Previously we introduced the Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts, and since then we have been lucky enough to make use of some of the museum staff’s time to learn more about Japanese crafts from Kyoto. They were kind enough to answer some questions, and even provide photos of their exhibits, regarding the famous ceramic craft of Kyoto Kiyomizu-yaki!
Kiyomizu-yaki, along with Kyo-yaki, are general terms used for all ceramics which are made in Kyoto. The ceramic industry in this beautiful area of Japan date back to the 5th century, but in particular this craft developed during the Azuchi-Momoyama Period (1573-1603), and in the following Edo Period (1603-1868) many kilns for making ceramics were built.
During the Edo Period, Ninsei Nonomura (1574-1660/66. Also known as Nonomura Seisuke. Established the Omuro Kiln and had close ties with a tea master Kawamori Sowa. This tea master felt that the concept of kirei-sabi (refined beauty) could be found in Ninsei’s ceramics) developed the technique of colorful painting on ceramics, and after that, many talented potters such as Kenzan Ogata, Eisen Okuda, and Mokubei Aoki developed unique designs using various techniques.
Kyo-yaki / Kiyomizu-yaki has two styles: “tsuchi-mono”, earthenware, and “ishi-mono”, porcelain. They are traditionally used as tableware, ornaments, and utensils for the Japanese tea ceremony and flower arrangement.
What is the connection between Kyoto and ceramics?
Ceramics in Kyoto dates back to around the 5th century.
In 794, the capital was moved to Heian-kyo (present day Kyoto city) and ceramic engineering was encouraged by the government.
Pottery factories were founded in several places in Kyoto such as Awataguchi, Yasaka, Kiyomizu, and Otoha, which are the industrial areas of Kyo-yaki and Kiyomizu-yaki today.
Pottery in Kyoto had its first golden period in the 17th century, the beginning of Edo period, when Nonomura Ninsei created gorgeous and elegant painted pottery called “Kokiyomizu” in Higashiyama district.
After that, Ogata Kenzan and Ogata Korin (brothers) learned Ninsei’s techniques and developed their own style. That popularized painted pottery.
At the end of the 18th century, in the late Edo era, the basic style of Kyo-yaki and Kiyomizu-yaki was founded and it spread throughout other industrial areas in Japan.
Now, therefore, Kyo-yaki and Kiyomizu-yaki are considered to be original Japanese pottery and they have a strong connection with the city center of Kyoto.
Can you tell us about the differences between “tsuchi-mono”, earthenware, and “ishi-mono”, porcelain?
The ingredients are different, but their processes (modeling, firing, and painting) are almost the same.
Tsuchi-mono is made from paste that does not contain glass and it is fired at a low temperature.
Ishi-mono is made from pocelain clay that consists mainly of glass (feldspar) and it is fired at a high temperature.
Does one craftsperson make the whole thing or do different craftspeople handle different stages?
Most Kyo-yaki and Kiyomizu-yaki are handmade and their production processes are divided into different stages.
Each stage is handled by its own specialist. Sometimes there is even a producer who supervises these stages.
Where in Kyoto can one see ceramics being made?
There are 5 industrial areas producing pottery in Higashiyama district, in Kyoto city. All of them are open and it is possible to visit their workshops.
Please tell us about the importance of having places like the Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts for showing people crafts from Kyoto.
Since the relocation of Heiankyo, Kyoto thrived as the capital and developed as a center of politics, culture, and industry in Japan.
On the basis of this historical background, Kyoto has created a culture of excellence and has produced various crafts, constantly incorporating new things.
Fureaikan (Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts) is the meeting place for industry and culture, and we hope people from all over the world will come to experience the beauty and the techniques that have lived in Kyoto.
Fureaikan displays 74 Japanese traditional crafts made in Kyoto and highlights each of them to introduce the history and culture of Kyoto.
Our aim is to disseminate knowledge of the world of traditional crafts, such as the histories and production processes of each of these various crafts.
Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts
Inside the museum you can see 74 kinds of traditional handicrafts displayed by which the essence of Kyoto’s traditional industries is shown to visitors. Besides just showing these crafts panels and videos are used to provide detail about the manufacturing processes and techniques of traditional handicrafts. The museum includes a gallery which regularly holds new exhibitions which can feature fine arts, a library with a collection of books and videos on traditional Japanese crafts and an event room that exhibits the work of young craftspeople and also demonstrations.
Kyoto continues to be fundamental in developing Japan’s traditional culture and partly for this reason it has become very popular for tourists to visit. Aspects of Japanese tradition which are most famous around the world, such as tea ceremony and flower arrangement, developed in Kyoto and even today it is popular to experience these traditions in this amazing city. Traditional industries in Kyoto are part and parcel of Japanese culture and lifestyle, something which is not always remembered, but which many are fighting to remind many people of. The beautiful crafts at Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts are the result of a long history of expertise and professionalism amongst the craftspeople of Kyoto.
In addition the museum regularly holds special events, for example they currently have a traditional dance performance by Maiko (women training to be Geisha) every Sunday which includes a lecture about a Maiko’s kimono and accessories.
A big thank you to the Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts for their help with this article!
Address : B1F Miyakomesse, 9-1, Okazaki Seishoji-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, 606-8343, Japan