Wednesday, May 28, 2014


When Japan was finally opened to the outside world in 1868, demand for exports of Japanese ceramics began to mount until it exploded around the 1880's. The products made for export were generally gaudy and hastily done. It is said that "blanks" were delivered to many locations near ports such as Tokyo, Yokohama, Osaka, Kobe, Kyoto, etc. Men, women and children were involved in decorating the pieces to enable them to get as many ready for export as possible. "Satsuma" ceramics for export usually had warriors, geisha, etc., whereas the domestic market pieces were dominated by flowers and landscapes which were produced with much more care. Much of what westerners label as Satsuma is not true Satsuma. True Satsuma began in Kagoshima and Kushikino but after finding good clay, moved to Naeshirogawa, a village in Satsuma Province in the early 1600's. It is a very beautiful, intricate and quality ceramic with a distinctive natural crackle to the glaze. There is absolutely no comparison of real Satsuma to the export wares known to many westerners as "Satsuma". (see Japanese Ceramics of the last 100 years by Irene Stitt).

I found this vase below (showing front and back) at a second hand shop. I thought this was a good specimen to show what many in the west have come to know as "Satsuma". The marks inside the bottom read 右四十, which I assume means "right 40" which might refer to either its order coming off the production line for the right side of a pair or the right side of a large numbered set. Often vases came in pairs or sets.  I am not sure of the age of this piece as I have seen similar pieces described as being anywhere from 1880-1920. I can say that this certainly does show its age, having a golden repair and with crazing in the moriage. Notice that the creamy glaze inside and at the bottom of the vase does not show the delicate crazing expected of true Satsuma. I have seen many similar shapes on line so I believe these were probably blanks that were decorated with various designs. This vase stands 12" which also fits one of the common sizes. Although not quality Satsuma, these kinds of pieces have become quite collectible.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


In love all the styles and colors of the Jubako stackable ceramic dishes. They traditionally are used for the New Years celebrations. In the days preceding the new year people bustle about cleaning and decorating their homes. Many special foods are prepared beforehand for the three day celebration so that families and friends can enjoy the holiday without having to spend all the time in the kitchen preparing food. They beautifully arrange the food in the jubako.  Since Japanese houses are not centrally heated the food is left out in the jubako so that people can just eat when they want. I think they look beautiful set in grouping for display. They would also be a lovely way to arrange finger foods at your next party! 

    This is sold by Tachikichi, with Tachibana MARK

    Fan-shaped Jubako. I am still working on identifying this mark.

This is sold by Dai Ichi Toki (第弌陶器 ) This is the "red" MARK.  They have many other marks under their label. 

    I believe this reads Daigo (醍醐)

       This is Arita Yaki with Shosen MARK 

This is Mino ware with the Daikichi MARK

      Marunishi Tosai MARK (needs verification)

 This is a partial, the top is missing. I use it to heighten my other jubako's as the size is the same. The mark is Kozangama by Maetbata Company of Gifu Prefecture. It is Mino Ware.

Two tired Jubako in Annan style. I am still working on identifying this MARK.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Beware and Do Your Homework!

I want to post a warning about many of the claims on auction sites. Often as I am browsing, I am flabbergasted at the claims made concerning Japanese ceramics. The errors I find most often are claiming things as antique when they are not,  labeling as Satsuma when they are not, or other incorrect labeling, and a pet peeve, labeling Mino ware by Kozangama as Arita Kozanyo or Kasan. A recent one on Etsy claims a listing is a rare antique Satsuma tea set, but it appears to be an imitation of Ogata Kenzan's work (with a very lame signature). I don't think Kenzan was making western tea sets.
So, please do your homework and do not believe everything you read. Check out other sources before you take the leap and buy something off an auction site. 

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