Iwami ware is unique craft with gigantic water bottle


Iwami ware is in Japanese daily lives

Iwami ware is the general term for pottery produced in the Iwami region (including Hamada and Ota cities), centered on Gotsu City in western Shimane Prefecture. Iwami Pottery is said to have started around 1763 and has a history of over 250 years. Although more and more kilns nowadays use electricity or gas for firing Iwami Pottery, there are still some kilns that insist on using “climbing kilns” and continue to produce various types of Iwami Pottery with rich individuality.

The large reddish-brown water reservoirs called “Hando Hando,” which are especially famous among Iwami
Pottery, are a powerful size, with the largest being about the height of an adult’s chest. They were a necessity in the Meiji era, when there was no water supply, and were very useful to the people because of their sturdiness and strength. In other words, the Meiji period was the heyday of Iwami-yaki, with more than 100 potteries, and the demand for Iwami-yaki remained high until around the mid-Showa period.

Iwami Pottery is also known not only for large-sized ceramics such as water jars, but also for small-sized products such as teapots, tea sets, and tableware. Iwami-yaki is also known for roof tiles, but today, interior ceramics such as garden tables and umbrella stands are also popular.

Iwami ware
Source: Folk Craft


Feature 1: Fired at high temperatures! Iwami Pottery with outstanding durability

The clay used for Iwami Pottery is dense and acid-resistant, making it possible to fire at high temperatures! Once fired, Iwami Pottery becomes extremely durable, which is why there are many large-size ceramics, including handles.

Feature 2: Resistant to acid, salt, and water

Because the clay is acid-resistant and can be fired at high temperatures, Iwami Pottery is extremely resistant to acid, salt, and water. This is the reason why Iwami ware has become famous throughout Japan as storage containers for pickles.

Feature 3: Traditional Techniques & Creative Ideas

In addition to large-size ceramics produced using traditional Iwami-yaki techniques that have been used since the Edo period, there is now a wide variety of ceramics for daily use, such as plates that go well with food and fashionable cups.

Iwami pottery

 History of Iwami ware

Iwami ware is said to have originated when warriors from Japan who went to Korea between 1592 and 1610 returned to Japan, bringing back with them Ri Roshi, a Korean potter, and having him make pottery in present-day Hamada City and Kakino-Mura in Kano-Ashi County in Shimane Prefecture.

Since that time, good quality clay from the Tsunotsu soil was extracted from these areas, and it became the raw material for Iwami ware and Iwami roof tiles. It was around 1765 (mid-Edo period) that the full-scale pottery manufacturing method was introduced in present-day Gotsu City, Shimane Prefecture. The pottery-making method was introduced by Irie Rokuro, and small products such as ataguchi and tokkuri (sake cups) began to be made.

About 20 years later, large ceramics such as water jars were introduced from Bizen (Okayama Prefecture). These products eventually became popular and were called “Iwami no handa or hanto” (Iwami’s half-dollars), and at the end of the Edo period, they were transported to the Japan Sea coast by the Kitamae-Ship*. (*Merchant ship that sailed between Osaka and Hokkaido around the Sea of Japan)

In the 1950s, demand for Iwami ware as a water reservoir declined significantly due to the spread of water supply, but Iwami ware was able to survive the difficult times by taking advantage of its unique characteristics as a food storage material. 

Production Process and Methods

1. Mixing

Once the raw clay (gendo), the raw material for manufacturing pottery, is mined, it is dried in a covered area for at least six months in clumps of 30 cm to 40 cm in size so that the clay can be easily dispersed in water in the later stages of the manufacturing process. Drying makes the toxic substances contained in the raw clay easier to dissolve in water and remove.

2. Water Filtration and Dehydration

After the raw soil is dispersed in water to form muddy water, gravels such as sand and pebbles are removed from the muddy water. The muddy water is then dewatered using an “oro” (a wooden mortar) before being transferred to a “moribachi,” where it is allowed to dry naturally until the water content is reduced to approximately 25%.

3. Kiku-neri (chrysanthemum kneading)

Using both hands, the clay is kneaded so as to push it out to remove air bubbles contained in the clay and to homogenize the moisture content. It is called “Kiku-neri” because the clay becomes like petals of chrysanthemum while being kneaded. After the clay is kneaded thoroughly, it is cut into pieces of the size to be used on the rokuro, and the individual pieces of clay are further kneaded thoroughly to completely remove air bubbles from the inside.

4. Rokuro molding

The clay is placed on the potter’s wheel and shaped using a ladle and the palm of the hand. Depending on the type of pottery to be produced, the clay is shaped using techniques such as rokuro molding, tatara making, and tebineri (hand twisting), and is then dried after being scraped. In Iwami pottery, when making a huge jar (about 72 liters), another craftsman pulls a rope wrapped once around the foot of the pot in time with the rhythm of the potter shaping the pot. A distinctive feature of this technique is the use of stakes to prevent the rope from
slipping when being pulled.

Iwami pottery
Gotsu City Local Industry Promotion Center

5. Drying

After molding is completed, the pieces are laid out in an orderly fashion and dried.

6. Suyaki (unglazed)

The pieces are fired at about 800 degrees Celsius to strengthen the base of the piece and make it easier for the glaze to adhere to the piece.

7. Glazing

Glazes made mainly from Kimachi-Sabishi from the Izumo region are selected and applied on top of the product.

8. Dobu-kake (small articles)

For small ceramics, the product is dipped into a vat containing the glaze, holding the base of the product.

9. Kiln Stacking

Glazed products are arranged neatly in the kiln.

10. Firing

The inside of the kiln is set to a high temperature of approximately 1,250 to 1,280 degrees Celsius for full-scale firing. Products fired at high temperatures absorb less water and are stronger. After firing, the products are cooled naturally and carefully removed from the kiln for final inspection.

Gotsu City Local Industry Promotion Center


Iwami ware has a modern atmosphere, with shades of glaze that cannot be seen until firing, and the unique clay surface that appears on the surface of the ware. Nowadays, daily necessities such as plates are also produced, making Iwami ware a familiar traditional craft. Mino-yaki, Bizen-yaki, and Iga-yaki are examples of pottery that make use of the texture of the clay itself. However, Iwami ware is said to be particularly unparalleled in that the shades of color of the finished product are difficult to set in advance. This traditional Japanese craft is ideal for enjoying the texture of nature. 

Izumo stone lanterns   →


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