Area: 55.90km²
Total population: 58,902 people * As of February 2018
Climate: average temperature 16.2℃, precipitation 1,390 mm ※ 2017
Local specialties: ceramic industry, rice, chrysanthemum, egg,
cabbage, strawberry, fig, nori(seaweed), clam, sake, miso, soy sauce.
Number of pottery establishments: 58, Number of people employed: 1511 people * December 2014
(Number of business establishments in December 1991: 435, Number of employees: 9,291 people)
"Toko" = floor or ground, "Name" = smooth" is said to be the origin of the name Tokoname.
Located in the western part of Aichi · Chita peninsula. Moderate climate. Introduction Video

Tokoname City, Aichi

The largest production area of the Six Ancient kilns, rich in skills

Facing Ise Bay on the western coast of the Chita Peninsula, Tokoname utilized its sea routes for distribution and development to become the largest production area of the The Six Ancient Kilns. It also influenced the style of other production areas such as Tamba and Shigaraki. It is said that Tokai Lake supplied Tokoname’s high quality clay. The lake existed from 650 to 1 million years ago. At its peak, it was said to cover the area from the southern part of Gifu to the Owari and Suzuka regions. Sediments accumulating at the bottom of the lake created the high quality clay in Tokoname. During the end of the Heian era(Heian period:794-1185) anagama (cellar kilns) were built and mountain bowls called "Yama-chawan" and as well as jars were produced in the Chita Peninsula. During the Kamakura period(1185-1333), the production of large-sized pots and jars exceeding 50 centimeters began. These mass-produced pots and jugs were transported by sea and distributed to theTohoku and Kyushu regions. In the latter half of the Edo period( Edo period: 1603-1867), Renbo-shiki noborigama (the climbing kiln) was adopted, and clay pipes, jugs, and "shudei" (red-brown tea pots) were produced. In modern times, Western European technology was introduced to advance mechanization, resulting in the production of brick tiles and sanitary ware. During the Meiji era(1868-1912), decorative jars had a good response overseas, creating a Japonism boom, whilst in Tokoname, western technology such as plaster and coal kilns were introduced and implemented. After the war, ornaments and western tableware using these newly introduced technologies supported the reconstruction of Japan.

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Pottery Characteristics

Much like the Seto kilns, Tokoname kilns originated from the Sanage kilns. However, Tokoname ware differed from Seto ware. Tokoname produced large pots and jugs by using a unglazed method called "yakishime".
Originally, the pottery was produced for the religious rituals and daily necessities of aristocrats and temples, but in response to local demands, pots and jugs were created to meet the daily needs of the common people. The stratum deposited in Tokai Lake consisted of high iron content, making it possible to fire pottery even at low temperatures. Due to this, many large pottery pieces were created. In the latter half of the Heian period(794-1185), the “yoriko” method of making pots was established. This technique required the potter to carry a 7 to 10 centimeter string of clay on his shoulder. The potter himself rotated around the piece in order to stack the clay. This method is still inherited today.

Lasting 1000 Years - Reason 1

Hills rich in soil

The Tokoname Kilns are located amongst the rolling hills of the Chita Peninsula. The gentle slopes here were a prime spot for kiln building and the remains of some 3000 kilns dating back to medieval times can be found . In addition to this, the soil in the Chita Peninsula originated from the sediments of Tokai Lake, which existed some 650 to 1million years ago in the area, between the southern part of Gifu, the Owari, and the Suzuka regions. This soil included a high amount of iron, and therefore required little heat when fired. As a result, the soil was suitable for making large jars and earthenware pots, and is one of the reasons why Tokoname ware traditions have continued from the Middle Ages to the present day.

Landscape of Sakaemachi, Tokoname

Lasting 1000 Years - Reason 2

Good access to waterways and ships

The reasons behind the wide distribution of Tokoname ware and it's notoriously large pieces of pottery have to do with its transportation by ship across Japan. Tokoname pottery was distributed widely from the Tohoku region in the north all the way to the Kyushu region in the south. Based on the fact that it has also been unearthed in the Tohoku and Kanto regions, it is apparent that rivers and coastal areas also facilitated the distribution of pottery. Logistically speaking, transportation via the sea was more efficient than carrying large amounts of pottery across land. In addition, as the Chita Peninsula is surrounded by the sea on three sides and centrally located, there was good accessibility to both the east and west side of the country.

The exporting of clay pipes from Tokoname port (Taisho era)

Lasting 1000 Years - Reason 3

Adapting to meet the needs of changing times

Present day Tokoname is known for its production of the Kyusu teapot and the Maneki-neko (a cat figurine believed to bring luck), but these products are relatively new in the history of Tokoname ware, and there were other products and artifacts that were produced to meet the needs of various times throughout history. For example, Tokoname has continued to make jars since as early as the late Heian period(Heian period:794-1185). By examining the jar through different periods of history, one can see that the shape of the spout and the form itself has changed over time. It is not clear why the shape of the spout changed, but it has been said that as time went by, larger jars were in demand, and that the spout was adapted accordingly to support the size of the jar. The largest jars made by Tokoname’s craftsmen were made in the Showa era(1926-1989) and could hold up to 3000 liters of liquids.

The continuous production of earthenware pots since the late Heian period.
Collection of Tokoname Tounomori

The history of Tokoname ware

Tokoname ware kilns, which themselves had been influenced by the Sanage kilns, eventually influenced other areas of pottery making, such as Shigaraki and Echizen. You can see characteristics of this in their clay pipes and red stoneware teapots.

※Nara period:710-794/Heian period:794-1185/Kamakura period:1185-1333/ Muromachi period:1336-1573/Sengoku period:1467-1568/Azuchi-Momoyama period:1573-1603/Edo period:1603-1867/Meiji era:1868-1912/Taisho era:1912-1926/Showa era:1926-1989

Late Heian era (around year 1100)

Beginning of Tokoname ware

The beginning of Tokoname ware, which drew its influences from the Sanage kilns, dates back to the late Heian era (around year 1100). These kilns were built on the hills of the Chita Peninsula. Their main products were clay bowls, pots, and jugs. The kilns used during these times were simple kilns called anagama (cellar kilns) and it is said that up to 3000 kilns were built in this area of the Chita Peninsula. According to archaeological findings, Tokoname ware pots were widely distributed to large cities across Japan, such as Hiraizumi, Kamakura, Kyoto, Sakai, Hiroshima, Hakata, and Dazaifu.

Anagama (cellar kilns) at the Kogaike old kiln site.
The late Heian period

From the late Heian period to the Kamakura period

What was it used for? How was it transported?

Bowls and dishes were mainly used for cooking, while pots and jars were used for storage. At the Kyodzuka ruins, a copper cylinder containing a transcript of Buddhist scriptures on paper was found placed in a wide-mouthed pot, enshrined in a cellar. It is not rare to find cremated human bones as well. Furthermore from the many bottles discovered at a site that has previous records of having a sake brewery during the Kamakura period, leads one to believe that these pots were used for the storage of sake. It is believed that these bottles were not only used for storing alcohol, but also for the storage of oil and indigo dye. Such pottery with a variety of everyday uses, was carried to various parts of the country, mainly by water as it was carried across the country by ship.

Shizen Yuu Nekogakimon Oogame (Natural glazed earthenware cat)
The late Heian period / Collection of Tokoname Tounomori

From the Muromachi period to the Edo period

Changing times and the transformation of kilns

The simple kiln was widespread across the Chita Peninsula, but during the period of the northern and southern dynasties, the number of kilns rapidly declined, and the only ones that remained were those in the former Tokoname city area. In the 15th century, these kilns were improved to semi-underground-style kilns called “Ogama”. Pottery from this period is covered with a muddy, white natural glaze due to the use of grass, leaves, and twigs to fuel its kilns. In the Edo period, these large kilns were still used, but in the Tenpo period, in the late Edo period (Edo period:1603-1867), a new type of ascending kiln was introduced from Korea. This ascending kiln had a structure in which the firing chambers were connected by steps, enabling all products to be fired efficiently at high temperature.

Renbo-shiki Noborigama Shoseishitsu (Climbing kiln firing room)
Meiji era

Late Edo period

Appearance of the Kyusu Teapot

One of the most recognized and known products of Tokoname ware is the “kyusu” teapot from the Edo period. In the late Edo period, sencha tea became popular. In Tokonoma it is widely considered that Inaba Shozaemon first began making teapots during the Bunsei period. After this, in the Tempo period, Ina Choza the 2nd discovered a white mud called “hakudeitsuchi” in Itayama and invented the "Hiiro-yaki" style, by placing dried seaweed on top of the mud before firing it. These seaweed-covered teapots have been excavated from various ruins of the Edo period. Moreover, the red-brown teapots produced today were invented by Sugie Jumondo in the first year of Ansei, based off the Yixing clay teapot (also known as “purple sand pots”) from the area of Yixing in the Jiangsu Province of China.

Nidai Chougi Hakudei Mogake Kyusu
Edo period / Private collection

Early Meiji era

Meiji Restoration and Tokoname ware

During the Edo period, new comers were severely restricted by the shareholder system, but when the old system was abolished after the Meiji Restoration, the number of foreign visitors increased. The new government's encouragement of exports created a demand for new products. In addition, sewage maintenance required modern clay pipes, which led to the creation of Tokoname ware pipes. Richard Henry Brunton, a hired foreign government advisor, ordered the production of these and Koie Hoju led the production of these clay pipes. During the Meiji era, energy was put into the education of young people through the founding of a handicrafts school by Koie Hoju, and the hiring of Naito Yozo.

Transition of earthenware pipes
Meiji era / Collection of Tokoname Tounomori

Taisho era

The Imperial Hotel's Architectural Pottery

The Imperial Hotel marked its opening with a ceremony in the fall of 1923 of the Taisho era (Taisho era: 1912-1926). Designed by American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, the surface was covered with Oya stone and tiles, using terracotta fired in Tokoname during the Taisho era. During the Great Kanto Earthquake, buildings made out of bricks were destroyed, but as the Imperial Hotel had been made out of reinforced concrete, it remained untouched, thus making a lasting reputation for its strength. Today, visitors can see the building at the Museum Meiji-Mura in Inuyama, Aichi. As a result, reinforced concrete construction became popular, and architectural pottery production came to occupy a large part of Tokoname's ceramic industry.

Exterior of the Imperial Hotel
Meiji-Mura Museum