Connecting with the future generation: the modern style of Arita porcelain, and 400 years of history

In this issue, I’d like to tell you about my passion for Arita porcelain (Aritayaki) with my resolutions for this year 2015! Aritayaki, a local industry representative of Saga Prefecture, will celebrate the 400th anniversary of its foundation in 2016.

To mark the 400th anniversary of its foundation, Saga Prefecture is making efforts to develop new markets (in Japan and in other countries), improve industry foundation, and spread information for the development of Aritayaki toward the next 100 years. Every time I introduce Aritayaki in France, I always receive positive feedback from the French people, such as 
“it’s wonderful that Aritayaki has a history of 400 years”
“where is Arita located?” “I want to visit the place someday”

I know that even Japanese people are not familiar with Aritayaki or the town of Arita, so let me give you a brief explanation.
In 1616, porcelain stones were discovered in Arita in Saga Prefecture, which was the start of the production of Aritayaki.

Today, pottery stone deposits in the Amakusa area in Kumamoto Prefecture are mainly used for making ceramics and it is said that it’s only from the Izumiyama pottery stones and Amakusa pottery stones that you can make porcelain without mixing other clays.

Aritayaki is a generic term of the porcelain ware produced in the area centering on Arita Town in Saga Prefecture and is characterized by the beauty of its translucent white porcelain and delicate and bright paintings.

The porcelain features a thin, light body and a glass-like cool, smooth, and solid feel, and its durable and nonabsorbent property makes it ideal for use in tableware. From the 1650s, Aritayaki started to be exported to the European royalty and the aristocracy through the Dutch East India Company.

Many of the exported Aritayaki are now housed as valuable objects in museums and museums of fine arts throughout the world.

The Aritayaki exported to Europe was called “IMARI,” a term derived from the port of Imari located adjacent to Arita where the articles were loaded into a ship, and the gorgeous gold-painted articles were traded at the same value as pure gold.

Although I am a complete stranger to Saga Prefecture and Aritayaki, I lived in France for 12 years, and during the course of my visits to many places in Europe I occasionally came across the old IMARI porcelain wares, which became a source of pride for me.
“Kakiemon” was the first craftsman in Japan to discover the technique of enamel decoration on porcelain, known as “akae”, and his works had a significant influence on the kiln sites in Europe.

“Nabeshima” porcelain ware manufactured under strict supervision with the finest technology of the time, as articles for presentation to the Shogun family

The encounter with the Yazaemon Kiln with expertise in “Koimari (old imari)” featuring thick indigo patterns and rich red and gold paintings

Founded in 1804, the Yazaemon kiln has passed down its traditional techniques for several generations, from the founder Yazaemon Matsumoto to the seventh generation. With 40 expert craftsmen, it is one of the largest pottery makers in Arita.

Based on craftsmanship that has never been allowed to be taken out of the premises and with newly developed techniques, the expert craftsmen produce articles one by one by handwork.

The high-quality and profound coloring style has been established by advanced glaze and techniques after repeated trial productions.

The secret to the kiln’s long-term success over 210 years lies in the challenge for innovation as well as the inheritance of traditional crafts.

In order to disseminate to the world the new style of Aritayaki bridging to the next generation, the seventh generation master Yazaemon created the modern brand called ARITA PORCELAIN LAB to fit the contemporary lifestyle.

My mission is to help the ARITA PORCELAIN LAB spread its wings and go out into the world from Paris, at the forefront of luxury trends. 

We have two months left for this project. I remain committed to making efforts to bring the project to a successful conclusion!

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