karatsu P11-P24 [en]

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A Dream within a Dream

“All that Remain of Warriors’ dreams”. Hizen Nagoya Castle Ruins is a vast site with only stone walls remaining. Famous military commanders from all over the country gathered in Nagoya, and at its peak, as many as 200,000 people lived there. The purpose was to invade Korea and then the Ming Dynasty. The golden tea room was once built here by Sen no Rikyu, who mastered the tea ceremony, and was commissioned by Taiko Toyotomi Hideyoshi to astonish even envoys from the continent.

The potters brought here from the land of unfulfilled dreams passed on their superior pottery techniques and laid the foundation for Karatsu Ware. “A Dream within a dream” is a line from Hideyoshi’s death poem.

Karatsu Scenery

Karatsu Kunchi (festival)
Karatsu Kunchi is the annual autumn festival of Karatsu Shrine, held from November 2nd to 4th every year. On the occasion of Otabisho Shinko on the 3rd, the sight of 14 gorgeous floats pulled into the white sand and pulled out with the sea and pine forest in the background is a sight to behold. It is a moment that condenses the “Beauty of Karatsu”.

Niji no Matsubara (pine forest)
The pine tree is also an impressive design in Ekaratsu. About 400 years ago, the pine forest was planted by Hirotaka Terasawa, the lord of the Karatsu domain, to protect it from sea breezes and blowing sand. The pine forest stretches for 2 ri (about 8km,but currently 4.5km)and is famous as the largest pine forest in Japan. It is called Rainbow Matsubara because of its length and the way it curves along Karatsu Bay. This is truly the beauty of white sand and green pine trees.

Visiting the Lives of Potters in Karatsu

Text・8 and 2 Editing room

If you leave the south exit of Karatsu Station and walk for about 10 minutes, you will find the pottery. The Nakazato Taroemon Tobo, which created today’s Karatsu Ware, stands quietly in the center of Karatsu town. There are also ruins of a climbing kiln nearby, and you can see the history of the tradition of pottery in this area since ancient times.

Another pottery is located on a hill overlooking Niji no Matsubara and sea from Mt. Kagamiyama. A certain pottery is located near the sea. A certain pottery is quietly located in a residential area. Then another pottery manufacturer built a kiln in a place surrounded by deep greenery deep in the countryside.

Many pottery production areas have clusters of potteries, such as Arita and Imari, but Karatsu’s approximately 70 potteries are scattered throughout the vast city. There are various reasons for this, such as ancestral land or arriving in search of soil, but Karatsu Ware artist choose the best place to make pottery and create a place to express themselves. Furthermore, rather than division of labor, there is a culture where a single pottery carries out the entire process from kneading the clay to firing and, in some cases, finding the soil, digging, and preparing the soil with his own hands, which is why the individuality of the artist is so evident in Karatsu Ware.

However, rather than being an artist who creates perfect things with his own hands, he is generous in leaving the final product in the hands of others, as exemplified by the philosophy of Karatsu Ware, which is “80% on the makers, 20% on the users”. This is the artist’s looseness in a good sense, and their richness as human beings is also reflected in the vessels they create.

Karatsu’s artists enjoy food and drinks by preparing fresh local ingredients from Karatsu, and serving them on dishes they have made themselves. In other words, they are experts in living in Karatsu.


It is coated with a cloudy glaze mixed with ashes from straw, etc. It is given the name Madarakaratsu because blue and black speckles on its milky white surface. Also known as Shirokaratsu, it has a simple yet deep expression, and many matcha bowls and choko(sake) cups are also made from it.


It is a representative example of Karatsu Ware, which is said to be the first in Japan to be decorated. The pictures are drawn using Oniita (an iron solution), then covered with a transparent glaze and fired. The subjects are plants, flowers, birds, geometric patterns, etc. that are familiar to the creator, and while they are simple and delicate, they also have a powerful expression that makes them attractive.


It is fired using a black glaze that contains a lot of iron. Depending on the amount of iron contained in the soil and rocks used and the degree of oxidation, the color can vary from amber to brown to deep black. Even if you say it’s black, it produces a wide range of colors and is collectively called Kurokaratsu.


It is an inherited technique from Richo Mishima in Korea. Production began in Karatsu during the Edo period, but similar types can be found in production areas through Japan. Patterns such as seals and line carvings are applied to a semi-dry base, then covered with clay, glazed, and fired.

(Plain color)

It is baked with a wood ash glaze. Due to chemical changes in the iron contained in the fuel ash and fabric, the oxidizing flame produces a light yellowish brown color, which is called “Yellowkaratsu”. When exposed to reduction flame, it develops a blue color and is called “Aokaratsu”. The glaze that flows easily and collects on the inside of the vessel is also one of the highlights.

(Korean style)

By using two types of glazes, iron glaze and ash glaze, and firing them at high temperatures, the glazes naturally blend together, creating a picture that can be enjoyed. It is characterized by delicate colors and a variety of expressions, such as blue, purple, and yellow, which are created at the boundaries between glazes. You can often see a black colored iron glaze on the bottom and a milky white gray glaze on top.

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