Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Shigaraki 信楽町

Shigaraki, home to one of the six ancient kilns areas in Japan, has a long history of commercial pottery dating back to the 13th century. The area is known for its clay beds which produced a resilient and high quality product that it is well suited to large items such as storage vessels and bowls. Works produced here are known as Shigaraki-yaki and many local potters use traditional wood fired Anagama kilns to produce their wares. One of the characteristic and distinctive appearances of Shigaraki ceramics are the lack of glaze, instead the potters rely on the natural properties of the clay. During the firing process, the iron in the clay is oxidized and produces a red coloring and the heat also draws out a greenish citreous substance from the clay which leaves a natural glaze-like finish on the surface. One very common item fired in Shigaraki are Tanuki statue (pictured) and they grace every corner of the town and many Izakaya and shops throughout Japan (Shigaraki is also called Tanuki town). Tanuki are placed in the hopes that their owners will gain sake, fertility, money and luck. According to folklore the Tanuki, originally from Siberia, can transform its shape and also turn its stomach into a drum.

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