Imari Nabeshima Ware
"Bone from an unparalleled history and tradition"

Nabeshima ware is a porcelain ware produced by the Nabeshima domain kiln, which was established in 1628 by 31 selected potters in the Arita and Imari areas (Saga Prefecture) as a project directly managed by the Saga Nabeshima domain in the early Edo period.

For about 250 years until the abolition of the domain in 1871, the Nabeshima ware, which could only be used by shoguns and feudal lords, continued to produce porcelain masterpieces such as "Iro-Nabeshima (colored Nabeshima)", "Sometsuke" and celadon porcelain, and others as masterpieces of the finest quality. Later, the kilns became private kilns, and new potters joined to create the present Imari Nabeshima ware. 

Charm of Imari Nabeshima Ware

Okawachiyama, the home of Nabeshima ware, is surrounded by mountains, and the scenery of 30 kilns lined up against the hill is as beautiful as an ink painting. Although now a popular tourist destination, during the Edo period (1603-1867), Nabeshima ware was produced under the strict control by the clan, which established a barrier to prevent people from entering the area.

Nabeshima ware was made for special purposes such as dedication and gift-giving, and therefore had to meet many standards to maintain its dignity and style as a feudal lord's tool.

For example, the design of the "Kodai (base)" had to have evenly spaced patterns like the teeth of a comb, with no deviations. The color painting was also characterized by the presence of underglaze painting lines in Gosu. Of course, the molding was extremely precise, and it was required that there be not one minute of distortion. For this reason, the beauty of Nabeshima ware is highly appreciated both domestically and internationally, even as the pinnacle of Japanese porcelain.

Until the Meiji era (1868-1912), Nabeshima ware was not available on the market and was never seen by the general public, but today it can be easily used in daily life as Imari Nabeshima ware. However, the high quality and beauty of Nabeshima ware have been passed down through the ages, and it is used as a wedding gift or as a longevity gift, as it can be cherished and used for a long time.

Style of Imari Nabeshima Ware

There are three main types of Nabeshima ware: Iro-Nabeshima, Sometsuke, and Celadon ware.  These characteristics have been carried over to the current Imari Nabeshima ware, and the designs are both popular and highly regarded.

Iro-Nabeshima

After outlines are drawn with indigo-colored gosu, the inside is overglazed with red, "Kibi (yellow)", and "moyogi (green)". Although it appears that many colors are used, in fact only three colors are used in overglaze painting, a characteristic of Iro-Nabeshima, and its beauty is said to be the pinnacle of Japanese porcelain.

Sometsuke

The design is applied using only indigo-colored "Gosu" on a transparent base. The full range of techniques, such as the application of an even coating so that no brushstrokes can be seen after a firm outline has been drawn, and the meticulous "Sumi-hajiki (repellent ink)" technique, give Nabeshima ware the dignity and sophistication. 

Celadon

Celadon glaze made from high quality celadon gemstones produced in Okawachiyama is applied to the whole or part of the ware, sometimes with underglaze Sometsuke or Iro-e painting. There are bluish and greenish "Kannyu" (crack-like finish) finishes.

Photo by Courtesy of Hataman Touen

Popular Kilns

Hataman Touen

Hataman Touen is a company that aims to "create a new Nabeshima" along with passing on the history and traditional craft of Imari Nabeshima ware, which has continued for 370 years. Based on the belief that "traditional crafts can only be inherited if they are closely connected to daily life," the company offers tableware that enriches the spirit and sensibility in accordance with modern lifestyles.

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Kosen Kiln

Nabeshima Kosen Kiln specializes in products that use a variety of the three techniques that are characteristic of Nabeshima ware: Iro-Nabeshima, Sometsuke, and celadon. The company's founder, Tameo Kawasoe, has long studied celadon porcelain with a strong desire to make Nabeshima celadon ware available to as many people as possible.

The current third generation, with a vision of "establishing Nabeshima culture," began research and development of celadon from a different perspective from that of his grandfather. The kiln is working daily with the hope that the future of Nabeshima ware will be enriched 100 years from now.

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