Bizen Ware

Bizen Ware_1 Bizen Ware_2

Bizen is named after the village of Imbe, Bizen in Okayama prefecture. It has a history of more than 1,000 years, which makes it one of the oldest pottery making techniques in Japan. It is made using either a mixture of two kinds of clays with different densities, or rough clay that has a rich deep reddish brown color because of its high iron content.

Pottery pieces are placed in a climbed kiln and pine wood are used as fuel. Pine wood contains resin, which creates high temperature. Pine wood discharges too much smoke to be used for fireplaces, but is ideal for kilns.

Climb kilns are set up on hillside terrace in a step-like manner. The placement of pottery inside a kiln changes the conditions in which it is fired, resulting in various different outcomes.  In fact, nobody can predict how each piece of pottery will turn out!

It is remarkable to see the variety of results for pieces made from the same clays and similar firing.  Some artists like their kiln temperature at 600 degrees Celsius, and others keep it more than 1,200 degrees. Some of them may end up destroyed inside the kiln after burning for more than 7 days. On the other hand, one of these can turn out to be a masterpiece. The artist’s “not knowing” and lack of desire to predict the outcome may contribute to be their creative burning passion.

Bizen pottery can make for great decorative pieces because of its “matches anything” color and its simplicity. People say that food tastes more delicious when served on a Bizen plate, and flowers seem to last longer in a Bizen vase. Sake tastes better with a Bizen cup as well. So one day, a scientist from Okayama Institute of Technology decided to find out why. His experiment led to the discovery that Bizen pottery blocks 90 % of far infrared rays, keeping nearby natural materials fresh, and in the case of food, preserving their taste. The uneven surface of the pottery also makes beer taste better. These factors make Bizen pottery an all around winner. No wonder it is the favorite tableware of high-end restaurants.

 

Photo by Okayama Prefectural Tourist Federation

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