By June 2015, 222 items have been designated as Traditional Craft Products by the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry. Among those are Akazu ware and Seto sometsuke ware, both being produced in Seto City.
The main requirements for a craft item to be designated as “Traditional Craft Product” are as follows.
For centuries, Japanese people have used and treasured traditional crafts products, which are manually produced primarily from natural materials by using time-honored techniques.
Over the past 1,000 years, Akazu ware has been produced in Akatsu District in the eastern edge of Seto City. The time-honored kiln in Akatsu uses seven different types of glazes: ash, iron, Ko-Seto, Ki-Seto, Shino, Oribe, and Ofuke glazes. In addition to the variety of glazes, 12 decoration techniques are adopted in Akazu ware, including kushime (kushigaki or parallel line decoration), herame (chamfering), and inka (stamped decoration). At present, Akazu ware products comprise dishes for traditional Japanese style cuisine, tea cups, coffee cups and saucers, and various other dishes, as well as traditional utensils for tea ceremony and flower arrangement.
The highlight of the porcelains in Seto is sometsuke (blue-and-white) ware, featuring brushstrokes as elegant as those of Japanese-style paintings. Since high-quality kaolin clay produced in Seto is used in Seto ware porcelains, they have shiny pure white bodies, which enhance the blue color of cobalt blue pigments. For such pigments, only high-quality products of Seto regions and those imported from China are used. Painting techniques have also developed in Seto under coaching by professional painters, particularly those of Nanga (Chinese southern-style ink painting). On shiny white porcelain ground, artisans in Seto paint landscapes, birds, flowers, and plants more realistically and more precisely than their counterparts in other pottery centers. Their techniques and artistic sensibility result in the creation of Seto’s original ceramic art.
After the end of World War II, the pottery industry in Seto was boosted by exports, particularly those of Seto novelties (ceramic dolls and figurines).
“Novelty” is a generic word for earthenware and porcelain figurines and ornaments, including classical dolls, figurines of animals, birds, characters; souvenirs, flower vases, wall hangings, cosmetic tools, and decorative tableware. There are also various ceramic types, ranging from porcelain to semi-porcelain, hakuun toki (earthenware containing dolomite), and bone china. Many novelties made in Japan were exported to Western countries particularly after the end of World War II. Today, such products of Seto continue to embellish many Western homes.
Seto novelties, created from excellent raw materials of Seto with time-honored technologies in the region, truly represent Seto ware.