Visit Japan House London this winter to discover the qualities of Bizen ware, a type of Japanese earthenware from the town of Bizen near Okayama City.
The roots of Bizen ware are thought to lie in sueki, the exquisite, unglazed earthenware made in what is now Okayama Prefecture, by potters from the Korean Peninsula during the 5th century CE.
Bizen ware is created through a process of oxidizing firing. Items are fired in an anagama kiln at temperatures exceeding 1200℃. In the Momoyama period (1568-1600), practitioners of 'the way of tea', chadо̄, recognized the beauty of Bizen ware tsubo, or pots, and began to use the water jugs and vases from Bizen in their practice. This increased the popularity of Bizen ware for everyday use. Bizen potters also began to make tea bowls (chawan) specifically for chadо̄.
Tea master Sen no Rikyu advocated, “the way of tea is simply to boil the water, then drink the tea” and enjoyed “the grass of a small tatami-floored room, a breeze along the pathway”. These preferences extended to a simple appreciation of Bizen ware. In 1982 Bizen ware was designated a Traditional Craft of Japan, and recognized as one of Japan’s Six Ancient Kilns in April 2017.