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Pottery

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  • Japanese: 陶器 (touki), 焼物 (yakimono)

Kyushu yields some of the oldest pottery in the world - dated at approximately 10-11,000 BCE. Pottery dating back several thousand years has also been found elsewhere throughout much of the archipelago.[1].

While debates go back and forth between whether pottery developed first in China or in Japan, as different sites are discovered, and dated or re-dated, it is widely accepted that pottery in Japan does go back at least as far as several millennia BCE, defining the Jômon period of Japanese prehistory. The term Jômon, meaning "cord marked," in fact comes from a description of the pottery decoration style of typical works of that period. Jômon pieces were worked entirely by hand, however, without the use of a potter's wheel, a technology that developed or was introduced in the Yayoi period.[2]

Seto wares were the dominant form in the late medieval period, up until the late 16th century, when Mino wares gained in commercial strength. Oda Nobunaga took steps to protect Seto potters by requiring Seto wares to be made in Seto - in other words, potters elsewhere in the archipelago were forbidden from copying Seto potters' techniques.[3]

Meanwhile, even as various new styles of ceramics were developed and spread in various parts of the archipelago in the medieval period, many Kyoto artisans and residents continued to pride themselves on the simplicity of their local pottery styles. Simple-fired pieces made by hand, without a potter's wheel, glazes, or other decoration, in styles known as Kyôto hajiki and kawarake, continued to dominate in the imperial city. Even today, such simple wares are used in ceremonial purposes, such as in presenting offerings to the deities at Ise Shrine and elsewhere.

Notes

  1. Delmer M. Brown (editor), The Cambridge History of Japan Volume One: Ancient Japan, 57.
  2. Kobayashi Tatsuo, Simon Kaner, and Oki Nakamura, Jomon Reflections: Forager Life and Culture in the Prehistoric Japanese Archipelago, Oxford: Oxbow Books (2004), 77.
  3. Gallery labels, Jidai wo tsukutta waza 時代を作った技 exhibition, National Museum of Japanese History, July 2013.
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