In any assemblage of the ceramic products of Japan, more especially in
one of native origin, it will be seen that porcelain no longer, as in
China, holds the place of honour. This place would be taken, in such a
collection, by a series of small bowls and jars mostly of a
dark-coloured earthenware, which offer little to attract a European eye.
On the other hand, a Western collector of Japanese ceramics would be
likely to find more to interest him in the decorated fayence of which
the kilns of Kioto and Satsuma have furnished the most exquisite
examples. And yet, perhaps, in no country, not even in China, do we find
porcelain, and that of a high technical quality, so largely employed for
domestic use. The commonest coolie eats his rice or drinks his tea or
_saké_ from a bowl or cup of porcelain, while to find specimens of the
old rough stoneware or earthenware we must explore the _Kura_–the
fireproof storehouses of the rich noble or merchant–where, wrapped in
cases of old brocade, these little objects are carefully preserved and
classified. It would be out of place here to enter into the causes,
political, social, and, we may add, also psychological, that have
influenced the Japanese mind in thus associating all that is refined and
intellectual with a class of pottery in which, to say the least, the
artistic possibilities are confined within very narrow limits. But, as
is now well known, this tendency has been fostered by the ceremonies
connected with the social gatherings known as the _Cha-no-yu_ (literally
‘hot water for tea‘), when the powdered tea is prepared in and drunk
from examples of these primitive wares. On such occasions the criticism
and measured praise of the utensils employed forms an important–indeed
an almost obligatory–part of the conversation among the guests.

The merits of Chinese porcelain, however, have long been acknowledged by
the Japanese. Possibly as early as the ninth century specimens of
celadon were imported. Direct communication with China has indeed since
that time been subject to many interruptions, and it has at all times
been carried on subject to galling restrictions and heavy duties levied
by the governments of both countries. The Japanese have at many times
made piratical descents upon the coast of China, and among the loot thus
obtained many fine pieces of Chinese porcelain may have found their way
to Japan. There was, however, a period in the fifteenth century during
which a pretty steady trade was kept up, under the patronage of the
pleasure-loving Ashikaga Shoguns, and many specimens of the earlier Ming
porcelain must have reached Japan at that time. It has always been the
celadon ware that has found most favour with the Japanese, and fabulous
prices were, and indeed still are, given for fine pieces. We may note
that such specimens are as a rule associated in the Japanese mind with
the Yuan or Mongol dynasty. Speaking generally, however, it was not to
this direct intercourse with China that the Japanese attribute their
knowledge of ceramic processes. From an early date nearly all that they
knew of the continental lands of Asia seems to have reached them from
Korea, a country where they played alternately the part of ruthless
invaders and devastators, and of eager and submissive students.

Let us then rapidly glance over the records preserved by the Japanese of
their early lessons in the potter’s art, that we may better understand
the conditions under which the manufacture of porcelain was at length
established in the country at the end of the sixteenth century.

Of the early pottery of Japan–rude figures, coffins, and strange-shaped
vases of coarse earthenware dating from the early centuries of our
era–we know, thanks to the researches of Mr. Gowland, much more than we
do of the products of a similar stage of culture in China. In the
British Museum we may see a collection, unique of its kind in Europe, of
prehistoric objects, found most of them in or around the dolmen tombs of
the early emperors, and brought together in Japan by that energetic
explorer. As, according to Japanese tradition, Korean potters were in
those early days already settled in Japan, we need not be surprised to
find that vessels of very similar shape, but of a rather better ware,
have also been found in Korean tombs.

The earliest ware whose origin we can trace to a definite spot, is that
formerly made at Karatsu, in Hizen, near to the great porcelain district
of later days. Korean potters are traditionally reported to have been
established here as far back as the early part of the seventh century.
Of this primitive ware we will only note that the pieces were placed in
the kiln in an inverted position, either without supports (the
_Kuchi-nashi-de_, or ‘unglazed orifice ware‘), or supported by two props
of rectangular section (the _Geta okoshi_, or ‘clog supports‘). This is
a point of interest in connection with the similar devices used in
firing some of the early celadon. But, as Captain Brinkley points out
(_The Chrysanthemum_, vol. iii. p. 18), it was the introduction of tea
from China[112] early in the thirteenth century that gave rise, for the
first time, to a demand for a better kind of pottery.

Kato Shirozayemon, a native of Owari, made, we are told, a five years’
visit to China about this time (he returned to his native village of
Seto in 1223) in order to study the potter’s craft. The ware that he
succeeded in making on his return to Japan has a reddish brown paste
covered with a dark glaze, streaked and patched with lighter tints. This
was probably more or less an imitation of the Kien yao, the ‘hare-fur’
cups made in the province of Fukien in late Sung times.[113] These cups,
so prized by the Japanese, are of interest to us, as they may, in some
degree, be regarded as the ancestral type from which the long series of
Japanese tea-bowls is derived. But neither the ware of Toshiro (he is
generally known by this shortened form of his name), nor that of his
followers, has any claim to be classed as porcelain. It is, however,
from Seto, the native village of Toshiro, where he set up his kilns on
his return from China, that the commonest Japanese name for all kinds of
ceramic ware, but more especially for porcelain, is derived, and the
district is now a great centre for the production of blue and white

Apart from this dark ware and from the heavy celadon, it would seem that
at this time, and even later, the only true porcelain known to the
Japanese was the white translucent ware of Korea, itself probably an
offshoot of some early form of Ting ware. That Toshiro, who must have
travelled in Fukien barely two generations earlier than Marco Polo,
should only have learned to make this one kind of dark ware, shows how
locally circumscribed was the knowledge and use in China, in Sung times,
of different kinds of porcelain.

We have to wait nearly three hundred years for the first attempts at the
manufacture of porcelain in Japan. Gorodayu Shonsui, the second great
name in the history of Japanese ceramics, made his way to Fuchow early
in the sixteenth century. He probably visited King-te-chen, and returned
to Japan in the year 1513, bringing with him specimens of the materials
used by the Chinese, both for the paste and for the glaze of their
porcelain. But although Shonsui on his return settled at Arita, in the
centre of what was at a later time the principal porcelain district of
Japan, he appears never to have discovered the precious deposits of
kaolin in the neighbouring hills; for when the supplies brought from
China came to an end, he and his successors had to fall back upon the
manufacture of fayence. A few specimens of the ware he made have been
preserved in Japan, and it has often been copied since Shonsui’s
time–even in China, it is said. It is a fair imitation of the Ming blue
and white, and we may note that the plum-blossom often occurs in the
decoration. We are told that the secret of the process of _enamel
painting_ was rigorously kept from Shonsui. We have seen that it is at
least doubtful whether this process was known to the Chinese at that
time, but the reference may be to the ware covered with polychrome
painted glazes.

There are two pieces attributed to Shonsui, on native evidence, in the
historical collection of Japanese pottery at South Kensington, but it is
very doubtful whether these very ordinary pieces of blue and white are
even as old as the later date (1580-90) somewhat strangely attributed to
them on the same authority.

And now the Korean potter is found again on the scene. It was reserved
for Risampei, a native of that country, to recognise for the first
time–in 1599, it is said–the value of the white crumbling rocks
out-cropping on the hills that rise at the back of Arita. Here he built
his kilns and succeeded in making a fairly good imitation of the Chinese
blue and white which was now becoming more and more in request as an
article of commerce.

At this stage we are brought into contact not only with the local
history and the politics of the day, but with the great questions of
world traffic that were being fought out at the time. The rich western
island of Kiushiu had long been the principal seat of the efforts of the
Portuguese and Spanish missionaries. They had nowhere more converts than
on the coasts of Hizen and on the adjacent islands. So that to one or
more of these early kilns established near Arita we may reasonably
assign some at least of those strange plates, painted with Biblical
subjects, that have excited so much curiosity. I will only point to the
large dish with an elaborate picture of the Baptism of Christ in the
centre, now at South Kensington (PL. XIV.). The subject is painted in
blue under the glaze and heightened by gilding. Around the edge we find
a design of little naked boys–_amorini_, in fact–playing among

We can find nothing in the Japanese records to throw light on the
porcelain made in Hizen during the first half of the seventeenth
century, but much of the somewhat roughly decorated blue and white ware
(the larger dishes especially, made for India and Persia) has been
classed, on the ground of the occurrence of spur-marks, and of the
nature of the paste and decoration, as Japanese.[115] Some of this ware
may be as old as this time, when (I mean shortly before the middle of
the seventeenth century) the demand from the West was ever increasing,
and the Chinese supply was so uncertain and so inferior in quality.

Meantime the Dutch and English factories on the island of Hirado,
opposite to the pottery district of Imari, were finally closed (1641),
and all communication with the outside world prohibited. The only
exception made was in favour of the strictly limited commerce carried on
through the Dutch and Chinese merchants, who were confined in their
prison-like factories at Nagasaki.[116]

Now it is a remarkable fact that our first definite information
concerning the introduction of Japanese porcelain into Europe dates from
this very period, and it is to approximately the same date that the
Japanese ascribe the introduction of coloured enamels among the Hizen
potters. One Higashidori Tokuzayemon, a potter of Imari, is said to have
derived some knowledge of the precious secret from the captain of a
Chinese junk trading at Nagasaki in 1648. With the assistance of
Kakiyemon, a skilled potter of the same district, he succeeded in
imitating the five-coloured enamelled wares of the Wan-li period.
Another Japanese authority[117] gives the name of his assistant as Gosu
Gombei, and states that by 1645, after many fruitless experiments, they
were able to produce a ware decorated with coloured enamels and with
gold and silver, which was exported at first through the medium of a
Chinese merchant, and shortly after sold to the Dutch.

So far from Japanese sources. On the other hand, we hear of an early
Dutch ambassador sent from Batavia–‘_Le Sieur Wagenaar, grand
connoisseur et fort habile dans ces sortes d‘œuvres_‘–in fact himself a
designer of patterns, one of which, it is said–white flowers on a blue
ground–found great favour at this time. In the same work[118] we are
told that this gentleman, who combined the most delicate diplomatic
negotiations with practical commercial undertakings, took back with him
to Batavia more than twenty thousand pieces of _plain white ware_
(1634-35). It is, however, very probable that the Dutch may have had a
great deal to do with the introduction of coloured enamels into Japan.

We must remember that during this time (say between 1630 and 1650) two
important series of events were coming to pass which revolutionised the
Eastern trade. These were, first, in China the troubles attending the
expulsion of the Ming dynasty, including the burning of King-te-chen and
the stoppage of the supply of porcelain for shipping at Canton; and
secondly, the final triumph of the anti-Christian party in Japan, and
the closing of the country to foreigners. It is no wonder, then, if the
Dutch ambassador was empowered to offer almost any terms to the
Japanese, provided that the latter would only make an exception in
favour of the merchants of his country.

Turning now from the records of the Japanese and of the Dutch merchants,
let us examine the specimens of Japanese porcelain that we find in our
oldest European collections, and which we may reasonably assign to the
seventeenth century. Apart from the blue and white, we find here two
classes of enamelled ware which we now know to be of Japanese origin.


It may indeed be said that it was in the separation, and in the definite
attribution to Japan, of these two groups, that the first step was made
towards a scientific classification of Oriental porcelain, and for this
work we are chiefly indebted to the labours of the late Sir A. W.
Franks. We will first deal with what may on the whole be regarded as the
oldest group.

KAKIYEMON WARE.–Under this name it will be convenient to describe the
compact group of decorated porcelain that we find taking so prominent a
place in our old collections. Of this ware there is a most
representative series of specimens in the British Museum. There are also
many interesting pieces scattered through the rooms of Hampton Court.
The chief characteristics of this Kakiyemon ware are the creamy-white
paste, without the bluish tinge so common in other Japanese porcelain,
the moulded forms (in the case of the small vases and of the dishes with
scalloped edges), and above all the peculiar nature of the decoration
that is somewhat sparely scattered over the ground. Here we find the
well-known combination of the pine, the bamboo, and the plum (Japanese
_Sho-chiku-bai_) associated with quaintly executed figures in old
Chinese costume. In the foreground is often found a curious hedge or
trellis-fence of straw or rushes, and at times, at the side, a grotesque
tiger is seen disporting in strange attitudes (PL. XXIII.). Exotic
birds, singularly ill-drawn, are sometimes seen, but individual flowers
are introduced with great decorative feeling–witness the sprig of
poppy, a rare flower in Japanese art, on a plate in the British Museum.
There is a non-Japanese element in the design which seems to hamper the
native artist, but whether this element is to be sought in Holland or in
Korea–or perhaps in a degree in both–is quite uncertain.[119] As for
the enamel colours employed, the most important point is the use of a
blue enamel _over the glaze_. This colour is freely employed in
combination with the usual opaque red. The other colours, more sparingly
used, are a green of emerald tint, a pale yellow, and a poorish purple.
The full command of a fine-coloured blue enamel at so early a date is
interesting. In the earlier Chinese examples this colour is poor, and
the enamel is apt to chip off. On a few rare pieces of this Kakiyemon
porcelain we see the blue applied under the glaze, and there is one
specimen in the British Museum on which the two methods are combined. We
rarely come upon specimens of this ware in Japan. In China, at one time,
it was copied for exportation, and Dr. Bushell thinks that the porcelain
classed as _Tung-yang-tsai_ or ‘Japanese colours,’ in the time of
Kang-he, is of this class. A large octagonal jar at South Kensington,
somewhat crudely decorated in the Kakiyemon style, which came from
Persia, may possibly be of Chinese origin. There is, at any rate, no
doubt that this is the ware known, perhaps two hundred years ago, in
France as the _première qualité colorée_, and in England and Germany as
‘old East Indian,’ It was reserved for Jacquemart to class it as Korean.
It is, however, remarkable that in neither the Japanese nor the Dutch
records of the time do we find any notice of a decoration at all
resembling that found on this ware. Any hint that is given from these
sources would apply much better to the class of porcelain that we have
next to describe. In later chapters we shall see that the important
position given to this Kakiyemon porcelain by our ancestors is reflected
in the decoration applied to more than one of the early wares of Europe.

IMARI OR OLD JAPAN.–The many kilns that sprung up in the province of
Hizen during the

[Illustration: _PLATE XXIV._ 1. CHINESE. 2. JAPANESE.]

course of the seventeenth century, along the slope of the hills that
produced both the china-stone and the china-clay, were chiefly occupied
in making blue and white porcelain, the _sometsuke_ or ‘dyed’ ware of
the Japanese, and this, we may add, is still the case.

The underglaze blue indeed has always remained the dominant element in
the Imari porcelain, and to judge by the older pieces the employment of
other colours crept in gradually. This blue is generally of a peculiar
dark lavender or slaty tint, and with the addition to it of a little
gilding we obtain already the general effect of the ‘old Japan’
decoration. When to the blue and gold was added an opaque iron-red (from
this pigment the Japanese succeeded in obtaining a great variety of fine
tints), we attain to a scheme of decoration which, at first sight, gives
the impression of being built up with a full palette of colours; this is
the typical _nishiki-de_ or ‘brocaded’ ware of the Japanese (PL. I.).
Indeed in many of the finest specimens we find nothing beyond these
three colours–blue, red, and gold. But the blue, derived from the
native ore, the concretionary ‘wad,’ containing generally more manganese
than cobalt, is often wholly or in part replaced as the dominant colour
by a glossy black painted over the glaze, and this, too, in specimens
with some claims to antiquity. The other colours of the Chinese
‘pentad,’ the green, the yellow, and the purple, generally occupy quite
subordinate positions. It is to be noted that in this ware we never find
the blue applied as an enamel _over_ the glaze.

It would be a mistake to regard the whole series of Imari enamelled
porcelain as made only for exportation. It is true that the large vases
and plates with the well-known effective but somewhat overloaded
decoration are not found in Japan, although such pieces have been made
at Arita for the last two hundred years for exportation from Nagasaki;
but the more quietly decorated ware of Imari, in endless forms and with
decoration of the most varied kind, has long been in general domestic
use, and many smaller pieces of great artistic beauty have been lately
obtained from Japanese collections.[120]

In fact, the early enamelled wares of Imari are recognised by the
Japanese as the _fons et origo_ of most of the decorated porcelain, to
say nothing of the later pottery, of their country. We have seen how our
‘old Japan’ group started from a slight modification of the blue and
white, but we must find place also for an early ware decorated in five
colours, somewhat in the Wan-li style. Of this ware but few pieces
survive. The tradition, however, was carried on at Kutani and at many of
the Kioto kilns in the eighteenth century.

Late in the seventeenth century the Kizayemon family obtained the
privilege of supplying the porcelain, decorated with cranes and
chrysanthemums, for the personal use of the Mikado, and at the present
day a member of this family is said to still claim the right of
purveying to the imperial court. It is to one of these Kizayemons, but
not until the year 1770, that the merit of the invention of seggars for
holding the porcelain in the kiln is given by the Japanese. It would
seem that before that date no such protection was given. That such a
claim should be made shows how completely Japan at this time was shut
out from the rest of the world.

And here we may point out how self-contained was the development of
Japanese porcelain during the palmy days of the Tokugawa _régime_ (say
from 1650 to 1850). As in the case of the kindred arts of metalware and
lacquer, any European influence was quite of a casual and what we may
call fanciful nature; while the new methods of decoration that came into
use in

[Illustration: Plate XXV.

_Japanese. Imari ware._]

China in the eighteenth century were never recognised or copied, even if
they were known. What imitation there was of China was confined to the
copying of Ming types; the Manchus, in fact, were never acknowledged by
the Japanese, and their arts were under a taboo almost as strict as that
applied to the civilisation of the West. No better instance of this
conservatism could be given than the fact that the use of gold as a
source of a red pigment, the basis of the _famille rose_ in China,
appears to have been unknown until the beginning of the nineteenth
century, and even then the _rouge-d’or_ was but sparingly applied. On
the other hand, the Chinese were always eager, in the interest of trade,
to copy the wares exported from Nagasaki, and we shall see later on what
an influence the various products of the Hizen kilns had upon the
porcelain of Europe.

These, then, were practically the only kinds of Japanese ceramic ware
known in Europe until the opening of the country in our days–the blue
and white or _sometsuke_, the ‘old Japan’ or _nishiki-de_, and the
peculiar type which we have classed as Kakiyemon. To this list we should
perhaps add the plain white ware, much of which was subsequently
decorated in Europe.

These wares were all of them made in the kilns near Arita, nor do they
exhaust the products of even that district. But during the eighteenth
century the manufacture of porcelain spread to other parts of Japan
where porcelain was made exclusively for home consumption. Many of these
kilns were established under princely patronage, some in the very
gardens of the feudal lord, while a special interest is given to others
by their association with certain skilled potters and their descendants,
whose names, in opposition to what we found was the practice in China,
we can thus connect with the wares.

But we will first say something about the composition and the processes
of manufacture of the porcelain of Japan, dwelling, however, only on
those few points where we find divergences from the practices obtaining
in China.

In the first place, then, as to the composition of the paste. To judge
from the few trustworthy analyses of Imari ware that have been made, the
paste would seem to be of a very abnormal type; the amount of silica–70
to 74 per cent.–is quite unusual; there is an almost total absence of
lime, so important a constituent of Chinese porcelain; while we find
from 4 to 5 per cent. of the alkalis. But, in place of the potash found
in the wares of China, in the Japanese paste the prevailing alkali is
invariably soda.

The materials of the porcelain made in Hizen were obtained originally
from the famous ‘Hill of Springs‘–Idzumi Yama–which rises behind the
town of Arita. Of late years, however, large quantities of clay and
stone have been brought from the island of Amakusa, which lies to the
south. It is from the products of decomposition of a volcanic rock, a
kind of quartz-trachyte, that these materials are obtained, not from a
true granitic rock as in Owari[121] and in most other seats of porcelain
manufacture all over the world.[122]

In the neighbourhood of Arita the raw materials lie conveniently at
hand; and in the Japanese accounts there is no definite reference to two
distinct elements in the constitution of the paste. However, that
something corresponding to our china-stone is made use of, is shown by
the importance attached to the methods by which the stone is reduced to
powder. The primitive stamping-mill, worked by a long lever of wood,
moved either by the foot of a coolie or by a simple hydraulic
arrangement, has long been employed for pounding the stone, and the
hills around Arita re-echo with the thuds of these mills.

The potter’s wheel plays here a larger part than in China, and the
Japanese are exceptionally skilful throwers. Still, notwithstanding some
native statements to the contrary, the use of moulds either of wood or
of terra-cotta has long been known–witness the old Kakiyemon porcelain.

We now come to the most important departure from the Chinese procedure.
In Japan, the ware (as is, indeed, universally the case in Europe)
receives a preliminary baking in a specially constructed biscuit kiln
before the application of the glaze. The adoption of this practice would
seem to point to a greater tenderness in the raw clay.

The glaze (Japanese _kusuri_–‘medicine‘) is prepared by mixing the
finely powdered china-stone with the ashes of certain kinds of wood. The
ashes from the bark of the usu-tree (_Distylium racemosum_) are
especially in request for this purpose, and it is certainly remarkable
that these ashes contain nearly 40 per cent. of lime, the element that
is conspicuous by its absence from the paste.

The furnaces in which the principal firing takes place are of a bee-hive
shape: they are arranged in rows of from five to ten hearths placed by
preference on the slope of a hill, so that each succeeding hearth rises
two or three feet above its neighbour. This plan is probably a
modification of the old Ming type of furnace, and the system, it is
said, was introduced from Korea.

The use of seggars appears never to have become general, and this is
probably the reason why the marks of ‘crow’s-feet’ and other kinds of
struts, used to support the vessel in the kiln, are often conspicuous
on the base of the larger pieces.

Neither in their glazes nor for their enamels have the Japanese ever
made use of any colours unknown to the Chinese, nor until quite recent
times have they paid much attention to single glazes. There is, however,
one important exception to this last statement, in the _Sei-ji_ or
celadon ware, which with them has always been the ideal of classical
perfection, and which they have imitated with varied success. For their
reds they have always been confined to pigments derived from iron, but
with these opaque intractable materials they have obtained a great
variety of effects, especially by means of delicate gradations of
strength. In the case of the blue under the glaze, the Japanese have
never attained to the mastery of their teachers: there is very commonly
a tendency of the colour to run, and a bluish tint is thereby given to
the white ground; the blue, moreover, on the older specimens, is
generally dull, and in modern times often crude and unpleasant.

The shapes and uses of Japanese porcelain start, for the most part, from
Chinese models of Ming times, but there are a few forms that are not
found in China. The _hi-bachi_ or fire-bowl, though more commonly of
bronze, we sometimes find made of celadon or of blue and white
porcelain; the _kôrô_ or incense-burner, with a cover of pierced metal,
is a form characteristic of Japan; and the more elaborate _choshi-buro_
or ‘clove-bath’ is, I think, peculiar to the country; so, too, are both
the _saké_-bottle of cylindrical or square section, with a curved lip
for pouring, and the little cups, in sets of three, often of egg-shell
ware, from which the _saké_ is drunk. The use of the miniature teapot,
in which the better sort of tea is infused, is again confined to Japan;
but these little _kibisho_, unlike the vessels for powdered tea used in
the _Cha-no-yu_, have not, I think, been long in fashion.

We have described the three kinds of porcelain made in Hizen for
exportation to Europe, and we have seen that by the middle of the
seventeenth century this commerce, in the hands of the Dutch, and to
some extent of the Chinese, had already attained large proportions.
Before turning to the kilns that sprung up in other parts of Japan
during the eighteenth century–of these the origin in every case can be
traced back directly or indirectly to the early Hizen factories–we must
say a word about some other varieties of porcelain made in the same
neighbourhood, but not destined for foreign use.

The village or town of Arita, of which the better-known Imari is the
port, lies about fifty miles to the north-east of Nagasaki, and it may
almost be regarded as the King-te-chen of Japan. The clay and
china-stone used there is now brought, for the most part, from the
adjacent islands, from Hirado, from Amakusa, and even from the more
remote Goto islands. By a combination of some of the most important
potters of the district, and with the assistance of some wealthy
merchants, a company, the _Koransha_, was formed some twenty-five years
ago,[123] and an attempt was made to keep up the quality of the
porcelain produced, at least from a technical point of view. It was
certainly time for some such effort to be made, for about that period,
just after the Philadelphia Exhibition, the arts of Japan reached
perhaps their nadir.

MIKÔCHI OR HIRADO WARE.–It was with a somewhat similar object that,
long before this–about the middle of the eighteenth century–the feudal
lord of Hirado had taken some of the kilns near Arita under his
patronage, and had also attempted to regulate the wasteful and careless
way in which the materials were quarried on the slopes of Idzumi Yama.
This was the origin of the beautiful Mikôchi (_Mi-ka-uchi_) ware, which
was at first produced only for the use of the prince and of his friends,
or for presentation to the Shogun.

To understand the important influence of this aristocratic patronage
upon the scattered kilns of Japan (only a few of these, indeed, produced
porcelain), I cannot do better than quote the words of Captain Brinkley,
perhaps our first authority on Japanese ceramics: ‘During the two
centuries that represent the golden age of Japanese ceramic art, that is
to say, from 1645 to 1845, every factory of any importance was under the
direct patronage either of the nobleman in whose fief it lay, or of some
wealthy amateur whose whole business in life was comprised in the
cultivation of the _Cha-no-yu_. The wares produced, if they did not
represent the independent efforts of artists seeking to achieve or
maintain celebrity, were undertaken in compliance with the orders of the
workman’s liege lord, or of some other exalted personage. Considerations
of cost were entirely set aside, no expenditure of time and toil were
deemed excessive, and the slightest blemish sufficed to secure the
condemnation of the piece.’ All these conditions were swept away by the
revolution of 1868 and by the opening of the country to foreigners.
‘Codes of subtle æsthetics and criticisms of exacting amateurs had no
longer to be considered, but in their stead the artist found himself
confronted by the Western market with all its elements of sordid haste
and superficial judgment.’

To return to the Mikôchi porcelain, this Hirado ware, for it was known
also by that name, produced at the prince’s kilns, six miles to the
south of Arita, was for more than a hundred years regarded as the _ne
plus ultra_ among Japanese porcelain, and its value was enhanced by the
fact that the ware never found its way into commerce. In the _sous
couverte_ blue it was sought to imitate the paler type of the old Ming
ware. The best-known examples of this blue decoration are seen on the
little cups delicately painted with Chinese boys at play under
pine-trees–the more the boys the better the ware, it is said. Careful
manipulation of the clay and finish of surface has never been carried to
a higher point than in the varieties of this porcelain worked with
pierced patterns and ornaments in relief, so prized by Japanese
collectors. On these we find, in addition to the blue, a peculiar tint
of pale brown. Of this coloured ware there are some good specimens at
South Kensington.

ÔKÔCHI OR NABESHIMA WARE.–The same high technical finish has been
attained in the Ôkôchi porcelain made at the village of that name
(_Ô-kawa-uchi_) three miles to the north of Arita. The kilns here were
patronised by the Nabeshima princes, who belonged to one of the greatest
feudal families of old Japan. In this case also, the small highly
finished pieces were destined for presents only and were never sold.
This ware is generally to be identified by the comb-like pattern
(Japanese _Kushi-ki_), painted in blue round the base of the cups and
bowls.[124] Like the little Chinese boys of the Mikôchi ware, this
pattern is often seen on very inferior ware of quite modern manufacture.
A peculiar kind of finely crackled celadon was also made at Ôkôchi.

In the Arita district are many other factories, some of which, as those
at Matsugawa, have at times produced excellent ware. Of most of these
private kilns, however, the chief outturn has always been confined to
the blue and white _sometsuke_ for domestic use.

* * * * *

We have now to follow the steps by which the knowledge of porcelain was
carried from the western island to other parts of Japan. We had better
pass at once to the Kioto kilns, for although the manufacture of
porcelain was not introduced at the old capital so early as at some
other places in the main island, yet the skill of its artist potters and
their connection with the imperial court led, in the course of the
eighteenth century, to the spread of their influence in every direction.

Kioto was already in the sixteenth century the seat of more than one
ceramic industry, but it was not so much the problem of the materials
for a true porcelain, as the questions connected with the coloured
enamels lately brought over from the West, that excited the curiosity of
the Kioto potter at this time. The story goes that one Aoyama Koyemon (I
quote again from _The Chrysanthemum_, April 1883), who came to Kioto
from the porcelain district of Hizen, to obtain orders for the new
enamelled ware, allowed the secret of its manufacture to be wormed out
of him by a crafty Kioto dealer, and that for this breach of trust the
wretched ‘traveller’ was crucified by his liege lord on his return to
Arita. This occurred just before the death of the great ceramic artist
Ninsei (about 1660), and the old potter at once obtained the knowledge
of the new enamelling process from the above-mentioned crockery
merchant. This man, we should add–the dealer–is said to have gone mad
when he heard the dreadful fate of his friend Koyemon–a fate for which
he was in so large a measure responsible. Such stories as this, and
there are other similar ones in the annals of Japanese ceramics, call to
mind the adventures of the experts of the eighteenth century, who
trafficked with the German princes in the _arcana_ of the newly
introduced porcelain, but for these German experts the penalties for
breach of confidence were not of so severe a nature.

Nomomura Ninsei is generally held to be the greatest ceramic artist that
Japan has produced. The decorated stoneware and pottery that he turned
out late in life may be regarded as the common source from which the
wares produced in the two main groups of kilns in the neighbourhood of
Kioto took their origin. With one of these groups, with the wares
produced in the factories around Awata, we are not concerned here, for
no porcelain was ever produced in that suburb of Kioto. But to the other
group of kilns, called after the beautiful temple of Kiyomidzu, to the
north of Kioto, belong some of the most artistic specimens of porcelain
in our collections. It was here that this somewhat uncongenial material
was forced for the first time to adapt itself to the fanciful genius of
the people. It was to this district that the great original artist
Kenzan, the brother of the still more famous Ogata Korin, came towards
the end of the seventeenth century. It is true that little of this
artist’s work is executed in a true porcelain, but his picturesque
signature, scrawled in black, is sometimes found on the so-called more
noble ware (PL. B. 21). Like his brother Korin, Kenzan obtained his
effects by the simplest means, sometimes by mere patches of colour
cunningly distributed over the surface. The work of both these men has
of late found many admirers and imitators in France.

It was not till the beginning of the eighteenth century that we have any
definite record of the manufacture of porcelain in Kioto. About that
time Yeisen devoted himself to the imitation of Chinese celadon. If we
are to find any common note in the wares produced in the various Kioto
potteries, it would be in a certain studied rudeness both in shape and
decoration, the very opposite of the delicately finished products of the
Hizen kilns. The rare pieces of Ming porcelain with coloured decoration
were eagerly sought for and copied, not in a slavish way, but rather so
as to catch the spirit of their design. In fact these Japanese copies
might be made to throw some light on that rather obscure subject, the
origin of enamel decoration in China in the days of the later Ming

An apparently early class of Chinese enamelled ware, somewhat rudely
painted with a predominant iron red combined with a subordinate green,
was a great favourite with the Kioto potters, but we find also copies of
the Wan-li ‘pentad,’ the designs in this case sparely scattered over the
ground, generally in formal patterns of a textile type. The blue and
purple ware with ribbed _cloisons_ which the Japanese associate with
their mysterious land of Kochi was also in favour, but at Kioto, I
think, this ware was not copied in porcelain. So of the blue and white
made at this time at Kiyomidzu, it is distinguished from both the Hizen
and the Seto wares by a certain rudeness in the shape and decoration, a
character preserved by a great deal of the _sometsuke_ still made in
this district.

Quite a different spirit was, however, brought in by Zengoro Riyozen,
the tenth descendant of a famous family of potters. This Zengoro was a
potter of universal genius, the foremost ceramic artist indeed of the
peaceful and luxurious period at the beginning of the nineteenth
century, when the Tokugawa Shogun at Tokiyo set an example of an
extravagant expenditure and brilliant display which was only too readily
followed at the courts of the great feudal nobles. In the art work of
that time, in spite of the unsurpassed perfection of execution and love
of gorgeous decoration, we can already trace the signs of a coming
decay. Zengoro, besides reviving with some success the deep sapphire
blue, _sous couverte_, of Ming times, succeeded in producing from an
iron-oxide a red ground which vied with the famous coral reds of the
previous century in China. But it was rather the Ming red, _sous
couverte_, that made from ‘powdered rubies of the West,’ that he
professed to copy. Over the red ground of his plates and little bowls he
painted his design in gold of the finest quality, and on the white
ground of the inside placed a scant decoration of his under-glaze
sapphire blue. Some of these dainty little cups are shown in a
table-case in the British Museum, but if we compare them with the
exquisite Ming bowls of a deep red derived from copper in the same
collection, the difference of the quality of the two tints is at once
apparent. As, however, it was a matter of _convenance_ to go back to a
Ming model, it was with the latter ware that Zengoro’s work was
compared. It was for his success in this kind of decoration (produced
about the years 1806-1817) that the great Kioto potter received from his
patron, the prince of Kishiu, a seal with the character _yeiraku_, or
reading in modern Chinese _Yung-lo_, the name of the Ming emperor
(1402-24) with whom the red copper glaze is traditionally associated
(PL. B. 22).[125] This, then, is the origin of the name _Yeiraku
kinrande_ for the ‘gold brocade’ ware of Zengoro. At a later time this
form of decoration was carried by Zengoro’s son to Kaga, where in a
debased form it became characteristic of a ware with which our markets
were at one time flooded.

KISHIU WARE.–This _kinrande_, however, is not the only kind of
porcelain with which the name of this protean artist is associated.
Although the name Yeiraku given him by the Prince Nariyuki is generally
connected with his brilliant red and gold ware, it was a porcelain of
quite another kind that our Zengoro the tenth, or perhaps his son Hozen,
the eleventh of the family, turned out from the kilns that had been
erected by that prince in the garden (the _Ô-niwa_) of his palace near
Wakayama. The Japanese tell us that this well-known Ô-niwa or Kishiu
ware was made in imitation of a kind of porcelain or fayence brought
long ago from Kochi, a name generally rendered as Cochin-China, in any
case a country to the south of China. We have seen grounds for
associating this _Ô-niwa yaki_ rather with an early type of Chinese
polychrome ware, painted on the biscuit with glazes of three or perhaps
four colours. In any case, in the Japanese ware the turquoise, the
purple, and the straw-coloured yellow (this last quite subordinate) are
applied in a similar fashion, and this is indeed practically the only
Japanese ware on which we find the turquoise colour that has played so
important a part in other countries. It is here the most important
colour of the triad, but occasionally we find it replaced by a deep,
rich green. On this Kishiu or Ô-niwa ware, known also to the Japanese as
_Kairaku_ from another seal used by Zengoro (PL. B. 20), the decoration
is formed by ribs or lines which separate the surface into shallow
_cloisons_. In other cases the turquoise or the aubergine purple is
found alone as a monochrome glaze.

Very few, however, of the large vases of this ware that have been
exported of late years to Europe, and especially to America (where the
turquoise blue has always been a favourite, as in the case of Chinese
porcelain), can have come from the kilns in the ‘prince’s garden.’ This
ware has, indeed, for some time since, been imitated at many other
places–at Tokiyo, and since 1870 especially at Kobe, where vast
quantities have been manufactured for exportation. These copies have
gone through the stages of degradation in design and colour that usually
accompany a large commercial production.

Another famous potter, Mokubei, who worked at Kioto about the same time,
is said to have made great improvements in the moulds employed by him,
especially in those used for copying old Chinese pieces. But we
certainly cannot accept the statement that he was the first potter in
Japan to use moulds. This same Mokubei is said to have copied the richly
glazed stoneware of Kochi, a ware that had long been prized by the
Japanese, and to which, or rather to the kindred porcelain, we have
already referred. It is described as a hard pottery, with archaic
moulded decorations, coated with lustrous glazes of green, purple,
yellow, and golden-bronze. Mokubei also worked for the prince of Kishiu,
and it would be interesting to know what relation, if any, he had with
Zengoro and his Ô-niwa yaki.[126]

SANDA CELADON.–The kilns set up at Sanda, a small town to the
north-west of Osaka, by the feudal lord of the district, have acquired
in Japan a great name on account of the celadon ware there made. This
_Sanda-seiji_ was first produced at the end of the seventeenth century,
and followed more closely the famous old heavy wares of Lung-chuan than
did the more delicately finished celadon porcelain made about the same
time at Ôkôchi in Hizen. In addition to these wares, the Japanese lay
claim to an ancient celadon of native manufacture, and much ink has been
spilt in Japan upon the question of the origin of certain archaic pieces
preserved in temples and private collections. The bulk of the Sanda
celadon, we should say, is a solid useful ware with small artistic

THE WARES OF OWARI AND MINO.–If, leaving Kioto, we take the old
high-road to Yedo–the Tokaido–we pass through a succession of villages
where the local wares are displayed in the stalls lining the route. Some
of this pottery is not without merit, and historical associations give
interest to more than one variety. But it is not till we have passed
Nagoya, a large industrial town at the head of the Gulf of Owari, that
we enter a true porcelain district–the only district in Japan that has
vied with Hizen in the production of porcelain for domestic use and for
exportation. Not far off is the village of Seto, the home of Toshiro; it
was here that on his return from China, early in the thirteenth century,
he set up the first kiln that produced in Japan a ware with any claims
to artistic merit. But, as we have said at the beginning of this
chapter, the ware made by Toshiro was no true porcelain, although the
expression _Seto-mono_, derived from his native village, is used rather
for porcelain than for other kinds of pottery. The term is, in fact,
about equivalent to our word ‘china.’

It was not till nearly six hundred years after Toshiro’s day that the
village of Seto again became prominent, when in the year 1807 the art of
making porcelain was, after many difficulties, successfully introduced
from Hizen. This was thanks to the energy of the potter Tamakichi, who
ventured a journey to Hizen to find out the secrets of the manufacture.
As a reward for his services the privilege of wearing two swords and the
rights of a _samurai_ were granted to Tamakichi by the lord of Owari.
Here again we find the new industry established under the fostering care
of the local prince.

Over a wide district, more especially to the east on the borders of the
province of Mikawa, the decomposing granite furnishes an excellent raw
material, and centres for the manufacture of porcelain have sprung up
sporadically over a tract stretching away to the north, as far as the
province of Mino. But most of these kilns have never produced anything
better than a common blue and white ware.

In composition the paste of the Owari porcelain is much closer to the
normal type than that of the Hizen wares (see note, p. 190). Of late
years the Owari potters have succeeded in turning out pieces of
unprecedented size, in the shape especially of dishes and of slabs for
the tops of tables. From the artistic side, however, little can be said
in favour of this ware: the blue is generally crude in quality, often
resembling that found on the commoner European porcelain of later days.

Another art was revived some years ago in the neighbourhood of Nagoya,
the chief town of this district–I mean that of enamelling in metallic
_cloisons_ (the _Shipô_, or ‘seven treasures’ of the Japanese), and of
late years the two industries have been combined by applying the
metallic _cloisons_ and the enamel to the surface of porcelain. A
similar ware has also been made at Kioto, but in this case the soft
fayence of Awata has been used as a base. Enormous quantities of both
these varieties of _cloisonné_ have been brought to Europe, and when we
consider the amount of skilled labour required in the manufacture, we
can only marvel at the prices for which this ware is retailed in London.

Much of the cheap Japanese blue and white sold in Europe comes from this
Owari district, but of late years more ambitious things have been
attempted there–monochrome glazes of the _grand feu_, including a
curious variety of _flambé_ ware with a chocolate-coloured ground.

KUTANI WARE.–There only remains one important centre of porcelain
manufacture for us to describe. This lies far away among the mountains
that skirt the western coast of Japan. The feudal lords of that country,
however, the princes of Kaga, were reputed to be the most wealthy of all
the daimios of Japan. A junior branch of this family, the lords of
Daichoji, as early as the first half of the seventeenth century
established a kiln at the mountain village of Kutani. In the year 1660
an emissary was despatched to Hizen to spy out the land and learn what
he could of the new processes lately introduced there. The story of his
difficulties is only another version of that told of Tamakichi, the
Seto potter. After many adventures, abandoning the wife that he had been
forced to marry at Arita and the child he had had by her, he returned to
Kaga, equipped with the desired information and experience. He succeeded
in making a true porcelain with a white ground, decorated in a style
founded, it is said, both on the contemporary Hizen ware and on the
enamelled stoneware of Kochi. Morikaga, a famous artist of Kioto, was
retained to furnish designs for the decoration. We have in the British
Museum a spherical vase, painted in the five colours with a series of
spirited figures, which may well date from that time (PL. XXVI.).
Examples of this period are rare, but some of the old drug-pots,
jealously guarded by their owners, that were still, a few years ago, to
be seen in the druggists’ and herbalists’ shops of Osaka and Sakai, may
perhaps be traced back to the potters of the seventeenth century, either
those of Kaga or those of Hizen. At this time, in fact, the Kaga ware
had hardly differentiated itself from that of the parent province. It
was not till the beginning of the eighteenth century that the typical
Kutani ware, one of the most original and decorative ever turned out
from Japanese kilns, was produced.

On a greyish paste, hardly to be reckoned as porcelain, the lustrous,
full-bodied enamels, almost unctuous in quality, are laid with a full
brush. The whole surface is generally covered, and a dark, juicy green
is the prevailing colour, over which a design of black lines is drawn.
Next in importance among the enamels there comes first purple, then a
heavy blue enamel which somewhat clashes with the other colours, and
finally a full-toned yellow. It would seem from Japanese accounts that
this kind of ware was not made after 1730, when there ensued a period of
decay, but it is difficult to believe the statement that the manufacture
was not revived till 1810. The picturesquely decorated bowls


and plates showing the greyish ground are probably later than those
wholly covered with the green enamel, and it might be possible to trace
the date of introduction of fresh means of decoration–gilding skilfully
and boldly applied or the use of white enamel in relief, especially for
the petals of flowers. Later, but still on ware of fine decorative
effect, we find these white petals tinged with pink, and this apparently
is the earliest appearance of the _rouge d’or_ among Japanese enamels.

When did this new colour come in, and from what source? We may perhaps
associate its first use with the wonderful period, early in the
nineteenth century, of which we have already spoken, when all the
restraints to which the Japanese artist had been so long subjected were
removed, the crabbed critic with his tradition of Ming times was
silenced, and a free rein at length given to native exuberance in the
use of gay colours and naturalistic designs. But this was the end; as in
the other arts, a period of decline set in before the middle of the
century, a decline that was accelerated, but not first originated, by
the throwing open of the country to European influences a few years

With the Kutani potter, the beginning of the end seems to have coincided
with the introduction of the iron-red and gold decoration. This was
brought about when the assistance of one of the Zengoro family, Zengoro
the eleventh or Hozen, probably, was obtained from Kioto. At the same
time the brilliant decoration in enamel colours was still carried on,
often enough with happy effect, and this was kept up to quite a late
period. In these latter days the use of a true white porcelain again
became prevalent–indeed the materials are at the present day brought
from Amakusa and other islands off the coast of Hizen.

There are two marks that have always been associated with the Kaga
ware–first, the character for Kutani, the ‘Nine Valleys,’ the name of
the little mountain village where the ware was first made; second, the
Chinese word _Fu_ (Japanese _Fuku_), meaning ‘prosperity’ or ‘wealth,’
written in the seal character. We find this last mark painted in black
on the back of the old pieces covered with a green glaze (PL. B. 23).

* * * * *

In our account of Japanese porcelain we have been hampered by the
restrictions imposed by our subject. Among Japanese ceramic products
there is a big middle class, what we have called kaolinic stoneware.
Wares of this kind, when made in neighbouring kilns and differing in
their decoration in no way from what may be classed as true
porcelain–and this is the case in the pottery districts of Kaga and
around Kioto–have naturally found their way within our limits. Other
kinds quite as near to true porcelain, such as the picturesque fayence
of Inuyama or many of the old Raku wares, have remained unmentioned. The
temptation to overstep the line has been great, inasmuch as so many of
the wares showing originality and real artistic merit lie distinctly on
the further side.

We may say finally that a closer acquaintance with Japanese ceramics
will confirm what may be observed in the case of other branches of
Japanese art–in their painting, for example, and in their lacquer-ware.
I mean the important part played by the critic, using that term in a
wide sense, in restraining the native exuberance of the artist. The
first tendency of the European connoisseur is to regret the hampering
influence of Chinese tradition and the restrictions imposed upon all new
developments. But when these influences have for a time been removed,
the facile productiveness of the Japanese artist has always tended to
land him in that pretty and over-decorated style that has found its way
into middle-class drawing-rooms at home. We find a tendency to this
unrestrained decoration and reckless association of colours creeping
into favour long


before the opening of the country. Indeed, centuries ago at Kioto, and
even perhaps in the old Nara days, a somewhat similar love of the
trifling and effeminate may be recognised now and again. The services
rendered by the severe traditions of the old Chinese schools of the Tang
and Sung dynasties, and by the ascetic spirit of the _Cha-no-yu_ in
keeping within bounds the native tendency to luxuriant overgrowth, must
not be overlooked. When these influences were removed, the arts soon ran
to seed.