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Karatsu Porcelain 唐津焼

saga prefecture's earthy, hand-moulded porcelain

I don’t own much Karatsu porcelain but I wish I did. Karatsu-yaki porcelain reminds me to slow down.

Karatsu porcelain is a beautiful style of porcelain and nothing at all like your usual white, richly-painted or gold inlaid porcelain that Europeans were so obsessed with in olden times.

I like Karatsu-yaki for its earthiness. The formation of the pieces is much thicker, often asymmetrical and either unglazed or glazed with yet another earthy colour.  To me, this is actually a representation of true Japanese wa  和 or "harmony".

Karatsu tea cups from Karatsu, Saga Prefecture.

“But…but… Japanese art is all about colourful geisha, vibrant reds and greens, isn’t it?” I might hear you say.  From the outside looking in, Japan’s culture has some spectacular arts and high quality artefacts of vibrant colour and impeccable workmanship.  It is easy to think that to be a true Japanese piece of porcelain it would have to be very fine, with impeccable decoration, bright images and perfect glazing. But the point is that you’re looking at it from the outside in. To bring the eyes of the West into the East, the Japanese have to show off their flashiest and sparkliest items to attract a Westerner's attention.

That is a superficial beauty of Japan.

Karatsu porcelain is earthy, rich and grounded...

There is another side to Japan. The ZEN side that says, “slow down, appreciate the nature around you, the skills of the craftsman and the innate beauty of the raw materials”.

To me, having experienced much Japanese culture since 1990, it is my own understanding that an appreciation for the earth, its bounty and the origin of all things is of highest significance to the Japanese psyche. Finding beauty in simple, daily objects and simple, courteous actions and traditions is a kind of zen achievement.

Image from author [CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons. Used with permission.

Karatsu porcelain is like this. It is deliberately imperfect. It is the porcelain you would use when you’re centring yourself with a cup of green tea. It is the porcelain you could use in the tea ceremony when you’re calming your inner thoughts. It is the porcelain you might use to achieve a greater understanding of Zen, without consciously trying to understand anything at all.

It is earthy. It appears simple yet it is not. It says a great deal about the person who created it as well as the buyer who has just purchased it. If porcelain could bring you peace, Karatsu porcelain might just be the one for you.

Karatsu is not one of the destinations that I'm able to take you to on our Art and Craft Tours of Japan as our time in Saga is limited but, you will be able to see some examples of it when we tour the Kyushu Ceramic Museum during our tour of Saga.

For more information about Karatsu porcelain, I found this page on the Japanese Traditional Craft Resource Centre website.

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    Imari ceramics is the Westernised name that has been given to porcelain from the Arita disctrict of Saga Prefecture.

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