality clay. The clay is then dried.

2. Pulverizing (turning the clay into powder)

The collected clay is crushed into fine particles by a machine. Next, the crushed clay is passed through a sieve to sort out good quality clay. Soil with large particles remaining on the sieve is discarded.

3. Soil strainer (rubbing the soil in water)

Good quality clay that has been sieved is placed in a tank and mixed with water. The water is then strained through a technique called “suibi,” which separates out the finer clay particles, to extract good quality clay. The muddy clay is then dried in the sun with a cloth to remove water.

4. Soil kneading (kneading by machine)

The hardened clay is kneaded by machine to form a cylindrical shape.

5. Hand kneading (kneading by hand again)

After kneading by machine, the clay is kneaded by hand over time. At this time, the clay must be kneaded for a long time to remove the air contained in it.

6. Molding (Shaping with a potter’s wheel)

The clay that has been kneaded sufficiently is formed using a potter’s wheel.

7. Semi-drying (to make it semi-dry), finishing, and drying

The molded clay is laid out on an assembled shelf-like area and allowed to dry to a semi-dry state. When half-dried, the clay is finished by shaving the back and attaching handles. Agano-Yaki clay is basically delicate and thin, so it is left to dry indoors for two to three weeks.

agano ware

8. Base-firing

The completely dried vessels are fired in a kiln. This “Base-firing (suyaki)” process makes it easier for the glaze to adhere to the ware and for the colors produced by the kiln changes that occur during firing to appear. The vessels are placed in the kiln with no gaps between them and fired at a high temperature of approximately 800 to 850 degrees Celsius for about 5 to 6 hours. Only those pieces that have been fired and have passed the inspection of the kiln’s craftsmen proceed to the “glazing” and “hon-yaki” processes.

9. Glazing

After the unglazed pieces have passed the firing process, they are glazed (yuyaku). Glazing creates a glassy texture and beautiful colors and luster. A typical glaze is rokushoyu, which contains copper. This glaze produces an attractive bright blue-green kiln change. A wide variety of other glazes are also used, including iron glaze, straw white glaze, ash glaze, sansai glaze, transparent glaze, and Irabo glaze.

10. Main firing(hon-yaki)

Kilns used for hon-yaki include wood-fired kilns, gas kilns, electric kilns, and kerosene kilns. This is similar to the variation of kilns used in Otani-yaki. In the case of gas kilns, after “Kamazume,” in which vessels to be fired are placed in the kiln, firing takes about 10 hours. This process is called “firing.

The color and skin of the fired Agano-yaki are created by the many glazes used, resulting in a variety of shades and textures. A wide variety of colors and textures are produced, including “yuzu-hada,” which has a texture like yuzu citron peels; “mushoku-glaze,” which has a beautifully grainy surface with an insect-eaten texture; “mokume,” which uses two colors of clay to produce a wood grain pattern; and “sansai,” in which three different types of glaze can be enjoyed on one vessel.


Key points

The beauty of the colors created by the carefully finished clay and the variety of glazes. Agano-yaki is characterized by the unparalleled variety of glazes used. Agano ware is characterized by the unparalleled variety of glazes used. The Pottery expresses the beauty of the container and the food it holds, such as flowers and food, by enhancing each other and becoming one with the container. It is one of the charms of Agano ware, which is “beautiful only when used.


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