Wednesday, October 12, 2011

MIYAJIMA YAKI (宮島焼き)-Ceramics of Hiroshima Prefecture

Miyajima-yaki is not one of the most well known types of Japanese pottery. Miyajima is the little Island near Hiroshima with the orange torii gate that sits out in the water.  It is a lovely place to visit. Besides the famous shrine with the torii gate, they are also known for Japanese maple leaves or momiji.  When we were there I noticed many of the shops had pottery so we asked them where it came from.  They actually make it there on Miyajima! Here is a sample of the pottery they make there.

Set of cups (meoto) with maple leaf design.

Osuna-yaki is pottery of Miyajima. It traditionally used sand from the shrine. I found this lovely sencha set by Kawahara Tosai at a charity shop.
Just as you arrive at Miyajima you see the Kawahara Tosai store which I believe was established in Showa 14. The set does not appear to have been used and is in pristine condition. The box is an old style box and has worn with age.

                                                        Nine piece sensha set.



Itsukaku Yaki was pottery of the Itsukushima Shrine. The sands around the shrine were used to make carved pottery with the shrine and tori gate. It is most often referenced with other 3D wares on the Internet under Banko. Banko ware is not the only ware that used this carved 3D technique. In fact you'll find it in Tobe porcelain, Akita and in a few other areas in Japan. It is no longer made on Miyajima and I was hard-pressed to find anything about it on the Internet. It just disappeared. 
The ones made on Miyajima made ware specifically use the tori, shrine and mountain motif. They usually will have written in Japanese sousho script Itsuku Jinja (厳島神社) on them. I want to thank a follower, Gerry, who first brought this type of pottery to my attention a couple of years ago. Since then I have finally found my own little vase to share with you.


  1. Hi, Marmie. Your comments on Miyajima-Osuna yaki are very helpful to someone who has never visited Japan. I also collect Japanese pottery (mostly antique teapots) and have been confused by the 3D relief work often labeled in the States as "Banko ware" on eBay and elsewhere. But at least two Japanese dealers have correctly identified them as Miyajima ware. Part of the problem stems from Nancy Schiffer's otherwise useful book on "Imari, Satsuma and Other Japanese Export Ceramics" (2nd edition, 2000), esp the teapot illustration at the bottom of p. 175. This piece and many of the vases sold on eBay (as Banko ware) often feature the famous torii gate at the shrine on Miyajima. Apparently in the early 20th century the potters mixed sand from the shrine into their clay (thought to bring good fortune). This practice was later discontinued. I wonder if this motif is specific to Miyajima or, like the ubiquitous Mt. Fuji, did many potteries feature this image? Anyway, I am fairly sure these pieces are NOT Banko ware. If you have any further information on the subject, please contact me at Best regards, Gerry Sloan

  2. Gerry,
    Thank you for your comment. I have Shiffer's book but it is the 1997 edition so I am not sure I am looking at the same picture. There is a 3D teapot with a torii gate on pg 161 of her 1997 edition. Now, keep in mind that one of the greatest Shinto shrines in all of Japan in Ise, Mie prefecture, home of Banko pottery. It would not be unusual to have pottery designed with torii gates or shrines on them. The modern Banko pottery tends to be much more simple in its design. Much of the more ornate Banko pottery seems to have been created for the export market, although Edo period Banko ware was quite colorful.
    Miyajima Yaki tends to be quite simple so I question the sculpted 3D design being identified as Miyajima Yaki. That being said, I have not studied much about Banko ware as other styles capture my attention more.
    Annelise Crueger, in her book" Modern Japanese Ceramics" has some good information on both Banko and Miyajima wares.

  3. Gerry,
    FYI, there is a book on Amazon "Fanciful Images: Japanese Banko Ceramics" by Barry Till for $19.87 prime. I don't know if it will help you but thought I would pass it along

  4. Hi Marmie, yes I have the Till book which is basically an expansion of his earlier pamphlet with a similar title, created for a specific exhibit at the museum where he is curator. I enjoy looking at the photos, but no dimensions are given, unlike the Schiffer and most other similar books. I also own the Crueger, which has broadened my knowledge considerably. My Japanese neighbor, Hisae, recently returned from visiting her family in Hiroshima and made a stop at Miyajima. She brought some info from the Tosai kiln, which basically repeats the info in Crueger, but still doesn't solve the mystery of the 3D ware. As you say, the tori gates are common, but one particular design includes other features specific to Itsukushima, and one of my oldest teapots with this design contains obvious grains of sand, a practice discontinued in 1945, according to Mr. Tosai. Anyway, I appreciate your feedback and wish you best of luck in the new year. --Gerry

  5. Hi Marmie. Composed a lengthy message twice but not sure if it got through. If not, will try again soon. Thanks,

  6. This is quite a mystery. I wish I had pictures of your pieces, with the close ups of the specific designs you mentioned. You really have my curiosity peaked. Do you have a blog, Facebook or Pinterest page with the pictures by any chance?

  7. Sorry, no blog. I can try to post some photos on facebook or maybe email directly if you don't mind sharing your address. Not much of a tech wizard myself so may need to get help from my daughter. If you look on eBay under banko, there are usually half a dozen pieces (usually vases) like the ones I have. Best,


    1. Gerry,
      I decided to open an email account for this blog. I am getting a lot of requests.


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