Japan is known as one of the places that can date its pottery tradition to the Neolithic era (the last part of the Stone Age and before the Copper / Bronze Age).
In fact, the oldest known evidence of pottery making in the world can be found in Japan, as well as Korea and southern China.
I am continuing to add pottery objects to my Etsy store, and enjoying the research aspect of this process, especially delving into and learning about the different and distinct styles of my pottery finds.
I recently listed Somayaki or “Soma Ware” double-wall pottery and found the story about these objects so interesting, especially that it was made in the Fukushima area of Japan.
Below is what I learned and the information posted for my Soma Ware listings.
Soma-yaki is a style of pottery that started over 300 years ago in Fukushima, Northern Japan, on the island of Honshu.
Among the characteristics that makes Somayaki pottery unique is its double wall, or multiple layer construction.
This clever design helps to insulate the pottery’s contents and keeps hot liquids hot, while the outer layer remains cool to touch.
It is actually two pieces of pottery that are joined together — and you can see the inner layer through the heart cutouts on the photographs for this listing.
Another unique feature of this style of pottery are the galloping horse motif — painted on one side of this teapot I listed…
As well as inside, and at the bottom of the bowl I listed…
According to the website ArtisticNippon.com (Yoshikawa Toki Co.) located in Choshi, Japan and specializing in Japanese pottery and porcelain, the galloping horse motiff is known as “Hashirigoma”.
From the ArtisticNippon.com website…
The origin of the motif is the subject of much speculation, but there can be no doubt that it is related to Soma’s long history of horse handling ( the “ma” in Soma actually means “horse”).
….The galloping horse motif is painted on Somayaki following the tradition of the Kano School of Painting, one of the most prominent and respected schools of art in Japan.”
Again, from ArtisticNippon.com:
“Aohibi” is the name given to the distinctive blue crackled glaze seen on most Somayaki ware.
A combination of these three distinctive features combine to create warm, rustic pieces imbued with a sense of history and peculiar to the area in which they are produced.
I also read that the scrolls seen on the pottery and the heart-shaped cut outs are to emulate wading birds, with the heart shape symbolizing the bird’s feet.
You may remember the March, 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, and subsequent disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power facility.
Sadly, the village where Soma-yaki pottery is made had to be evacuated due to its proximity to the nuclear power plant.
I did not find any other information aside from what was on the Artistic Nippon website, and they noted that the kilns were damaged during the earthquake.
It seems that unless the families and craftspeople who created this unique pottery are able to re-establish elsewhere, these objects may not be made in the quantity before the Fukushima disaster. A website that previously sold Soma Ware teapots in the U.S. lists the items as “out of stock”, and no information when they will be available.
Some of the Soma Ware pottery we see here in the U.S were brought back by Americans who served at military bases in Japan and Okinawa while in the Armed Forces.
It also appears that the San Francisco-based import company Otagiri imported these types of pottery from Japan to the U.S., as I’ve seen listings of this style pottery with Otagiri origins.
By the way, if you happen upon this post and have information on the pottery photographed for this post, I would appreciate it (please comment or send me an email at MyMarketTales@Gmailcom).
In particular, about the stamp on these pieces (the photo below is from the bottom, and the inner layer of the bowl I listed) and if the type of blue “Made in Japan” sticker gives a clue as to the date that the items were crafted.
- Informative photos of craftspeople creating Somayaki pottery, posted by Artistic Nippon
- Articles on Japanese Pottery from a blog about Japanese Ceramics (2dawgs.com)
- History of Japanese Ceramics from Asia-Art.net — I particularly liked reading their take on Modern Japanese Ceramics. Information clipped from website (click here to visit page)
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