Hagi ware

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Hagi ware tea bowl (chawan), Edo period, 18th-19th century (Freer Gallery of Art)

Hagi ware (萩焼 Hagi-yaki?) is a type of Japanese pottery traditionally from the town of Hagi, Yamaguchi, in the former Nagato Province.


The pottery known as Hagi ware originated in the early 17th century when Korean potters were brought back to Japan during Japanese invasions of Korea.[1][2][3]

Lord Mōri Terumoto of the Chōshū Domain, who resided at Hagi Castle, was interested in tea ceremony and became a patron of local sources. Various pottery was commissioned exclusively for the lord’s tea ceremonies. The subtle forms and unadorned colour developed a high reputation in the world of tea.[4] The way the colour of the green tea contrasted with the warm tones of the ceramic was something that was widely admired. There is a saying in the tea ceremony schools for the preferred types of chawan: "Raku first, Hagi second, Karatsu third."[5]

The tradition of tea ceremonies and tea houses continue to this day in Hagi, which in turn created demand for vessels. Artists include Koraizaemon Saka Xl and Koraizaemon Saka XlI (高麗左衛門), Sakata Deika XIII (坂田泥華), Tobei Tahara Xll (田原陶兵衛), Yū Okada (岡田裕), an expert is Miwako Masaki.[6][7][8][9] A non-Japanese artist is Bertil Persson.[10]


Hagi ware chawan with macha green tea, by Yū Okada (2011)

The base material is fine-grained soft clay, of which there are two types. The earth is mixed with water and then strained. Wood chips are then added to it, which causes the lighter parts to rise while the heavier parts sink to the bottom. This preparation process is repeated for two weeks until the water is clear of particles and the pure, warm colour of the fine clay comes out at the bottom of the vat. The reddish to orange warm tones of the clay are important, as they affect the surface texture and colour. Wares tend to be formed on the wheel.

However the beauty of Hagi ware is considered not only in its colour, but also the glaze. The translucent beige glaze is to draw out the natural colors of the clay, and is not a superficial but a colour with depth. After firing in the kiln, the glaze creates its signature fine web of cracks during the cooling period. These cracks called kan-nyuu (貫入), or crazing, are created for a certain purpose. The crazing affects how the pottery matures over time. When the vessel is fired and then cooled, the cracks form because the glaze shrinks more than the clay. For example with a tea bowl chawan as it is used over time, the tea particles will slowly wander through the glaze cracks, which over time changes the colour of the glaze turning it darker. As the vessel turns darker and acquires a patina, this is the actual look that is considered desirable. A Hagi ware vessel can therefore change colour many times, depending on its age and how often it is used.[11]

The signature chip located on the bottom is a local tradition from the Edo period when potters would deliberately disfigure their wares in order to sell them to merchants instead of presenting them as gifts to the Mōri clan.[12]

White Hagi[edit]

White Hagi ware has a more modern appearance and was developed at the Miwa kiln under the 10th generation Miwa Kyusetsu X Kyuwa (三輪休雪, 1895-1981), who became a Living National Treasure. He adjusted the old recipe by altering how the straw was burned and mixing it into the glaze solution to ultimately create a purer shade of white. His brother became Miwa Kyusetsu XI and also became Living National Treasure.[13] He was followed by his son Miwa Kyusetsu XII Ryosaku in 2003.[14] Kazuhi Miwa is the current master at the 300-year old kiln.[15]

The mixture for the black glaze contains high levels of iron and enhances the contrast with the white glaze. The mixture for the white glaze contains Feldspar and wood ash. It is initially black and very thick in its viscosity, particularly noticeable in the way it flows down the vessel. Typically, the potter dips the vessel into the vat with the glaze for the white, and in extracting the vessel he or she can move the vessel around for the glaze to drip slowly in the direction desired. The aim is for the slowly dripping glaze is to add dimension and movement to the piece - for example, in expressing the passage of time through the flow of the drip. The carbon in the glaze then evaporates during firing and turns into a translucent white, with the high iron glaze in black emerging from under the background. Both the rich white glaze that coats the vessel and the black glaze in the background create a strong contrast with each other.[16]


  • Wilson, Richard L. Inside Japanese Ceramics. Weatherhill, New York and Tokyo, Second Edition 2005. ISBN 0-8348-0442-5


  1. ^ Purple Tigress (August 11, 2005). "Review: Brighter than Gold - A Japanese Ceramic Tradition Formed by Foreign Aesthetics". BC Culture. Retrieved 2008-01-10. 
  2. ^ "Muromachi period, 1392-1573". Metropolitan Museum of Art. October 2002. Retrieved 2008-01-10. 1596 Toyotomi Hideyoshi invades Korea for the second time. In addition to brutal killing and widespread destruction, large numbers of Korean craftsmen are abducted and transported to Japan. Skillful Korean potters play a crucial role in establishing such new pottery types as Satsuma, Arita, and Hagi ware in Japan. The invasion ends with the sudden death of Hideyoshi. 
  3. ^ John Stewart Bowman (2002). Columbia Chronologies of Asian History and Culture. Columbia University Press. p. 170p. ISBN 0-231-11004-9. 
  4. ^ http://www.e-yakimono.net/html/hagi-er.html
  5. ^ http://www.japantimes.co.jp/culture/2000/01/22/arts/veteran-of-hagi-continues-rediscovery/#.V7HUAluLS_4
  6. ^ http://www.e-yakimono.net/html/hagi-er.html
  7. ^ http://www.studiokotokoto.com/2013/06/04/a-tour-of-the-pottery-towns-of-southern-japan-part-iii-hagi/
  8. ^ http://www.japanpotterynet.com/en/user_data/artist116.php
  9. ^ http://www.artnet.com/artists/deika-sakata/
  10. ^ http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/1997/11/04/national/swede-brings-two-views-to-hagi-pottery
  11. ^ http://www.e-yakimono.net/html/miwa-kyusetsu-xi-jt.html
  12. ^ http://www.pref.yamaguchi.lg.jp/cms/a12900/access/0812_feature2.html
  13. ^ http://www.e-yakimono.net/html/miwa-kyusetsu-xi-jt.html
  14. ^ http://www.e-yakimono.net/html/miwa-kyusetsu-xii-jt-2003.html
  15. ^ http://www.e-yakimono.net/html/miwa-kyusetsu-xi-jt.html
  16. ^ http://www.e-yakimono.net/html/miwa-kyusetsu-xi-jt.html

External links[edit]

Media related to Hagi ware at Wikimedia Commons