Japanese pottery

Japanese pottery (yakimono, 焼き物 – not to be confused with yakimono ryori, 焼き物料理 which stands for "grilled food") is an umbrella name used to address any pottery made in Japan. The naming comes from the words yaku (焼く, to burn) and mono (物, tangible thing), roughly meaning "burnt thing".
Another common word is tōki (陶器). Although the two are used interchangeably even by Japanese people, they have slightly different meanings.

The word yakimono is used to indicate mainly 3 types of Japanese pottery: tōki (陶器, rendered in English as "ceramics"), jiki (磁器, "porcelain") and sekki (炻器, "stoneware").

Tōki (陶器) Made with clay in a kiln at temperatures between 1000 and 1300ºC. Often finished with glaze due to its tendency to absorb moisture. It is also referred to as doki (土器, "earthenware") when fired at lower temperatures.

Jiki (磁器) Made using silica stone, feldspars, or other rocks that have glass-like properties. The kiln is set at temperatures above 1300ºC.

Sekki (炻器) Made using types of clay that are naturally high in iron, fired at temperatures between 1100 and 1300ºC. It can be vitreous or semi-vitreous, which can result in opalesecence.

In some cases, such as with Bizen yaki, it is characterized by its rough looks and touch.

Being nonporous (does not absorb moisture), it does not require glaze finishing.

Types of Japanese pottery

There are several sub-categories of yakimono in Japan, with most of them sporting particular decorations, colors, textures or techniques. This article shows the most common ones in alphabetical order.
The description refers to the traditional local style, while also mentioning a few subtypes of pottery or famous local families (brands.) Some potters adopt approaches that differ from the most popular local style mentioned here, but that does not affect the authenticity of their works.

bizen yaki japanese pottery tableware

Origin

The art of shaping, firing and decorating clay to produce ceramics or porcelain was introduced from China around the 5th century. It was then developed and adapted to the Japanese customs for over a thousand years, especially favored by the demand for beautiful equipment for the tea ceremony (茶道, sadō).

It is integral part of Japanese culture, customs, and daily life, especially thanks to the wide range of plates and vessels used to prepare and serve Japanese food.

Authenticity

The naming "yakimono" covers any pottery made in Japan regardless of the specific type of clay used, the techniques, shapes, colors and themes. More focus is given to the place of origin of each piece, which makes it fall into one or another type out of the one listed above and more.

Did you know?

Some styles are widely known, such as Shigaraki yaki, Bizen yaki and Arita yaki. However, most of the styles are unknown to most, and this naturally means that many could not recognize a style from another.