Seto pottery, or Seto-yaki (瀬戸焼), also known as Setomono. is one of the best known styles of Japanese pottery. It is produced in Seto City, Aichi Prefecture. With a long history in the production of pottery, Seto is one of the six ancient kilns in Japan.
Some of his earliest pieces date back to the 13th century, when Kato Shirozaemon studied ceramics in China and arrived in SETO in the 1220s, where he set up a successful pottery kiln. In time, other potters began to follow in his footsteps and Seto became an important center of ceramic production in Japan.
In turn, Tamikichi Kato, who returned to Seto from Kyushu and successfully fired cobalt-decorated porcelain, is considered the “father of porcelain” in the Seto region. He brought Arita techniques to Seto and helped local craftsmen perfect their craft.
Today, Seto potters try to keep this style alive.
SETO: One of the famous six kilns.
The Seto pottery kiln produces glazed ceramics in the traditional Japanese style. These items range from beautiful ash-glazed bottles to four-strip plates and iron-glazed wares. Seto pottery also includes items used in Buddhist rituals, such as Chawan for the tea ceremony.
The Japanese ceramics industry has more than a thousand years of history. The country’s production centers have survived the passage of time and today are recognized as Japanese Heritage sites. The six ancient kilns are now protected by the Japanese government. In 2017, all six regions were designated as Japan Heritage Sites. The Japan Heritage Promotion Council has been establishing ties between each region to promote ceramic craftsmanship.
Among Japanese ceramics, Seto is known for its white pottery. This is a type of clay with high plasticity and refractoriness. This type of clay is a form of kibushi, a local clay mining site. During the Song dynasty it was called Kensan.
SETO is also home to the ceramic museum and the Tokoname Tounomori kiln complex, which is a training, research and exhibition center. The museum houses more than 1,600 pieces, many of which are tangible cultural assets of national importance. The white neoclassical building also features a pottery studio and art galleries.
Seto is also home to one of Japan’s largest pottery festivals, the Setomono Festival.
Chawan made by Seto master Kato Shuntai (1802-1877)
Kato Shuntai is a noted potter from the Seto area, Aichi Prefecture who lived in the late Edo period.
He followed his father’s profession at the age of 15 and soon received the name Shuntai of Tokugawa, the 11th Daimyo of modern Nagoya.
Kato Shuntai expanded the Seto pottery techniques by adding Shino, Oribe and Mugiwara styles to his works.
© Treasuresof Old Times
The pottery of SETO
The pottery of Seto is famous for its high quality clay. The clay and kaolin found there are very soft and have great plasticity. When fired, they turn white and can be used to produce a wide range of pottery items.
The kilns in Seto have been firing glazed pottery since the 12th century. The clay used to make these pots is of excellent quality and is extracted from the center of the city. Local craftsmen use a variety of materials to decorate their pots, for example cobalt blue pigment is especially prominent in the sometsukeyaki of the area.
Seto chawan bowl made in the 1980s by Hiroshi Yamaguchi.
Image by Tezumi.
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