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Japanese Pottery: A tale as old as time

Japanese pottery is one of the oldest craft forms of Japan, dating as far back as the Neolithic period. Japan has a vast, successful history of pottery with kilns producing an abundance of earthenware, pottery, stoneware, glazed pottery, glazed stoneware, porcelain and blue-and-white ware to high acclaim across the world. Let’s take a look at the journey that Japanese pottery has taken over time to become the style that we know today.

Jōmon – Yayoi Period

The earliest pottery was said to originate during the Neolithic period, but it wasn’t until the Jōmon period that Japanese pottery began to take on a more extravagant style. During this period, Japanese pottery was formed using coiling clay ropes and fired in an open fire whilst being decorated with hand-impressed rope patterns. This point of pottery history became known for its highly flamboyant style, though as Japanese pottery entered the Yayoi period, a new style of earthenware characterised by simple, minimal patterns was introduced.

Kofun – Heian Period

During the Kofun period, Japanese pottery making techniques started to adapt and the first introductions of the potter’s wheel and Anagama kiln were brought into the Japanese pottery world. These new processes led to the first productions of Japanese stoneware pottery. Stoneware pottery was remarkably popular throughout Japan, with its function changing vastly over time. Originally funerary ware during the Nara and Heian periods, stoneware then became an elite piece of tableware before being used as a ritual vessel for Buddhist altars. As Japanese pottery entered into the Heian period, simple green lead glazes were produced for temples through new kiln techniques introduced by the Tang Dynasty of China.

Kamakura – Muromachi Period

Japanese pottery began to develop even more during the Kamakura period, with glazing techniques becoming more popular and widespread. Kiln technology was improved leading to the founding of the ‘Six Old Kilns’; Shigaraki, Tamba, Bizen, Tokoname, Echizen, and Seto. The Seto kiln was the Japanese pottery leader at the time, producing new glaze techniques and colours that were often imitations of Chinese ceramics. During the Muromachi period, a number of Japanese monks who travelled to monasteries in China brought pieces of pottery that would later be imitated by Seto kilns and were highly valued for tea ceremonies. Similarly, the sophisticated Jian ware from China was later developed as tenmoku within Japanese pottery.

Azuchi-Momoyama – Sengoku period

The Azuchi-Momoyama period saw an abundance of imported Chinese pottery from greenware to white porcelain, with Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese pottery regarded as sophisticated items to be used in upper-class tea ceremonies. To meet the altering tastes of the time, Japanese pottery began to quickly adapt. As Japan entered the Sengoku period, Buddhism saw tea masters introduced to more changes with tastes favouring the style of Korean tea bowls and native Japanese pottery over that of sophisticated Chinese porcelain. During the invasion of Korea in 1592, new and exciting pottery techniques were introduced from the country’s artistic pottery makers. As tradition suggests, Korea discovered a source of porcelain clay within Japan which lead to the first production of traditional Japanese porcelain. The Korean potters also brought improved kiln technology, leading to the use of Satsuma, Hagi, Karatsu, Takatori, Agano and Arita kilns.

Edo period

As Japanese pottery entered into the Edo period, global conflict led to the damage of many traditional kilns. In the remaining Arita kilns, Chinese potter refugees introduced new, more refined porcelain techniques and enamel glazes to Japanese pottery. By 1658, the Dutch East Indian Company turned to Japan in search of blue-and-white porcelain to sell in Europe. To cope with demand, Arita kilns had to quickly expand their capacity, allowing them to export vast quantities of Japanese pottery and porcelain to Europe and Asia. At the end of the Edo period, white porcelain clay was discovered in more areas of Japan and was traded domestically, letting potters move more freely and create explore different designs and techniques.

Meiji – Taishō – Shōwa Era

During the Meiji era, Japanese Pottery was under threat from increasing Westernisation. Many traditional potters broke away and most artisans lost their source of income. As Japan descended into the Shōwa era, the folk art movement began. With Japan becoming rapidly urbanised, the artists of this era began to study traditional glazing techniques to preserve the native wares that were in danger of disappearing. That being said, Japanese pottery struggled further during the Shōwa era with the Pacific war; all resources went towards the war effort, leaving the production and development of Japanese pottery in serious decline.

Heisei era to present

As time passed, kilns returned to producing traditional Japanese pottery. Most village wares were made anonymously by local potters for practical purposes and these local styles tended to shut out present influences and instead focused on the traditional. Artist potters began to experiment at the Kyoto and Tokyo arts universities to recreate traditional porcelain and its unique decorations under the influence of ceramic teachers. Today, many master potters no longer work at major or ancient kilns and instead make classic pottery all across Japan.
Are you looking to bring a piece of Japanese pottery history into your home? At Atelier Japan, our collection of handcrafted, traditional pieces of pottery from leading artisans allow you to add some Japanese pottery heritage to your home’s interior. Go online to browse our range of exquisite Rokubeygama and Ogawayozan pottery.

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Japanese Religion: A tale of Buddhism and Shinto

In countries across the world, religion has often played a part in influencing the culture of a nation, and when it comes to Japanese religion, there are two that have been present for centuries; Buddhism and Shinto. Although the people of Japan follow a collection of different religions, Buddhism and Shinto are the most popular due to their intricate belief systems about the sanctity of human life and death.


Buddhism is a highly practised religion in Japanese religion that dates back to the 6th century from Baekje, Korea. When the Baekje King sent the Japanese Emperor an image of the Buddha and sutras, the religion was highly opposed, though eventually accepted into Japanese religion by the Court. The initial uptake of this religion was slow for many years until the Empress Suiko openly encouraged the acceptance of Buddhism among all Japanese people. As time progressed, so did the number of Buddhist clergy, temples and priests. By the Heian period, Japanese religion had seen a real shift with the power of Buddhism growing vastly; many monasteries become centres of power through the establishment of warrior-monks. Both Shinto and Buddhism soon became dominant in Japanese religion with both sharing certain traits and origins.
Buddhism has long been adopted by many countries due to its spiritual path. The religion focuses on achieving enlightenment through the consequences of karma. This Japanese religion focuses on the Buddha or ‘enlightened one’, and is particularly popular as it is seen more of a way of life that concentrates on the ways in which you act rather than following rules and scriptures. There are three main types of Buddhism that are practised; Theravada or foundational Buddhism, Mahayana and Vajrayana. Each form of this Japanese religion focuses on different spiritual ideals from salvation to spiritual release.
As a primarily Japanese religion, Buddhism is celebrated through a national holiday, ‘Obon’. During the holiday of this religion, it is believed that the spirits of the dead return to earth for three days to visit the family shrines and graves. For this holiday, it is custom to clean the graves of loved ones and hold family reunions.


The other most popular Japanese religion is the Shinto religion. Shinto is the indigenous religion of Japan and is practiced by vast numbers of the population. Defined as an action-centred religion, Shinto focuses on ritual-like practices that create a connection between modern Japan and its ancient roots. This Japanese religion believes that every living thing in nature contains a God, which is why the religion cherishes nature from the turning of the seasons to the celebration of sakura, Japans national flower. Shinto may seem quite similar to Buddhism, but there are notable differences in this Japanese religion. In essence, Shintoism places focus on spiritualism relating to the world and life, whereas Buddhism is more concerned with the soul and afterlife. Shintoism originated around the 8th-century with the earliest writing of this Japanese religion referring to a collection of native beliefs and mythology, rather than a religion itself.
Shinto shrines have very specific rules in place to celebrate and practice this Japanese religion, as well as show respect and appreciation for the shrines themselves. In Shinto shrines, you will find a water fountain where a bamboo ladle is used to wash your hands and mouth to purify the spirit before you enter the shrine. Then, you must pray by ringing the shrine bell, throwing a coin before the altar and clapping three times to summon the Kami, a sacred essence that manifests in multiple forms. It is also customary in this Japanese religion to remove your shoes as a sign of respect before kneeling on a tatami-mat to pray.
When it comes to Japanese religion, Shinto and Buddhism share many common aspects whilst still being beautifully different ways of life, exemplifying just how Japanese religion truly celebrates spirit and sentiment. If you’re searching for something to add to your interior design that is symbolic of Japanese religion and culture, visit Atelier Japan to explore an exquisite collection of pottery and ornaments that have been handcrafted to hold sentiment and meaning, ready for you to welcome them into your home.