Skip to main content

My parents used to collect all types of Japanese pottery. But the ones that always amazed me as a child was the vivid color of Arita-yaki (Arita ware). There was a huge Arita-yaki plate sitting on the dashboard in our living room, where my father used to entertain his business partners. Arita-yaki has been a symbol of success and wealth for many Japanese, but apparently Arita-yaki industry is changing today. But before introducing the new, modern design, here is a short history of Arita-yaki pottery.

Arita yaki

The term Arita-yaki refers to porcelain made in the town of Arita in Saga Prefecture. In 1616 the Korean potter Ri Sanpei discovered the porcelain mineral kaolin at Mt. Izumiyama in Arita and for the first time porcelain could be made in Japan.

Beginning in 1650, Arita-yaki porcelain was exported through the Dutch West India Company from the port of Imari, and hence became known as Imari. Imari porcelain dishes were enjoyed throughout much of Europe. Augustus II (Elector of Saxony/King of Poland) is the most famous patron of Imari products and believed that imari was equal in value to silver and gold. He ordered alchemist Johann Friedrich Bottger to produce similar pieces in Germany, resulting in the birth of Meissen porcelain.

Three styles of Arita-yaki emerged during  the Edo-period:

  1. “Ko-Imari Style” (early Imari Style)
  2. “Kinrande Style” (gold-painted porcelain), and
  3. “Kakiemon Style”

The town Arita was the center of porcelain production in Japan until the late Edo period when other areas too began to produce porcelain.

Arita-Yaki Market in Arita Town, Saga Prefecture

Arita-Yaki Market in Arita Town, Saga Prefecture

During the bubble economy, Arita-yaki was very popular as a symbol of Japanese beauty, wealth and sophistication. However, the popularity of Arita-yaki began to slow down into the 21st century. The trend to move away from traditional Japanese pottery ware was taken as a wake-up call by the Arita craftsmen and women and the industry to offer an even wider variety of Arita-yaki designs.

The result is the flourishing variety of modern Arita-yaki. It speaks to not only the Japanese in the 21st Century but also foreign art lovers around the world. Our favorite is Arita-Yaki Kamamoto, which was established in 1804 by Yazaemon Matsumoto. The Yazaemon Kiln has specialized in creating the elaborate gold painted designs on white porcelain, for which Imari (Arita-yaki) is world famous.

Japanese cuisine has been increasingly popular overseas. It’s best served on exquisite Japanese tableware. We recommend you try Arita-yaki tableware that dances with modernity. Oh, one important thing – there could be a long waiting list for these products. We are on it, too.