Aizu Hongo Ware
It seems that the making of pottery started here during the Sengoku period (1428-1573), when tiles to roof a castle in Aizuwakamatsu were being made. Then, during the early years of the Edo period (1600-1868) Hoshina Masayuki, who led the Aizu clan, saw a need to patronize and further the making of pottery, and the production of what became Aizu Hongo Yaki ware flourished under the supervision of the clan. This subsequently led to the making of everyday pieces of pottery for use by people at large. Production of ceramics here suffered badly due to fighting just prior to the Meiji Restoration in 1868 and as a result of a devastating fire in the Taisho period (1912-1926). The industry recovered, however, and is still thriving today. It has the distinction of being the oldest area where white porcelain is produced in the whole of northeastern Japan.
Both pottery and porcelain are being made here. In some cases, both pottery and porcelain are being produced at the same kiln. The porcelain is gazed with celadon and there are many other wares being produced using colors derived from both Japanese and Western pigments. The pottery made tends to be very practical. For some of these pieces such traditional glazes as an amber colored glaze and an ash glaze are used. A full range of tableware is made alongside tea cups and pots, flower vases, and sake flasks and cups.
The Aizu Hongo region of Fukushima prefecture produces both soft-paste and hard-paste porcelains. There are even individual makers who produce both varieties. There are many varieties of hard-paste porcelains including those with only designs of gosu blue, and others which have designs which use a variety of Japanese and Western colors. Soft-paste porcelain is used to make a wide array of items used in every day life. A variety of traditional glazes for the soft-paste porcelains are used, including clear glaze, ash glaze and white glaze.
How to make
Aizu Hongo Yaki pieces are primarily made by turning the clay on a potter’s wheel. Additional methods also used include cutting the piece from a sheet of porcelain clay, shaping the piece entirely by hand-working, and also using a plaster cast to mold the clay. Local porcelain stones and clay earth serve as the primary raw materials, and a variety of independent, ingenious methods can be found at each pottery to produce the wide array of styles produced in the region.