|The development of the porcelain industry in Japan was largely benefited from the political turmoil at the end of the Ming Dynasty
(1368-1644) in China.
In the beginning, between 1610 and 1650, early Imari porcelain, also known as shoki-Imari was only decorated in under glazed blue.
It was simple and primitive in decoration.
Around 1640, a coloring method on porcelain was introduced to the Hizen makers by Chinese.
Porcelain decoration in over glaze colors is iroe or akae. When Japanese porcelain industry started to grow, China was in the middle
of the civil war and most of their porcelain kilns were destroyed. The Dutch East India Company, exporting Chinese porcelain to
Europe, needed to fill their orders from other sources out of China. In 1659, the new porcelain factories of the Hizen province had
received a large order from the company.
In the 1670s, Kakiemon style was developed especially for the export, which is characterized by the elegant colored decoration of
animals and people and, also kacho-zu ,a painting of a bird with flowers in an asymmetrical form. The body of the Kakiemon
porcelain has a milky white color which is also known as nigoshide resembling a color of a rinse water after rice grains are
repeatedly washed before cooking.
In the 1690s, Kakiemon style was soon replaced by kinran-de style porcelain of more dense decoration divided by sections painted
in red, gold, blue & other colors; a word, kinran-de derives from a luxurious silk garment woven or embroidered with gold threads.
The other style similar to Kinrande which was more or less created to suit European's taste of that era, was nishiki-de or
some-nishiki porcelain to target a domestic market. "Nishiki-de" means "in a style of a colorful weaving " and some-nishiki means
nishiki-de with sometsuke ( blue & white ) decoration.
After the kinran-de porcelian brought the Imari industry of the Hizen makers international fame and success, Japan's domestic
market also started to grow, stimulated by bubbling economy in the cities surrounding the major sea ports, where newly rich
merchants were seeking after luxury goods. Beautifully decorated porcelain was shipped out of Imari port to Kyoto, Osaka and Edo.
During the Genroku period (1688-1703), Imari porcelain had reached to its highest peak of quality and prosperity.
Most of the Imari products exported in the early Edo period was produced in the province of Saga-han ruled by the Nabeshima Clan;
a "han" in Japanese stands for a feudal domain ruled by a lord or prince. To protect their secret methods, Saga-han regulated the
numbers of the potters and the painters of each workshop, and also they employed bungyo system which separates potters and
painters in the separate factories to protect the knowledge of over all porcelain production process from the outsiders. Especially,
hanyo which means an exclusive kiln owned by a prince lord for his exclusive use was guarded with an absolute secrecy. The kiln
owned by Nabeshima Clan of Saga-han is called Nabeshima and it is very famous of its high quality porcelain of extraordinary
beauty. The other hanyo close to Nabeshima is Hirado owned by Matsura Clan of Hirado-han.
In the 1680s, when China started to recover from the destruction of the civil war, the new emperor, Kangxi (1654-1722) was able to
rebuild the porcelain kilns and re-start the export trade once again. This, in return, had caused a significant decline in the Japanese
exports. And, the strict export regulation of the Tokugawa government also known as sakoku started to make changes in Japan. The
export business had become very risky and extremely limited. Under these circumstances, in the 18th century, a domestic market
became the main focus of their trade. Various dishes in many sizes and different shapes were introduced to the market, and also
inexpensive everyday type china dishes were sent to the food vendors and the homes of the lower working class throughout Japan.
Meanwhile more porcelain kilns were started in other area of Hizen province outside of the Nabeshima territory such as Hasami kilns
in Omura territory which produced low cost, run-of-the-mill types of dishes in quantity.
In the later 18th century, when a plenty of porcelain products were circulated in the Japanese market, pottery makers outside of
Kyushu felt urgent needs to learn a method of making porcelain to catch up with the new trends. Before too long, they too started to
produce the beautiful porcelain wares in Seto, Kaga, Kyoto and other parts of Japan. The porcelain ware, what used to be known as
an object of rarity and luxury, strictly forbidden to the commoners of the Edo society, rapidly flooded into the everyday life of all
classes in Japan. In other words, the privilege which they held for so many years in Hizen had ended.