Hasami pottery is decorated with unique pure white and indigo


Hasami pottery, Beautiful and also practical Japanese traditional craft

Hasami-yaki is a well-known ceramic daily dishware produced in the vicinity of Hasami-cho, Nagasaki Prefecture. Hasami-yaki is one of Japan’s leading ceramics, boasting a history comparable to that of the world-renowned Arita-yaki porcelain. This traditional Japanese craft is characterized by the beauty of its white porcelain and the delicate technique of dyeing with indigo (gosu). The elegance of the openwork and braided patterns is unique to Hasami pottery. While continuing to improve with the times, a variety of daily tableware was created as vessels for the common people. Even today, Nagasaki is the largest ceramic production center in Nagasaki Prefecture, and boasts the third largest shipments of daily-use Japanese tableware in Japan.

The “division of labor” made high-quality, mass production possible in this small town with a population of only 15,000. The “mold shop” makes plaster molds of ceramics, the “dough shop” makes dough from the molds, the “clay shop” stores the clay in the dough shop, the “kiln shop” fires the dough to make products, and the “overglaze shop” makes seals for the designs on the ceramics. Craftsmen specialized in each of these fields pack their traditional skills into each process.

Hasami pottery
source: Tabennet

History of Hasami Pottery

Hasami pottery was born with the influence of Hideyoshi Toyotomi

The birth of Hasami-ware was triggered by Hideyoshi Toyotomi’s war against Korea from 1592 to 1598. This war is also called “Yakimono War” and many potters were brought back from Korea by the feudal lords in order to acquire high skills of pottery making. In particular, since the Kyushu region is geographically close to the Korean peninsula, many pottery techniques were introduced to the region as a result of this war.

With the potters from Korea, they built three staircase climbing kilns in three locations, Hatanohara, Kosaraya, and Yamaniada, in Muraki, Hasami-cho, and began making pottery in 1599. This was the beginning of Hasami pottery. Later, pottery stones were discovered in Mitsumata, located in the southeastern part of Hasami, and in the 1630s, pottery production shifted to porcelain production in earnest.

Hasami-ware developed through International Trade

In the mid-17th century, the export of Chinese pottery to Asia was interrupted due to the civil war in China. When the civil war in China ended around 1690, the amount of Hasami-yaki exported overseas declined. From there, they began to mass produce daily tableware for the domestic market.

From the Meiji period onward, the development of the railroad system allowed distribution from Arita, where shipping stations were located, to the rest of the country, spreading its name throughout the country. Thus, sales continued to increase and reached its peak in the late 1980’s during the bubble economy.

 Manufacturing Method and Process

1. potter’s stone, crushing

Amakusa pottery stone is used as a raw material for making Hasami-ware. Amakusa pottery stone is a clay pottery stone mined from the Amakusa Peninsula. It is also called Amakusa pottery clay or Amakusa stone, and is often used in other ceramics such as Arita-yaki. The mined Amakusa potter’s stone is crushed and manually sorted into one to five grades. The sorted stones are then ground into powder and sieved. The powdered pottery stone is placed in a stirring tank to remove silica grains, iron, and dehydration under pressure. After the clay has been dehydrated to the right degree, it is kneaded with a clay kneader to remove air, and the clay is ready to be used.

2. molding

Molding is performed using an Opportunity
Wheel, a hand wheel, a roller-machine, or a casting machine. There is also a
technique called “hand-bineri” for forming ceramics, but it is not
widely used in Hasami-ware. Hasami-yaki, which is mass-produced, is almost
always made using molds. After the molding process is completed, the pots are
dried in a well-ventilated and sunny place.

3. Unglazed firing

After drying, the pieces are fired at 800 to 950 degrees Celsius. Unglazing increases the strength of the base and improves water absorption, making it easier to apply underglaze painting and glaze. After firing, remove any residue from the surface with a feather broom or similar tool.

4. Underglaze painting

Painting before glazing is called “underglaze painting. The characteristic indigo color of Hasami-ware is produced by dyeing with Gosu. Underglaze painting is done with a brush or sometimes by printing.

5. glazing

Glazing is the process of applying glaze to ceramics after underglaze painting has been completed. The purpose of glazing is not only to bring out the beautiful luster of ceramics but to add functionality, such as preventing stains and water leakage, and to increase the strength of the piece by applying a glassy film.

kiln for Hasami pottery
source: Tabennet

6. Firing

In this process, also known as “hon-yaki” (main firing), the pottery is fired at approximately 1,300°C. It is removed from the oven immediately after firing. Since the glaze will jump if it is removed from the kiln immediately after firing, it is removed after the temperature is slowly lowered to near room temperature.

7. Overglaze painting

Pigments that are subject to temperature restrictions, such as red paint, are used in the overglaze painting stage. After the overglaze painting is completed, the piece is fired at 750 to 850 degrees Celsius to complete the process. The process is slightly different when gold leaf is used in overglaze painting. The firing process must be done once after the overglaze painting except for the gold painting is completed. After firing, gold painting is applied, glazed, and fired at a low temperature of approximately 400 degrees Celsius.

Hasami pottery
source: Hasami town

key point

At first, the production of glazed ceramics was the main focus of the village, but as the production of pottery stone, the raw material for porcelain, began to be mined in the village, the production gradually shifted to porcelain, mainly blue-and-white and celadon. The porcelain is characterized by its translucent milky white color, elegant luster, and smooth texture, and the beauty of gosu is enhanced because it shows off the painting. It has an atmosphere similar to Mikawachi-yaki produced in the same prefecture. Hasami-yaki is one of the most durable and easy-to-handle types of pottery produced in the prefecture, and is characterized by its relatively low cost and small individual differences.

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