Hagi Ware (萩焼, Hagi Yaki)
Ichi Raku ni Hagi san Karatsu
First Raku, second Hagi, third Karatsu
This famous ancient saying lists the highest quality tea ceremony pottery of Japan. The fact that Hagi yaki is included shows how highly valued Hagi ware is in the world of Japanese ceramics.
Devoid of redundant decoration, Hagi-yaki’s natural hues, simple shapes, and elegant glazes make it one of Japan’s most acclaimed and beloved ceramic traditions.
Hagi ware began when a kiln for the exclusive use of the Hagi clan was established to put into practice the techniques brought to Japan by the two Korean brothers Li Shao Guang and Li Jin. These potters arrived in Japan after the invasion of Korea in 1593. Led by Terumoto Mori, they relocated to Hagi (Yamaguchi Prefecture) in 1604, on the east of Hagi Castle.
During the mid-Edo period, Hagi potters began adapting their pursuit of the plasticity of clay to tea culture, focusing on the making of tea-related wabisuki (侘数寄) wares, a style of Japanese tea ceremony that emphasizes simplicity and artistic inclination.
A name that marked the history of the Hagi ware is that of the Miwa family: Kyuwa Miwa was accorded recognition as Living National Treasures in 1970 and his son, Jusetsu Miwa, in 1983. Finally, Hagi ware was designated a traditional craft in 2002.
Distinguished by a simple, naturalistic elegance in order to make the most of the features of the clay, Hagi ware has a unique, slightly porous texture. Deep cracks in the clay cause the expanding and contracting of the enamel and the colours of the ware changes during its firing, bringing it an unpredictable final touch. Other distinctive features are:
Clay The traditional clay used for Hagi ware, soft and airy, is a mixture of three main raw clays: Daidō clay, Mitake clay, and Mishima clay.
Nanabake (“The seven transformations”) Hagi teaware is said to improve through its use over the course of decades and even centuries, as tea slowly stains the clay through the fine cracks in the glaze, deepening and enriching the piece’s colour and texture, almost as if the ware was able to capture the passage of time.
Kodai (”Foot”) The foot of the bowl usually forms a complete circle but not in the case of Hagi ware, as it is often splitted in multiple cuts and modeled in different shapes, each with a different name. Legend has it that potters cut the foot to make the bowls imperfect, so that they could keep it and sell to the public instead of supplying them to Feudal lords.