Japanese Handicrafts – Kanayama pottery

I have been touring Japan photographing craftspeople and artisans for my upcoming book to be published by Gestalten this year. In total I managed to photograph some 70 artisans, all of them wonderful, however due to space constraints in the book not all of them were able to make it into the final cut.

I plan to introduce some of the ones that we unfortunately couldn’t include here, so I hope you’re in the mood to learn about some crafts!

Kanayama-yaki, or Kanayama pottery is a very recent type of earthenware in Japan’s very long and rich history of pottery. It was established in the 1960s in Aomori prefecture, the second Northern-most prefecture in Japan, when the clay in a particular marsh near the town of Hirosaki was discovered to be extremely good for pottery.

Now, there is a large wood-fired kiln as well as extensive pottery facilities for young artists to come and take advantage of. Foreign potters are often in residence in the huts behind the kiln. There’s even a charming pizzeria for shoppers to make use of while they peruse the wares.

Kanayama ware is known for its earthy style of coloration while being smooth and refined. The clay is surprisingly light and extremely pleasant to the touch as well as handling temperature fluctuations well. Different types of glaze is applied using recycled materials – for example, ash from apple trees is added to create a white glaze inside the kiln. I managed to purchase some of the pieces and they are currently my favorite vessel for drinking sake out of. Highly recommend driving out to the workshops if you are in Aomori – it’s a twenty minute drive from Aomori city. kanayamayaki.com