Arita-yaki, one of the most famous porcelain in Japan


Arita-yaki stands out with its beauty and durability

Arita-yaki is a type of porcelain originating from Arita Town in Saga Prefecture and its surrounding areas. It is said that the production of this porcelain began in the early 17th century when a ceramic stone suitable for raw materials was discovered in Arita Town. Arita-yaki porcelain is considered to be the first porcelain made in Japan and has been widely used for over 400 years as both tableware and crafts. It is renowned as one of the most prominent Japanese traditional porcelains, on par with the six oldest kilns in Japan, which include Echizen, Seto, Tokoname, Shigaraki, Tanba, and Bizen.

Arita-yaki porcelain is characterized by its translucent white appearance, which is often adorned with indigo pigment known as gosu and elaborate red paintings. It gained popularity as an art object and a votive offering from the middle of the 17th century due to its opulent appearance. Throughout history, Arita-yaki has been exported worldwide as a Japanese craft and has received praise from European aristocrats for its magnificence. Furthermore, Arita-yaki’s durability and robustness have made it a popular daily commodity in recent years.

It should be noted that although Arita-yaki is sometimes referred to as Imari-yaki, the two types of porcelain are essentially different.

source: Saga prefecture

Characteristics of Arita-yaki

Raw Materials:

The type of pottery varies depending on the quality and characteristics of the clay utilized. Arita-yaki, for instance, is porcelain due to its constituent ceramic stone. The utilization of porcelain stones in Arita porcelain production makes it distinct from other ceramics and accounts for the rapid enhancement of Arita-yaki’s quality.


Arita-yaki exhibits remarkable durability owing not only to its production technology but also to the intrinsic nature of the ceramic stone. Furthermore, Arita-yaki is lighter, stronger, and thinner than other ceramics, making it an exceptional option for tableware.


As the name “white porcelain” suggests, Arita ceramics are made of a stunning white stone. This is why the surface of Arita pottery is sleek and pleasant to the touch, similar to that of glass. Arita pottery is not only robust but also displays artistic texture. In olden times, it was presented to feudal lords and shoguns and even exchanged among powerful people.

Arita porcelain Chawan

History of Arima-yaki


Arita is recognized as the birthplace of Japanese porcelain. Porcelain is a type of pottery that has been fired in China since ancient times. However, it requires the presence of a mineral called kaolin and cannot be produced without high-temperature firing. Until the Azuchi-Momoyama period (1568-1600), Japan lacked the technology to bake porcelain and could only produce unglazed ceramics. At that time, the tea ceremony was a symbol of status for feudal lords, and ceramics used in the ceremony were highly admired. As a result, the ceramics used in the tea ceremony were primarily imported from Korea.

When Toyotomi Hideyoshi tried to conquer Chosen Peninsula, feudal lords brought back Joseon potters to produce the most advanced pottery in their own country. Nabeshima Naomochi, the lord of Hizen Province, brought back a Korean potter named Ri Sanpei and ordered him to produce white porcelain in his own country. Ri Sanpei searched for kaolin in Hizen Province for 12 years and, in 1610, discovered high-quality kaolin at Izumiyama in Arita. After six years of searching, he finally succeeded in producing the first porcelain in Japan.

Arita-yaki and Foreign Commerce

Subsequently, the Nabeshima clan centralized its ceramic industry in Arita and founded the Sarayama Magistrate’s Office to regulate the quality and skill, and began producing porcelain on a monopolistic basis. During the 1640s, Chinese potters pioneered methods for manufacturing gosu-tinted and thin textiles, which allowed for the production of colored porcelain.

source: LE UN magazine

The Qing Dynasty, which was the primary producer of porcelain in the 17th century, implemented a maritime embargo policy in 1655 that restricted the export of porcelain. Consequently, European orders for porcelain flooded into Arita, resulting in large-scale production of imitations in China and Korea (known as Joseon at the time). In the 1660s, the Kakiemon style of colored porcelain was developed in Arita, featuring a milky-white base with vibrant red painting that effectively utilized negative space. This colorful work sparked a massive boom in Europe.

During the Meiji period (1868-1912), the Japanese government invited the German chemist Gottfried Wagener to Arita to promote the industrial production of porcelain. His works were exhibited at World Expositions in several countries, earning consecutive gold medals and establishing a strong reputation overseas. Consequently, porcelain became a major export item, greatly contributing to the Meiji government’s policy of promoting industrial growth and development by expanding domestic industries and generating foreign currency through the export of Japanese goods

Manufacturing Methods and Processes

  1. Clay Preparation

Pottery stones are excavated and sorted to determine whether they are of the Izumiyama or Amakusa variety. The selected potter’s stones are then pulverized by machinery to form a fine powder. First, the stones are crushed to a certain size by a crusher, and then ground into powder using a stamper. The resulting powder is sieved in a water-filled tank to remove impurities such as iron. The potter’s clay is then drained of excess water and deemed ready for use.

  1. Molding

Before the potter’s wheel is employed for shaping, the clay is kneaded to eliminate air and ensure uniform moisture and grain. Kneading, also known as “Do-momi,” is a crucial step in the pottery-making process, as air and unevenness in the clay can lead to cracks and other issues. Once kneading is complete, the clay can be shaped using a mechanical wheel, a hand wheel, a mold molding process, or a casting process.

  1. Finishing and Drying

After molding, the base, knobs, rims, and other fine details are finished. In Imariyaki and Arita-yaki, pattern carving is not generally used at this stage. It is important to dry the clay slowly to avoid cracking and other issues.

  1. Unfired

Once the clay has been thoroughly dried, it is fired at a temperature of around 850 to 950 degrees Celsius. During unglazed firing, the temperature is gradually increased to prevent breakage. The same gradual approach is taken during the cooling process to prevent breakage.

source: Furusato choice
  1. Underglaze Painting

Following firing, underglaze painting is performed prior to glazing. The pigment frequently employed for underglaze painting is Gosu, primarily comprising cobalt oxide. This dyed Gosu expresses the stunning indigo hue of Arita porcelain. This type of indigo color is also visible in Mikawachi-yaki, a traditional craft from the same Kyushu region. The shading is not adjusted by the pigment, but by water. For a precise and delicate design, line drawing or dyeing with Dami may be carried out during the underglaze painting stage.

  1. Glazing

Upon completion of the underglaze painting, a thin and uniform layer of glaze is applied. This process is utilized to strengthen the ware, smoothen the surface, highlight a beautiful luster, and prevent stains, by taking advantage of the glaze’s property of becoming glassy when fired. After wiping off the glaze from the base, it is allowed to dry completely.

  1. Firing

Once the glaze has dried, the piece is fired at a high temperature of roughly 1300 degrees Celsius for approximately 16 hours. For articles that do not necessitate overglaze painting, the firing process is concluded.

  1. Overglaze Painting

Overglaze painting is the subsequent process of painting on the fired pottery. It is at this stage that the red painting characteristic of Arita-yaki is applied. As pigments used for overglaze painting are subject to temperature restrictions, the firing temperature in the overglaze kiln following overglaze painting is slightly lower, around 700 to 800 degrees Celsius. Additionally, if gold or silver leaf is to be utilized, another firing process is required after the overglaze painting kiln. This process is referred to as Nishiki-gama or Kin-gama, in which glaze is applied after the gold and silver painting, and firing is completed at a lower temperature of about 400 degrees Celsius.

Key points 

While many types of porcelain pottery are known for their bright colors, such as Kutani-yaki, Kiyomizu-yaki, and Seto-yaki, Arita-yaki stands out with its unique and vivid coloring and milky white background. Even to this day, Arita-yaki holds an extremely high value, and is still presented to the imperial family. There are some reasonably priced Arita-yaki products available, so it is recommended to incorporate them into your daily life.

Arita ware cup


Let's share this post !