It is quite difficult to write briefly about the ceramics of Japan, since its history dates back more than 10 millennia and there were countless different directions during this period. However, in our short article we will try to systematize the main artistic traditions of Japanese ceramics, which, despite the significant influence of Korean and Chinese ceramics, has remained a completely unique and recognizable phenomenon of world culture. Japan is a unique country, where the contemplation of Zen Buddhism was side by side with the militancy of the samurai, and the high technological level of modernity does not interfere with thoughtful observation of nature and meditative immersion in it. So, Japanese ceramics.
The first samples of Japanese ceramics belong to the Dzemon period, which has more than three thousand years of its existence. Despite the antiquity, the Dzemon ceramics amazes with its elegance and elaboration of the relief.
Like many archaic ceramic products, it belongs to the so-called “rope” ceramics, although its shape is significantly more complex than, for example, the Skopin ceramics or the old Swedish Snorkeramic. In fact, the similarity with rope ceramics ends only in the method of manufacturing products using rope harnesses. However, the richness of the relief and plastic forms puts the Japanese Dzemon incommensurably higher than the European archaic vessels in terms of their artistic value.
The Dzemon ceramics were widespread in Japan up to the IV century BC, but at the same time with it, from the first millennium BC, a second direction, called Yayoi ceramics, developed. It was mostly dishes, simple in decor, reddish in color, polished to a shine and practically without ornaments.
However, the quality of clay in Yayoi ceramics was higher, so the products turned out to be more thin-walled and decorated mainly with ridge relief. Yayoi ceramists began to use a potter’s wheel — this is another reason for the thinner walls of the vessels. The firing technique has also become more perfect.
At the end of the third century, the Kofun era began, which lasted until the VII century AD. Kofun and Yayoi ceramics were also used for ritual purposes and funeral ceremonies.
Since the VIII century AD, the potters of Kyoto have mastered the technology of glazing ceramics with low-melting glazes. Basically, three-color white-yellow-green glazes were used. But ceramics with ash (ash) and salt glaze became more popular, when the ash fell on the surface of the product and was transformed under the influence of temperature in the furnace into a translucent greenish film with an uneven texture.
No less interesting are salt glazes, which were obtained as a result of burning seaweed and salt on the surface of ceramics during firing. It should be noted that the works of Japanese masters with the use of salt glaze were found until the XIX century.
Since the XIII century, ceramists have improved their furnaces and were able to raise the temperature in them to 1200 degrees, which made it possible to obtain a feldspar glaze.
The next notable period of Japanese ceramics belongs to the Kutayama era-the middle of the XIV century, when six of the most famous workshops worked on the territory of medieval Japan-in Seto, Bidzen, Echizen, Shigaraki, Tanba and Tkoname.
Ceramic products of the Muromachi period (1336-1573) were mainly covered with a vitreous glaze and were used by Buddhist monks as ritual dishes.
Since the firing process is always unstable and not entirely predictable, the result sometimes differs from what was intended. Japanese ceramists used this feature and turned the firing flaws into a kind of color that adds natural beauty to the product.
In general, the key for all Japanese art is the canon of simplicity and naturalness, which, of course, is reflected in Japanese ceramics.
An important stage in the development of Japanese ceramics was the tea ceremony, which spread from the Japanese nobility throughout society and entered the culture of Japan as one of the almost religious rites. For its implementation, a special type of tableware was required, which was imported from China.
The increased need for such dishes and the termination of trade relations with China gave a powerful impetus to the development of ceramics in the Momoyama era in the XV century.
During this period, the unification of Japan and the emergence of a centralized statehood took place. The long wars, followed by periods of isolation of Japan, contributed to the art and ceramics of the archipelago.
At the same time, the “raku” ceramics, specially designed for the tea ceremony, also appeared. Her father was Tanaka Tejiro, a Korean master potter.
The war with Korea and the transportation of a large number of ceramists from Korea accelerated the development of technology for the production of faience and porcelain. The second most famous Korean master, who not only transferred Korean technologies to Japanese art, but also completely assimilated into Japanese society, developed Japanese ceramics to unexpected heights, became Ri Sampei . He is considered the “father” of Japanese porcelain.
Many Korean craftsmen settled in the Arita area in the north of Kyushu Island, where deposits of white-burning clay were found, necessary for the production of porcelain and faience. Quite quickly, this region became the largest producer of porcelain, exporting its products to other countries of the world through the port of Imari.
The Edo era gave a new round in the development of Japanese ceramics. The XVI century was a century of unprecedented development of technologies and schools of painting. Thousands of ceramic workshops were opened all over the country, many of which are still working today.
By the XVII century, Japanese porcelain had received European recognition on a par with Chinese and successfully competed with it. Just like the Chinese works, the blue-and-white products of the Arita masters were copied by the Delft ceramists .
And in the UK, copies of the Japanese Kakiemon have become popular, which is characterized by the elegance of natural images-birds and flowers — laconic graphic silhouettes with colored enamels on a milky white background with techniques of overglaze painting.
In general, despite the similarity of Korean, Chinese and Japanese painting, the main difference between Japanese visual traditions is the lack of pomp and parade.
On all the products of Japanese masters, we see very elegant, concise and even intimate images of nature, restrained, but this makes them even more attractive in their simplicity.
Modern samples of Japanese ceramics and porcelain surpass many products of European and Chinese manufacturers and are still an original truly Japanese art, filled with a deep sense of worship for the beauty of nature and philosophical detachment from the hustle and bustle of everyday life in the name of eternal spiritual values.