Kutani-yaki is pottery with overglaze painting, made in the southern cities of Kanazawa, Komatsu, Kaga, and Nomi in Ishikawa Prefecture. With its vivid colors, it has attracted many fans overseas, and many of the relatively new types of Kutani-yaki are exported, so some of you might be already familiar with it.
The history of Kutani-yaki goes back to around the 17th century. The first lord of Daishoji Domain, Maeda Toshiharu, told his retainer Goto Saijiro to go learn about pottery in Hizen-arita, after magnetite was discovered in Kaneyama, Kutani, which is now Sannaka cho, Kutani in Ishikawa Prefecture. He adopted its techniques and built a kiln in Kutani, which is said to be the beginning of Kutani-yaki.
With the exquisite use of many vivid colors such as blue, green and yellow and bold and unconventional patterns, Kutani-yaki came in many forms. It soon received high acclaim as the best representation porcelain with overglaze painting in Japan, earning praise in particular for its uniqueness and the powerful beauty of its shapes.
However, the kiln in Kutani was suddenly closed around 1730. The reason is still unknown to this day, and the truth is yet to be discovered, while the rumor has it that it had something to do with “troubles in business.” The mysteries surrounding Kutani-yaki might be yet another factor that makes people attracted to it. The ones that were made before this incident are called “Ko (old) kutani” to differentiate from those made afterwards.
About 80 years after the closing of kiln, the Kasugayama kiln was opened in Kanazawa under the direct management of Kaga Domain. Around the same time, new porcelain stone was discovered in the nearby area, which further boosted the revival, and Kaga Domain, which used to get its ceramics from other countries, protected the local industry by prohibiting the import of porcelain and pottery.
During the Meiji era, Saishoku-kinrante of Kutani Shoza became popular, and Kutani-yaki made itself a key export. Presented at expositions such as the Weltausstellung 1873 Wien, it facilitated international communication, and since then, Kutani-yaki has adopted Western methods into its production process, strategically expanding itself into the global market.
Photo by Ishikawa Prefecture Tourism League
Kutani pottery village
22 Minami Izumidaimachi Nomi-shi Ishikawa-ken
Ishikawa Prefecture Tourism Bussan Museum
2-20 Kenrokumachi Kanazawa-shi Ishikawa-ken