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Nabeshima ware: the finest Imari ware

Posted by HiroseAkira on
Nabeshima ware: the finest Imari ware

Have you heard or read about Nabeshima ware?
The history of Nabeshima ware dates back to the 17th century during the Edo Period when the Nabeshima clan, which ruled the territory of Okawachiyama in Saga Prefecture, one of the leading porcelain towns in Japan, selected and gathered 31 potters to produce fine porcelain to present to the shogun.

Nabeshima TeacupNabeshima TeacupNabeshima Teapot

Because of its high quality and elegant appearance, Nabeshima ware has been a fine product that has only been used by the shogun's family and feudal lords. It was strictly prohibited to sell Nabeshima ware to the masses or to even disclose its production techniques. At the time, commoners have not even seen Nabeshima ware. For this reason, Okawachiyama, its place of production, has been called “the home of secret kilns.” Surrounded by mountains and with kilns lining its slopes, the scenery in Okawachiyama is as beautiful as an ink painting, making it a popular tourist destination.


In addition, raw celadon ore, which has been used for glazing the surface of porcelain, can be found in these mountains. The glaze used in Nabeshima ware  today is still made from this raw ore. The color of celadon's raw ore is yellow. But when it is finely crushed and dissolved in water to form a glaze painted on white porcelain then fired, it turns into the celadon color we know.


A yellow stone transforming into a beautiful celadon color – such is the wonder and charm of Nabeshima ware.

Nabeshima ware


Techniques used in Nabeshima ware
There are 3 types of Nabeshima ware, namely: ironabeshima, ainabeshima, and nabeshima seiji (celadon).

Iro Nabeshima
As the most popular type of Nabeshima ware, ironabeshima is characterized by its first firing with an indigo underglaze; and its overglaze using three colors: red, yellow, and green which result in a vivid finish after a second firing. As a rule, vibrant colors such as gold and silver are not used in ironabeshima. Rather, ironabeshima is characterized by its elegant and subdued colors, and its delicate patterns.


Iro NabeshimaIro Nabeshima

Ai Nabeshima
“Ai” is the Japanese word for indigo, and as its name suggests, this type of Nabeshima ware is painted using only shades of indigo. The indigo color is made from a pigment called gosu. An outline is firmly painted first, then the inside of the outline is painted which results in a crisp and clear impression even for blue and white ware.

 Ai NabeshimaAi Nabeshima

Nabeshima seiji (celadon)
Nabeshima seiji (celadon) is created by repeatedly applying celadon glaze made from raw celadon ore produced in Okawachiyama. Compared to white porcelain, celadon glaze contains more iron which gives rise to the beautiful celadon color after a firing process called kangenen shosei, or reduction firing. There are other places in Japan where raw celadon ore can be found, but this is the only place where the ore is still used for industrial purposes.



Nabeshima Seiji(Celadon)Nabeshima Seiji(Celadon)


Nabeshima ware – highly-acclaimed in many parts of the world
From the time it was first exported, Nabeshima ware has been popular not only in Japan, but also among European aristocrats. With its sophisticated Japanese design resulting from skillful production techniques and its prestige as a gift, Nabeshima ware is renowned around the world; and it is still recognized for its high antique value.

 Nabeshima Painting

The difference between Imari ware and Nabeshima ware
The export of Japanese ware from the Imari region to the rest of the world began during the latter half of the 17th century. At the time, because the port from which such ware was shipped was called Imari, the general term for pottery exported from Imari became Imari ware, a name that ultimately became widely known overseas.
Outside of Japan, Nabeshima ware made in the Imari region of Saga Prefecture is often called Imari ware. However, even among the various types of Imari ware, Nabeshima ware occupies a special place because during the Edo Period, it was made specifically as gifts presented only to shoguns and feudal lords. For this reason, Nabeshima ware is said to be the most exquisite kind of porcelain in Japan, with an elegance and refinement fit for nobility.

Embodying skilled craftsmanship and tradition since the Edo Period, how about adding Nabeshima ware to your collection?


Nabeshima TeacupNabeshima wareNabeshima ware

Nabeshima ware available at MASTER CRAFTSMANSHIP Made in Japan



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