Recognized as one of the six old kilns or Rokkoyo in Japan, the origin of Shigaraki Yaki dates back to the making of roofing tiles for the Shigaraki palace by Emperor Shomu during the Tenpyo period beginning in 730.
Water jars and large pots for seeds were made during the Kamakura period (1185-1333) and then during the following Muromachi and Momoyama periods spanning the next 300 years, large numbers of tea bowls and other articles associated with the tea ceremony were produced, some of which became extremely well known. With the introduction of noborigama, the distinctive climbing kilns, a great variety of everyday goods was produced alongside tea jars. It was mainly hibachi (charcoal braziers) that were produced in the period from 1912 up to the beginning of World War II. Today, however, such things as tiles, flowers vases, tableware and ornaments rooted in daily life are being produced, making the most of the qualities of the clay from which they are formed.
Many large pieces are being made, which use the clay to the best advantage. Because noborigama and anagama (a simplified climbing kiln) are used, a number of things happen during firing, to produce effects special to this ware. First of all, a "natural glaze" is produced when the ash from the wood with which the kiln is fired melts. A random reddish pattern forms over the surface of a pot and the ash melts to produce a glaze on the surface. There is no decoration except the accidents of nature. A wide range of goods is made including tableware, flower vases, pots for umbrellas, ornaments, plant pots and other garden features.
These potteries are mostly large pieces created taking full advantage of the characteristics of the clay. As these potteries are baked in ascending kilns and hole-type kilns, typical features include the natural glazing caused by ash from the burning wood sticking to the bottom of the oven and fulfilling the role of melted glaze, the red mottled patterns called “fire color” appearing on the surface of the pottery, the ash marks ("haikaburi") left on the surface by the burnt wood, etc. In other words, their special quality is their rustic feel.
How to make
The kibushi, gairome and mizuchi clays which are extracted in Shigaraki and its vicinities are finely crushed and mixed, kneaded together with water and used as pottery clay. After being shaped on a potter’s wheel or a similar instrument and properly dried, the pots are bisque-fired and glazed and finally baked in kilns at about 1200 °C.