What is Mino Ceramic Ware?

In the Tono region of Gifu Prefecture during the late Kofun period of 7th century, pottery called Sue Ware, different to clay pottery, was fired in Anagama kilns made by digging into mountain slopes.This is thought to be the origin of Mino Ceramics Ware.


Later, in the early 10th century during the Heian period, Shirashi ware, pottery coated with glaze called Kaiyu, which also used Anagama kilns was beginning to be made.These copied the excellent white porcelain from China's Tang-Sung period and were distributed to nobility, as well as temples and shrines.

Eventually, the production of Shirashi ware started to show a gradual decline from the end of the Heian period. Intead, production shifted to that of unglazed bowls and small plates. This pottery was called Yamajawan. This shift in production is thought to be because this pottery started to become widely used among commoners and the pottery production started within different regions around Japan. Also, during the period between kamakura and Muromachi(13th-15th century), a small of jars, tea leaf containers, and other similar pottery coated with Kaiyu and iron glaze, called Kozeto, were being made in Seto kilns in the region adjacent to Mino.
During the Sengoku period in the end of the 15th century, large kilns, which were vastly different to Anagama kilns structurally and were built to be more heat efficient, started to appear. These kilns were used for 130 years until the Azuchi-Momoyama period, and the types of products made can broadly classified into two period; early and latter period.

During early periods, products glazed in Kaiyu and iron glaze were created. Because Japanese tea ceremonies and Ikebana proliferated from this period, onward, bowls, tea containers, and flower vases copied from Karamono, imported from China were being made.

In the latter period, as the tea ceremony rose to its zenith, blows completely different to the ones produced previously, such as Kizeto, Setoguro, and Shino, were manufactured. Until the Oribe started to be produced in the next era, this period was the most florid period of Mino Momoyama-tou.

Around 1605 connected climbing kilns, which were capable of mass produciton unlike large kilns, were introduced from Saga prefecture's Karatsu district. They were structured so that firing chambers where pottery were baked were connected in a stair-like form. The waste heat from lower chambers was utilized in upper chambers, firing the pottery gradually, which increased the thermal efficiency remarkably. The first kilns introduced to Mino were Motoyashiki Kilns in Toki City's Kujiri district. In these kikns, Oribe was fired, as well as pottery with shapes that broke the conventional forms, and patterns that were novel and geometric. Later, Ofukeyu, which imitated celadon porcelain, started to appear.

When these ties with tea ceremonies started to dissipate, production shifted its focus to wares for commoners. During the mid-Edo period, iron-glazed daily tableware was mass-produced and sold in regions centered in Edo. Also, during the late Edo-period(around 1804-1829), the production of china was started in Mino as well.

In the Meiji period, the production and sales of Mino Ceramic Ware were no longer constricted, giving to the rise to the number of workshops and china shops. Blue and White porcelain become main stream and transfer printing techniques of patterns were developed for massproduction purposes. On the other hand , Mino Ceramic Ware displayed its exquisite skills in handicraft, receiving favorable reputation when they were presented at World Expos in the West, which were popular during those times. Potters Gosuke Kato and Enji Nishiura especially received high praise, and exports abroad prospered.

During World War I, which erupted in 1914, manufacturing in the warring nations diminished and supplies grew short. This led to Japan gaining access to the world's markets from the outbreak of the war, and resulted in a prosperous economy, Riding this economic wave, the number of producers and increased and manufacturing facilities expanded. In terms of kilns, the coal-burning kilns become favored over the connected climbing kilns, and pottery molding gained momentum through the introduction of the electric pottery wheels.

As Japan started to move towards Sino-Japanese War after the Manchurian Incident of 1931, coal become scarce in Japan, due to the priority given to military industries. The ceramic and porcelain industries. whichi transitioned to utilizing coal kilns, found themselves in a difficult situation. Furthermore, the price regulations imposed caused the price of commodities to freeze, and trade embergoes from the onset of the Pacific War forced many in the ceramic and porcelain industries to change their professions or close their businesses bue to the industrial Act.

After the war, the ceramic and porcelain industries had suffered a great blow as did other industries. However, orders from war-ravaged areas hastened the re-opening of the industry. Nevertheless, the shortage in coal supplies hadn't changed since the wartime, and obtaining coal was not easy in the beginning. Exports of ceramics and porcelain goods were re-started, and the yen depreciation against the rising American dollar meant that the yen exchange rate was in favorable terms. Despite this, an unstable state for the industries continued for a while. However, when Japan entered the 1950s, the manufacturing of Mino Ceramic Ware increased year by year, riding the tide of high economic growth. Its growth was supported by the progress in manufacturing technology and improvements in over-glazed decoration techniques.

The long recession brought by the burst of the economic bubble, the rise of production areas of cheap ceramic and porcelain goods in countries such as China, and the change in lifestyle in the cuisine environment have caused the Mino Ceramic Ware industry, which came to focus on mass production, to face a major crisis in recent years. Currently, the industry is attempting to revitalize the bussiness by shifting to to high-mix low-volume manufacturing, which is difficult for the cheaper foreign goods to cover. Furthermore, multilateral approaces, such as looking into association and industry tourism, are being taken into consideration.

With a tradition and history spanning 1,300 years, the Mino Ceramic is making a great transformation into a new area of production

  • Kizeto


    This is yellow pottery created in Mino during the Momoyama period . The name derives from the fact that it supposedly was fired in Seto from old times. However, it later become clear in the first year of the Showa period(1989) that tea ceramics were fired in Mino during the Momoyama period. Besides tableware such as Hachi bowls and Mukozuke plates, there are flower vases and incense containers, and some were decorated with the green color from Tanpan and the brown color from Tessai.

  • Setoguro


    This pottery was created using a method that draws out a black color from firing in large kilns in Mino during the Momoyama period . Just like with the Kizeto pottery, the name comes from the fact that it was mistakenly acknowledged to have been created in Seto. While Kizeto was mainly tableware, Setoguro only came in the form of bowls. The jet-black color of Setoguro is produced by taking the pottery out of the kilns during firing, then cooling it down rapidly.

  • Shino


    This pottery was fired in large kilns in Mino during the Momoyama period. Coated with Choseki-yu(Shino-yu), the color white is the basic tone of the pottery. There are bowls, blower vases, Mukozuke plates, and bowls. Depending on the methods used, the pottery can be divided into different categoies, such as Muji-Shino, E-Shino, Beni-Shino, Aka-Shino, Nezumi-Shino, and Neriage-Shino. E-Shino was the first pottery in Japan to extensively use brushes to draw patterns on with.

  • Oribe


    Oribe is novel pottery that was fired in connected climbing kilns in Mino during the beginning of the 17th century. Its name comes from Furuta Oribe-nokami Shigenari(1544-1612), who was the Keicho period's peerless master of the tea ceremony. Other than bowls, many Kaiseki utensil masterpieses, such as mukozuke plates and bowls, were produced. Depending on the technique used, Oribe pottery can be divided into categories such as Ao-Oribe, So-Oribe, Aka-Oribe, Narumi-Oribe, Shino-Oribe, kuro-Oribe, and Oribe-Kuro.