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Ayatakado Readings

Hirado ware: Masterpieces crossed the oceans

12 June 2016

 In the Edo period (1603-1969) Japan, the porcelain ware produced in Mikawachi was called Hirado ware. Mikawachi is a community located in present-day Nagasaki prefecture in Kyushu. Mikawachi is famous for its porcelain production which has been continuing for about 400 years.

 During the Edo period, Mikawachi had some purveying kilns to the feudal Hirado government. The purveying kilns in Mikawachi were patronised by the feudal lord of the Hirado domain, and they produced quality porcelain pieces used as presentation items for the shogun and the emperor and their families or other feudal lords and the upper class as well as used by the lord Hirado and his family.
Hirado tousyo was one of the Hirado ware purveying kilns and they fired the pieces ordered by the Hirado feudal government. The Fujimoto family (Hirado Tousyo is their trade name) has handed down the drawing design books used during the Edo era when they received orders from the feudal government. Some pieces of Hirado ware housed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York are exactly the same design as ones in Fujimoto family's drawing design book.

 Pure white Hirado ware porcelain enjoyed its reputation for precise forming, intricate modelling and finely painted sometsuke decorations. Under the patronage provided by the Hirado feudal administration, the craftspeople in Mikawachi studied materials, techniques and technologies for porcelain production to create masterpieces. The Hirado ware with exquisite ornamentation and elaborate decoration designs gained much attention from the Europeans and Americans visited Japan during the 19th century. Collections of Brinkley and Walters, two notable American collectors of Hirado ware, are housed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Walters Art Museum in Baltimore. Von Siebold, a Dutch physician who stayed in Japan towards the end of the Edo period, collected Hirado pieces and his collection is now preserved in the National Museum of Ethnology in Leiden in the Netherlands.
Export of the Hirado ware started in the 1830s and it expanded its market overseas. Hirado ware changed its name to Mikawachi ware at the end of the Edo period but export of quality porcelain ware continued. Hirado⁄Mikawachi ware was highly appreciated at the overseas destinations. Not only in the museums mentioned above, but masterpieces that crossed the oceans during those times are housed by many museums in Europe and the US.

Hirado Tousyo's works

Field Trip to Mikawachi