Hello, We are SHIHA TEAPOT SHOP in Japan. This is the story of Suzu ware (Suzu-yaki) . We introduce beauty of Suzu-yaki, comparing modern and medieval Suzu-yaki.
- What is Suzu-yaki?
- SUZU – Land of Beautiful Black
- Modern Suzu-yaki
- Medieval Suzu-yaki
- 2023 Major Earthquake Hit Suzu “Suzuyaki Support Group 2023” Established
What is Suzu-yaki?
Suzu-yaki is a black unglazed pottery made in Suzu City, where is located Noto Peninsula in Ishikawa Prefecture. It is classified as stoneware. It is a traditional craft of Ishikawa prefecture. Suzu is the name of the place, “-yaki” literally means “fired” (pottery). Suzu-yaki means pottery made in Suzu, which are with local clay and fired in reduction atmosphere (black body).
SUZU – Land of Beautiful Black
Suzu is a beautiful black town. On the road from Noto Airport in Ishikawa Prefecture to Suzu city, and here and there, you can see the beautiful black tiles that decorate the roof of the house. (Noto tile) When you visit Suzu city, you will be immersed in the beautiful black world created by this land.
There is also a lot of green, and you can feel the contrast with black vividly.
It is a view from the highest mountain in Suzu. (November)
Suzu is a place where you can enjoy fresh foods, history and culture, nature and ceramics, such as diatomaceous earth, Jomon archaeological sites, rice, seafood, sake, salt, nature, sea, and wind. The roads are wide and few people, so driving and cycling are comfortable.
The Secret of Quiet Beauty
Suzu-yaki that are fired in a wood-fired kiln have natural glazes such as gray, green, and pink. A deep layer of soft color are created on a black background. (Some works are fired in a gas kiln.)
When fired pots in a kiln, if firewood is used as fuel, the firewood (pine trees, etc.) will be burned and become ash, which will fall on the pots in the kiln. It creates beautiful colors and complex textures.
The works in this chapter and the next chapter are the wokrs of artist SHINOHARA TAKASHI.
Kiln Firing (Mr. Takashi Shinohara’s wood-fired kiln)
Firing wood for 24 hours x-days is hard work, but there is a unique beauty created by wood-fired kiln.
We asked Mr. Shinohara about the firing. It is described in the upper and lower parts of the video. Please also see the amount of firewood used in the video.
Introduction of the video: (Mr. Shinohara explains) The video is probably when the kiln temperature is 1100℃. The series of operations as shown in the video is repeated every few minutes. The amount of firewood to be burned is determined by the condition of the kiln, but basically, I only burn as much as the kiln requires. If there is too much or too little, the temperature will drop. It is important to get this intuition.
For firewood, Mr. Shinohara uses red pine or cedar depends on the cases. The color and atmosphere of the natural glaze changes depending on the type of firewood used.
Suzu-yaki make you calm and pulpify.
I feel that Suzu-yaki can make plants in nature look even more beautiful.
When flowers are in Suzu vase, it creates a dignified atmosphere. Please see the following blog for flowers and Suzu-yaki.
Customers who purchased Suzu-yaki from overseas sent us photos.
For messages from each country, please see the following Japanese Suzu-yaki lifestyle photo page.
SUZU-yaki & Tea
Global tea lovers share their impression of “Suzu-yaki & Tea”. You can see the effect of Suzu-yaki for tea in the following blog. They brew Chinese tea in Suzu-yaki teapots (teacup). We are waiting for impression with Japanese Tea, as well.
Medieval Suzu-yaki large jars and jars were exhibited at the “Suzu-yaki exhibition” in Shibuya Hikarie (September 2019). The characteristics are the same as modern Suzu-yaki – Black, unglazed, fired in a wood-fired kiln, natural glaze. And the large jars and jars are characterized by their small bottoms. The lower body of the Kyusu teapot of Mr. Shinohara Takashi (modern Suzu-yaki) reproduces the original form of Suzu-yaki – a small and tight bottom. The sharp line toward the foot shows typical “Suzu ware”.
These are from the 12th to the beginning of the 15th century. The color and natural glaze in the photo are not clear due to the light, but the impression I got from the real things was still a “simple and quiet beauty”.
Ones in earlier times are more gray than black. It is said that if the raw material soil contains a lot of iron (and the temperature of the kiln is high), it will be darker. Ones in earlier were fired in lower temperature (not yet possible to have higher temperature). As close 15th century, the temperature of the kiln became higher, and deep black ones come out.
Soil/clay with a high iron content turns black by reduction fired (a state where there is little oxygen in the kiln). It turns reddish when it is oxidation firing, which has much oxygen in the kiln. Suzu-yaki is made in reduction firing.
This four-ear jar had many dark parts in the body, and the surface was glossy and deep. (It’s hard to see in the photo)
Suzu-Yaki, Comparison to Other Old Potteries at Tokyo National Museum
There was a comparative exhibition of Suzu-yaki and Medieval pottery at the Tokyo National Museum(2019). By comparison, you can clearly see the characteristic of Suzu-yaki, which is black color and the tight bottom. Can you tell which one is Suzu-yaki?
Suzu-yaki has a sharp line toward the bottom(foot).
Suzu ware is on the far left. Please see the following blog for the exhibition photos of Tokyo National Museum.
By comparison, Suzu-yaki is blackish and gray. Others are reddish and brown (Bizen, Echizen, Tanba, Tokoname)
This is an explanation of the exhibition. Suzu-yaki is listed in the pottery from the Heisei-Muromachi period (medieval period) – the charm of large jars . Below is a commentary on Tokyo National Museum. (Explanation of Japanese Parts)
平安時代末の12世紀になると、産業と経済の発達にともなって古代須恵器や灰釉陶の生産技術を基礎に、各地で新しい窯場が台頭します。自然釉のかかった常滑・渥美（とこなめ・あつみ）、須恵器から展開した珠洲（すず）が中心となり、擂鉢や碗皿類のほか、壺や甕などの大型品が作られました。Tokyo National Museum
In the 12th century, at the end of the Heian period, new kilns emerged in various places based on the production technology of ancient Sue pottery and ash-glazed pottery with the development of industry and economy.
In addition to mortars and bowls, large items such as jars were made. Tokoname & Atsumi with natural glaze, and Suzu that was developed from Sue pottery were the major production area.
500 years of silence “phantom ancient pottery”
In fact, Suzu-yaki were suddenly disappeared in the 15th century. It was said that “it disappeared suddenly” and “phantom old pottery”. Modern Suzu-yaki was revived about 50 years ago. The existence of Suzu-yaki has not been known for a long time. It was revealed in modern times, and it has been reconstructed.
Discovery of Unknown Black Pottery, Named “Suzu-yaki” in 1961
An antique researcher’s encounter with a gray-black four-eared large jar one day. It triggered Suzu-yaki to wake up from a 500-year sleep. He went to Suzu city to explore the roots of the unknown pottery and conducted a survey with a local history researcher. Then, the pottery was found to be medieval pottery and was named “Suzu-yaki”. It was 1961 (Showa 36).
Commentary on Suzu-yaki in the Middle Ages (at year 1998)
As a fan of Suzu ware, I was delighted to hear the explanation of Suzu-yaki(excerpt below) in the history of Japanese pottery (supervised by Yoshiaki Yabe) published in 1998. However, I was worried that it was hidden in the fame of the Japan old six kilns.
この六古窯の名声に隠れて、その存在を知られていなかった古窯に…（中略）石川県珠洲市の珠洲焼がある。にほんやきもの史 The History of Japanese pottery
Hidden in the fame of these six old kilns, there is an old kiln whose existence was unknown … (Omitted) Suzu-yaki in Suzu City, Ishikawa Prefecture.
ちなみに須恵器系の窯としては…（中略）なかでも、造形的にとくに抜きん出ているのは、やはり、石川県の珠洲焼である。その黒光りする素地肌。鋭敏なエッジを利かせた造形と、重厚な作りの大壺は人をして感動させる迫力がそなわっている。にほんやきもの史 The History of Japanese pottery
By the way, as a Sue pottery kiln … (Omitted), the one that stands out in terms of modeling is Suzu-yaki in Ishikawa prefecture. The black shining base skin. The shape with a sharp edge and the heavy jar have the power to impress people.
In 2019, about 20 years after the publication of this book, looking at the exhibition and commentary at the Tokyo National Museum mentioned above, I feel that research has made for Suzu-yaki further and existence and scale of Suzu-yaki in the Middle Ages were clarified.
2023 Major Earthquake Hit Suzu “Suzuyaki Support Group 2023” Established
In May 2023, a major earthquake hit the city of Suzu on the Noto Peninsula (for the second time). The artists of Suzu pottery were very badly affected. They were just starting to recover from the first earthquake in June 2022 and were trying to do their best again.
After that, in June 2023, the “Suzu Ware Support Group 2023” will be formed to recruit volunteers and crowdfund the rebuilding of the kiln. We will update this page when we have more information.
Below are the news links.
May 10, 2023: Suffering of Suzu ware artists whose kilns were destroyed by the earthquake (article + video)
May 11, 2023 Repeated major earthquakes: The struggles of affected Suzu pottery makers (YouTube)
May 16, 2023 Earthquake of magnitude 6+ damages works and kilns of the traditional craft of Suzu-yaki, two major earthquakes (Article)
June 3, 2023 Takako Tokiwa becomes the leader of a support group for the recovery of Suzu ware (Article)
That’s all for Suzu-yaki. Please see the Suzu-yaki related blog if you are interested. Thank you very much for reading and interest.