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What exactly is Bizen ware?


Bizen Ware

Bizen-yaki, or Bizen ware, refers to pottery mainly produced in the town of Inbe, located in Bizen City, Okayama Prefecture in Japan.


The term Nihon Rokkoyo, which translates literally as “The Six Ancient Kilns of Japan”, is used as an umbrella term to describe six kilns, or types of ceramics, that have been made across the centuries in Japan. Bizen ware is one of these six.


Since the majority of Bizen ware is made in the town of Inbe, it may also be referred to as Inbe ware. Inbe has remained largely unchanged as the town in which Bizen ware came into its own, and those roots have been passed down to the present day.


Bizen ware does not use glaze
The majority of ceramic wares use glaze. Glaze refers to the glass-like substance that covers the surface of ceramics. Its use allows patterns to be added, leakage of liquids to be reduced, and gives a finish to works that helps keep them clean.


However, Bizen ware makes no use of glaze. Bizen ware is fired as is, once the clay is worked into the shape of the final piece. Pottery made in this manner is Bizen ware.


Bizen ware makes the most of its earthy colors and has a distinct and natural texture. If you actually take a work of Bizen ware in hand, you will feel a rough, coarse sensation.


When the Japanese eat, they hold their bowls in hand; they also hold cups directly in hand when sipping on tea — cups with handles are not used. As a result, Bizen ware starts to conform to the hand as it is used and broken in over time.


Bizen ware was originally used as pottery in items that were meant to be used everyday, and, as such, it enables you to enjoy your dining experience as you amuse yourself with the sensation of the Bizen ware in hand.


Bizen ware, as it is, never takes center stage of its own accord. Since the pottery is earthy-colored, it devotes itself solely to its role as a sidekick, which is exactly why it allows the center of attention to shine at its brightest.


When arranging flowers, Bizen ware brings out the beauty of those flowers; when setting out fruits, Bizen ware draws out the vivid colors of those fruits. Even when pouring tea or alcohol into Bizen ware, it never puts itself in the forefront.


Obviously, as a work of art, it is a wonderful thing for the actual ceramic piece to take center stage; however, it is precisely because of this imperfection as a work of art that Bizen ware leads us to feel its sense of depth. Bizen ware's beauty is found in its somehow lonely essence — only becoming complete when it is a complement to a partner.


Using Bizen ware brings out its true colors
Although Bizen ware is expensive, it is not made just to be stashed away on a shelf. It should be put to use time and time again.


As mentioned earlier, Bizen ware is a kind of pottery that developed under the assumption that it would be in contact with human hands, and since it is fired in its natural form without glaze, its luster increases with use. It also becomes smoother to the touch, so it has been said that, “Bizen ware's true colors start to shine through the more it is used.”


On top of that, Bizen ware features a variety of designs, which change with the temperature, location, and how fire comes in contact with the pottery during the firing process.


There is no way to know what the design is going to look like until the piece is actually taken out of the kiln, which means that there is not a single work of Bizen ware out there that has the same exact design as another. Every piece is original and makes it way out into the world as a unique work.


As previously mentioned, Bizen ware is neither flashy nor does it assert itself. Yet, it breathes life into water, accentuates the taste of sake, and sets off any food served on it — all while constantly keeping its low profile. And on top of that, its charm grows with use. That is why so many people are drawn to Bizen ware.


To add to that, Bizen ware has been made using the same production methods, same clay, and in the same region of Inbe from the Kamakura Period in Japan (1185-1333) right down to the present day. Ceramics made using the same production methods in the same location since ancient times are rare, which can be noted as another distinguishing feature of Bizen ware.

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