There are four main types of pottery in Japan; earthenware, unglazed stoneware, glazed pottery and porcelain. Pottery emerged over ten thousand years ago during the prehistoric era. The majority of pottery made in Japan was made for utilitarian reasons, though it still manages to be quite beautiful. Pottery is an ancient art that has grown more sophisticated and refined with the perfection of porcelain ware.
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The emergence of earthenware in Japan dates back to the Jomon period. This neolithic era spanned from 10,000 to 300 B.C. Advances in the pottery of this era were due to the introduction and influence of more advanced techniques from areas of China and Korea. Most pieces were meant for storage and functionality like jugs, teapots, pans and vases. There are also relics and figurines of religious origin.
Satsuma ware originated in the 1600s, and was made of brown clay. Satsuma ware is something between porcelain and pottery because it fired at a lower temperature than porcelain. Prince Satsuma from the southern region of Kyushu Island established a kiln with the assistance of Korean potters. The features of Satsuma pottery are ivory-coloured, crackled glaze that is highly decorated with polychrome colours and gold. Late in the 18th century, this pottery became so popular that clay from Kyushu island was transported to Awata, which is near Kyoto, where Satsuma was produced and known as Kyoto Satsuma. This pottery was made to keep up with Western demands for the unique pottery.
Also originating in the 1600s was porcelain known as Arita, or Arita Blue & White. Generally porcelain with white and blue underglaze is known as Sometsuke. This porcelain features an inky blue underglaze and lively intricate figures. In the 1600s, this style of porcelain was so popular in Japan that they could not keep up with the demand, so China produced and exported it to Japan to keep up with the Japanese demand.
Today the name Imara is applied to Japanese porcelain in general. The name originates from the port of Imari near Arita. This is the port where most of the ceramics produced in Japan were exported to foreign countries. Different styles of Imari pottery are named after the regions they are produced in, or the families that developed them.
At the end of World War II the Allied forces occupied Japan. This occupation began August 14, 1945 and lasted till April 28, 1952. During this time half of all Japanese export items had to be marked with "Occupied Japan" or "made in Occupied Japan". The majority of items they exported were kitchenware and many of those were items of pottery such as vases, dishes and china. Sale of these items helped to rebuild the nation's economy.
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