Amakusa ceramics with beautiful pure white color


Transparent white and beautifully colored Amakusa ceramics

Amakusa ceramics is a general term for ceramics produced in the Amakusa region of Kumamoto Prefecture, which has a history of approximately 250 to 340 years. Amakusa is the oldest porcelain production area in Kyushu, and is also the place where Amakusa Touseki, the world’s largest pottery stone, is extracted.

What is Amakusa Touseki (Stone)?

The stone is used in famous pottery products throughout Japan such as Arita-yaki, Hasami-yaki, and Kiyomizu-yaki. It accounts for about 80% of the nation’s ceramic stone production and is used for high-voltage insulators and heat-resistant materials for spaceships.

Arita-yaki, Seto-yaki, Bizen-yaki, kiyomizu, and Tokoname are probably the first pottery that come to mind when one hears the word “pottery. These are indeed world-famous pottery. However, Amakusa ceramics are no less attractive than these. The Amakusa ceramic stone symbolizes this. Many traditional Japanese pottery crafts, including Arita-yaki, use Amakusa ceramic stone. And when it comes to handling Amakusa pottery stone, the local traditional craftsmen of Amakusa ceramics have the edge.

amakusa ceramics

The characteristics of this traditional Japanese handicraft are its stain-free white color, its excellent strength, and its dyeing process. The translucent milky white is colored mainly with indigo. It has  four main types.

Uchida Sarayama-yaki:

Mainly produces white porcelain, celadon porcelain, and other tableware, characterized by the beauty of its clean white porcelain, delicate hand-painted patterns, and dyeing. Takahama-yaki is the largest producer of “takotsubo” (takotsubo is a small pot used for cooking takotsubo) in Japan.


A modern type of pottery that uses high-purity pottery stones to create a contrast between the translucent white and the deep indigo blue of Gosu. It is recommended for those who prefer simple, contemporary pieces.

Maruo Pottery:

 A warm, rustic flavor created by the Amakusa pottery stone and the red clay collected around Maruo gaoka. The main product is tableware, but they also make vases and pots.

Mizu no Hira-yaki: 

The basic type of “sea cucumber glaze,” which is made by applying two different glazes. Its unique painted patterns and the luster of the blue-black surface of the vessels are attractive. The clay is made by digging out the soil of Amakusa.

white pottery

History of Amakusa Ceramics

The history of Amakusa’s pottery is long, with records showing that the kiln was opened in 1762 by Den Goemon Ueda, the sixth generation headman of Takahama Village (now Takahama, Amakusa Town, Amakusa City). Den Goemon had a desire to enrich and revitalize the village with abundant, high-quality pottery stones, and Amakusa ceramics were born.

Later, the existing kilns such as Mizunohira-yaki and Maruo-yaki were opened one after another. But since Amakusa at that time was under the jurisdiction of the shogunate (directly controlled by the shogunate), there was no support by the clan or a role to offer pottery to the clan, as was the case in other production areas. For this reason, Amakusa ceramics had no common characteristics, and each kiln developed its own unique character. Among them, the most common are simple vases and tableware for daily use, made of both ceramic and porcelain.

 Manufacturing Method and Process

1. Suihi

Various types of pottery and porcelain are produced in Amakusa using high-quality local pottery stones and clay. The following is the process of making porcelain.

First, mined Amakusa pottery stone is crushed into thin pieces. After water is added and stirred, the stone is transferred to a sedimentation tank, where pebbles and sand are submerged at the bottom and the muddy water is sieved out. The water is then transferred to another tank while iron is removed with an iron remover. This process is called “suihi.

2. Dewatering

After iron is removed, the clay plaster that has settled to the bottom of the tank containing the muddy water is placed in an unglazed pot or plaster pot. The clay is left to stand in this state until it has lost a moderate amount of water and becomes clay-like.

3. Rough kneading

Knead the clayed clay with your foot to remove air from the clay. This is where the hardness of the clay is adjusted to a uniform level.

4. Kneading

This is the process of storing clay in a cool and dark place with high humidity to let it mature. To increase viscosity and improve moldability, clay is aged by organic bacteria.

5. Kiku-kneading

Air contained in the clay is removed. This is the process of final adjustment of the hardness of clay according to the work and preference.

Amakusa pottery

6. Molding

This is the process of shaping the product with the finished clay.

There are various molding techniques such as “rokuro molding” using a potter’s wheel, “tatara molding” to form a shape from clay stretched into a board shape, “string making molding” to form a shape from clay made into a string shape, “push molding” to form a shape by pressing clay into a mold, and “hand twist molding” to form a shape using only hands.

7. Finishing of the surface

While the clay formed by each technique is still in the raw state, it is placed on the “rokuro” (potter’s wheel) and “shaving” is done on the base and sides. In the case of “mold finishing,” the surface is also finished with “eye finishing” and smoothing by wiping with water.

8. Decoration

After “base finishing” is completed, the fabric product may be “decorated” in some cases. Decorative techniques include zogan (carving), which carves patterns into the surface, keshikake (applying a white and smooth finish to the surface), and itchin (glazing), which produces raised lines with glaze.

9. Drying and unglazing

After “finishing” and “decorating” are applied, the fabric is left to dry naturally indoors. Drying indoors to a certain extent, they are taken outside to dry completely.

After drying, the product is fired at a temperature of around 900°C (900°F) in the “unglazed” process.

10. Pre-painting

After unglazing, paintings and patterns are painted on the surface using gosu pigments and iron pigments.

11. Glaze mixing

This is the process of mixing glazes such as transparent glaze (tomeiyu) to bring out the color of the underglaze, iron glaze (tetsugusuri) for darker colors, and straw ash glaze (warabaiyu) for lighter colors. Each kiln uses locally available materials as much as possible and mixes its own glazes.

Amakusa white pottery
Kyushu Tourism

12. Glazing

Kusuri-gake” is the process of glazing products. There are a variety of techniques, such as “dipping” (dipping into the glaze), “pouring” (pouring the glaze with a ladle), “spraying” (spraying with a mist), and “lacquering” (applying with a brush).

13. Kiln Stacking

After the glazing process is complete, the pieces are placed in the kiln. Shelves are built up with shelves and pillars, and the pieces are placed between the shelves. A sample of the work, called a “color test,” is placed in the kiln along with the work.

14. Firing (main firing)

The piece is fired at a temperature of around 1300 degrees Celsius. The firing time varies depending on the work. Observe the inside of the kiln through a peephole, and when the glaze has melted, pull out a sample “color test” to see the condition of the glaze.

After maintaining the temperature for a certain period of time, the kiln is cooled down. When the kiln temperature reaches about 100°C, the work is removed from the kiln.

15. Overglaze painting

Porcelain fired in the kiln is then painted with overglaze enamel pigments.

16. Firing of overglaze painting

After the overglaze painting process is completed, the work is placed back into the kiln and fired at around 800°C to burnish the overglaze paints.

17. Kiln Removal

When the temperature of the kiln reaches about 100°C, the work is removed from the kiln.

18. Inspection

The work is carefully inspected for color, cracks, and defects.

Amakusa pottery
source: SHIMA NO TANE (


Many people who love pottery and ceramic vessels would like to visit pottery production areas. There are more than 20 kilns in Amakusa, and each of them produces pottery with a completely different character. There are also many simple and modern designs that fit well in today’s interiors. Because the region is rich in raw materials, production is still very active. While traditional Japanese crafts sometimes go out of business with the changing times, Amakusa ceramics is still a very active industry. Why not visit Amakusa?



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