Traditional Culture of Japan - Portal site of traditional crafts and culture

Shizutani ware: a unique breed of Bizen ware

 

The old Shizutani School, built in 1670, is located in Bizen City, Okayama. It is a nationally designated Important Cultural Asset and is known as Japan's oldest "school for the common people".

 

The roofs of the Shizutani School buildings are all made of highly durable Bizen ware tiles. There are as many as 50,000 Bizen ware tiles — enough that a new kiln was set up in order to make them.

 

Later, craftsmen from Kyoto were brought in and began using the kiln to fire dining ware and utensils used in rites that were to be used at the school. These would later come to be called Shizudan ware.

 

The history of Shizutani ware
Bizen ware, which had shined so brightly, went into decline upon entering the Edo Period (1603-1868). Other alluring ceramic wares had begun to be highly-treasured, taking the place of the earthy and austere Bizen ware.

 

With its decline, changes began to occur with Bizen ware as well, and some unique Bizen ware began to be made in this period. Shizutani ware is one example.

 

Bizen ware's defining feature is that it does not use glaze. Glaze indicates the glass-like substance that covers the surface of ceramic wares. However, Shizutani ware does use glaze, and its colors are not limited to the earthy colors of Bizen ware – white and light yellow works were also made in the manner of Bizen ware.

 

Then again, despite its somewhat similar appearance to Bizen ware, Shizutani ware differs greatly in terms of color, texture, and other points. Ninsei Nonomura, a potter of Kyō ware, another kind of ceramic ware, led the creation of Shizutani ware, leading to a mix of Bizen and Kyō ware, developing into Kyō-style Bizen ware.

 

Later, white Bizen ware, known as shirobizen ("White Bizen"), was developed, but received major influence from Shizutani ware. Adding white and clear glazes with white clay brought about white Bizen ware.

 

Nevertheless, the kiln used to fire Shizutani ware closed after about 10 years. Afterwards, Shizutani ware was made on and off by Inbe potters in Bizen City.

 

Around the beginning of Shizutani ware's boom, there were a lot of powerful works, including ornaments. However, since these works were not the main focus of production, the quality of Shizutani ware began to diminish over time and has all but vanished today.


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