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Kamuiyaki

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Two Sue ware pots on display at the Okinawa Prefectural Museum
  • Other Names: 須恵焼 (Sue yaki)
  • Japanese: カムイ焼 (Kamui yaki)

Kamuiyaki,[1] also known as Sue wares, are a style of ceramics chiefly produced on Tokunoshima in the Amami Islands, but found throughout the Ryûkyû Islands, even as far south as the Yaeyama Islands, as well as in Kyushu and elsewhere. The peak of their production was perhaps in the 11th-12th centuries.

Found in archaeological excavations in sites throughout the Ryûkyû Islands and coastal parts of Kyushu, the origins of Sue wares were unclear until 1983, when a major production site - seemingly, the primary production site in the entire region - was discovered near the southern tip of Tokunoshima. Kamuiyaki wares are now understood to have been produced primarily on Tokunoshima, and traded via the nearby island of Kikaigashima, though some kilns have been found elsewhere. Tokunoshima's forests, which provided ample firewood for the kilns, and arable land which produced food to support the potters and others, made for a good environment for such large-scale pottery production; some scholars have suggested that kamuiyaki production played a key role in the deforestation of the island in the premodern period.[2]

A strong trade in turbo (turban) shells (used for mother-of-pearl inlay) helped finance the establishment and maintenance of the kilns. But Korean knowledge and technology was essential as well, and it is believed that potters on Tokunoshima likely had strong contacts with Korean potters, whether directly (i.e. with Korean potters coming to Tokunoshima) or indirectly via contacts with Iki Island, Tsushima, or mainland Kyushu. Kamuiyaki kilns on mainland Kyushu date to around the 11th-12th centuries, and Korean ceramics (as trade goods) have been found on Kikai and Tokunoshima as well.[2]

References

  • Gallery labels, Okinawa Prefectural Museum.[1]
  1. Kamui being the local word for "urns" or "pots" (瓶, J: kame), and yaki 焼 meaning "fired," as in firing pottery.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Gregory Smits, Maritime Ryukyu, 1050-1650, University of Hawaii Press (2019), 21-22.
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