Iwami ware may not be very well known to Japanese people these days, but every family used to have one at home back in the day when running water was not available. Each family needed a large pot to store water. The Iwami giant pot, called “Hando”, was of a size big enough for a child to hide inside. It was very popular, and faced a huge demand from all over Japan. The special ceramic method that Iwami made famous was first introduced to this area from Iwakuni province around Yamagata prefecture in 1763. It had a strong water resistance characteristic because of the type of local clay used and the high temperature of its firing. Thus, it was ideal for making a water pot.
As municipal water systems became more prevalent in the 1950s, storing water became less necessary. Furthermore, the introduction of plastic containers caused a further deterioration of the Iwami wares industry. However, the craft survived by adapting to social changes and catering its pottery to the masses. The most common Iwami pots were for storing pickled vegetables/fruits and miso, because they helped food from being spoiled from acidification and alkalization. Iwami ware was registered as one of the Traditional Crafts of Japan in 1994.
Iwami ware originally came in reddish brown and/or semi-clear blue glazes. However, that eventually changed, and different glazes were introduced as well. Flower vases, tableware, mugs and umbrella stands are also made in the Iwami style, and they all radiate the warm energy of the earth. Recently, local businesses announced a collaboration had begun between the nearby hot spring resort of Arifuku Onsen and Iwami ware makers to showcase a fine dining experience with Iwami-made tableware. This type of project is sure to attract nationwide publicity. We hope in the future, people will rediscover the nostalgic yet distinctive beauty of Iwami ware.
Photo by Gotsu City Tourist Association
Shimane-Sekiou Industrial Promotion center
405 I Kakushicho Gotsu-shi Shimane-ken
Shimaneken Bussan Kankokan
191 Tonomachi Matsue-shi Shimane-ken