Mino Ware: Characteristics

Kizeto (Yellow Seto)
This is a yellow pottery created in Mino during the Momoyama Era. Tableware such as pots and bowls, vases, incense burners and containers were created in this style with tableware being especially common. The name comes from the description “…yellow pottery from Seto”. From the consumer’s point of view, because there was no distinguishing between Seto kilns and Mino kilns, kizeto is associated with setoguro which was made in the same period.

The definition of kizeto covers a wide range. Kizeto was used to mean yellow pottery from Seto made from the end of the Edo Era to the Taisho Era, but since the first year of the Showa Era when it had become clear that Momoyama Era tea ceramics were fired in Mino kilns, the term is used to refer to these latter ceramics. Tokuro Kato was the one who had given the broadest definition to kizeto, and categorized it into 4 types: shiki-de (high-class porcelain), guinomi-de (sake cups), ayame-de (iris) and kikusara-de (chrysanthemum plates).
Within this definition, shiki-de was included in the Old Seto, or kozeto, phase of anagama, or cave kilns. This wasn’t just restricted to Mino Ware alone but also included the ash-glazed works, made from the mid to late 17th century in a network of connected climbing kilns, into kikusara-de.

This broad thinking of kizeto didn’t just happen in contemporary times; there is the general idea of guinomi-de and ayame-de being examples of current general kizeto, but as of yet, the overall definition is still very wide. Within the great kilns of Seto and Mino, ash glaze was used as the most basic of glazes.
This ash glaze’s color can range from tinges of green to yellow. In the latter half of the 16th century, silica was included into ash glaze so as to intentionally produce a yellow coloration in its works.
With Hantsutsu bowls, which started in this period as a new form differing from copies of celadon ceramics, such ash glaze was used on roughly the entire surface of the works. On representative works, there are teacups bearing the words of Sen-no-Rikyu, “I like Douchin Kitamuki” written on them. These are thought to be the earliest types of kizeto.

In glazing, the glaze greatly melted to convert into a glass-like form, namely called aburaagehada, or “deep-fried tofu skin”. In the last quarter of the 16th century, with ash glaze which had turned yellow, a new kind of tableware materialized. A shape that hadn’t been seen in plates up to that point, the base was flared while the edge was folded vertically. The shape was called shobachi. From the past, seal engraving and line engraving, which were used on ash-glaze ceramics, were also used.
To continue, for this new shape in tableware, decorative methods known as tanpan (copper slashes) and tetsusai (iron coloring) were added. In Tokuro Kato’s ayame-de, plant and flower designs were engraved onto the yellowish surfaces; these yellowish surfaces come from the devitrified state known as aburaagehada during this stage of the creation process. Furthermore, the green color from tanpan and the brown color from tetsusai also added to the process. Tanpan that appears on both sides of a product is called nuke-tanpan and is highly valued.
There are tableware such as dorabachi bowls, the aforementioned shobachi, Hantsutsu containers, lidded containers as well as incense containers which are ornamented with tanpan and tetsusai, and there are also objects such as flower vases, incense burners and cups which are not ornamented. Tea cups were rarely made in this style. There are two examples of inscribed specimens: one is an inscribed half-container (mukozukekata) from the Bunroku Era (1592-96), unearthed in Ogaya Kamashitagama (located in the Ogaya district of Kani City, Gifu Prefecture), and the other is an inscribed cup (tsutsumuko) from the 8th year of the Keicho Era (1603) in the Tanaka Town ruins of Kyoto. Because both of them have the green color of the tanpan process accompanying the engraved lines, it is thought that the peak of kizeto occurred from the end of the 16th century to the beginning of the 17th century.
There are two examples of inscribed specimens: one is an inscribed half-container (mukozukekata) from the Bunroku Era (1592-96), unearthed in Ogaya Kamashitagama (located in the Ogaya district of Kani City, Gifu Prefecture), and the other is an inscribed cup (tsutsumuko) from the 8th year of the Keicho Era (1603) in the Tanaka Town ruins of Kyoto. Because both of them have the green color of the tanpan process accompanying the engraved lines, it is thought that the peak of kizeto occurred from the end of the 16th century to the beginning of the 17th century.

The characteristics of kizeto are that new kinds of containers, never before seen in existing large-kiln manufacturing areas, are the core products; tableware became the core products of these types, while teacups were almost never made. Another characteristic was that in contrast with Shino Ware which followed kizeto and setoguro as the mainstream product, there was a timely balance between the two in terms of modeling in making both without any sort of distortion or warpage. As for the ornamentation based on tanpan and tetsusai and the birth of the new type of pottery called dorabachi bowls, in the same era, there was also a strong influence from the large imports of Hunnan sansaiban platters into Japan. The manufacture of kizeto was in the northern areas of the Mino kilns, centered in areas such as Kani City’s Ogaya district and Asama but spreading to places like the kilns of Toki City’s Kujiri district. However in other areas, works using tanpan and tetsusai were rarely created.
The manufacture of kizeto was in the northern areas of the Mino kilns, centered in areas such as Kani City’s Ogaya district and Asama but spreading to places like the kilns of Toki City’s Kujiri district. However in other areas, works using tanpan and tetsusai were rarely created.
During the heavy production of Shino, kizeto production decreased, and by the time of Oribe production, it basically disappeared. Meanwhile, after the beginning of the 17th century, deep bowls (fukabachi) which drew on the traditional techniques of kizeto ornamentation of seal and line engravings and the coloration of copper-green and yellow glazes in the northern areas of the Seto kilns were being created in the Mino kilns’ southern areas. The earliest record of kizeto being mentioned in literature is in “Kaiki” in 1724.


These are teacups that were created via a method to draw out a black color from firing in Mino’s large kilns during the Momoyama Era. The name, “Setoguro” derives from “…the black teacups that come from Seto”. In the Momoyama Era, the territories near the capital didn’t differentiate between the Seto kilns and the Mino kilns; instead, they were both understood to be Seto which explains why Seto was decided on as the production area and not Mino.

The production period ranged from the late 16th century to the early 17th century. Setoguro appeared within Mino’s Momoyama ceramics earlier than Shino and was made at the same time as kizeto. As one type of Mino Ware, setoguro only came in the form of teacups in contrast with kizeto’s tableware. Mino’s black bowls came after the Keicho Era (1596-1615), in the form of Oribeguro with its signature crooked shape. Furthermore, mado-e patterning was created on the containers as well as the addition of tetsu-e printing. Oribeguro was differentiated from Setoguro; instead, it was included within Oribe Ware.

Besides Mino Ware, within the black tea cups (kurochawan) that were made from methods to bring out the black coloration, there are Chojiro’s Raku Ware and Raku Ware-like Kuro-raku soft-glazed pottery. The distinctive black color is drawn out in kilns that reach over 1200 degrees C to melt the glaze during firing, and then the pottery is cooled down rapidly to an ambient temperature. The iron content in the glaze turns black, hence the coloration. In Mino Ware, before Setoguro, there had already been bowls made in black, but the black hadn’t been drawn out in those cases. Instead, it was black glaze that didn’t contain the gloss of rust glaze; the time of that creation is thought to have been during the middle of the 16th century. The earliest examples of goods that can attain this glossy jet-black coloration that have been identified up to this point have been found in archaeological excavations at the Amagane Kilns of Tajimi, Gifu Prefecture. Early Setoguro pieces have a roundness to their lower areas and are glazed right down to their bases. At this stage of history, goods such as iron glazed bowls do not display a change in their form.

Later, Setoguro took on a distinctive shape with the bases becoming lower and the lower areas being bent at right angles. It is also likely that a shallow chadamari, a shallow interior bottom, was added to the goods, and the base and the surrounding area were given the appearance of having an unglazed finish. In this phase, goods that had an upper rim, known as yamamichi, which tended to undulate up and down, were seen. Furthermore, a device known as a herakezuri, used to thin the walls of the goods, became a decorative component. In literature, kurochawan, or black tea cups, are mentioned in “Tennojiyakaiki” (1570), “Matsuyakaiki” (1579) and “Hisamasanikki” (1579). However, their connection with Setoguro wasn’t made clear, and so the influential relationship between Kuro-raku of the Raku Ware of Chojiro, and Setoguro, along with development from Setoguro to Oribeguro are a matter of continuing academic debate.


This is pottery covered in feldspar (Shino) glaze that was made in Mino during the Momoyama Era. At the end of the 16th century, Mino’s large kilns started to fire, and there were mass production goods which also included copies of tea ceramics and ceramics and porcelain items from China. Tea ceramics included tea cups, water containers, flowerpots, bowls, etc. Copies of mass-produced Chinese ceramics and porcelain include white porcelain and blue flower-printed plates. In addition, there were bowls and small bowls as ash-glazed mass-produced goods to be handed down.
Shino as tea ceramics can be divided into separate types depending on production method: Muchi-Shino (plain Shino), E-Shino (picture Shino), Beni-Shino (crimson Shino), Aka-Shino (red Shino), Nezumi-Shino (dark gray Shino), Neriage-Shino (kneaded Shino). In recent years, pottery that has been fired in connected climbing kilns (renboushiki noborigama) has changed in both method of expression expression and glazing and from that point of view is seen as Shino-Oribe, a kind of Oribe Ware, and is often distinguished from Shino Ware.

The name of “Shino” appeared in the tea gathering annals (kaiki) of the Muromachi Era as “Shino Teacups” (Shino chawan). The “Shino Teacups”, which had first appeared on December 9, 1553 in the “Tennoji-ya Kaiki”, were not the chawan familiar to people in the present day but were imported goods from China and it is thought that they were given the name “Shino” from the owner, a Mr. Shino.
The naming of Shino when it refers to white pottery can be seen in writings such as the post-18th century Edo Era’s “Kaiki” and “Toukou Hitsuyou”, but the reasons behind the naming haven’t been made clear.
Besides the kanji character used to describe Shino here 「志野」、characters such as 「篠」and 「信野」can also refer to the same word.

The pottery that led Shino was known as Ash Shino and at this step, the possibility exists that the application of underglazing was already being done. Continuing from Ash Shino, there was White Shino which used a feldspar glaze. The appearance of White Shino was once thought to be from the 1580s, according to references in “Matsuyakaiki” and “Hisamasanikki” in 1586 via a name “Seto White Teacups” which was thought to be Shino, but at present since excavations at Osaka Castle have shown that Shino’s first appearance was after 1598, the view that Shino’s birth was at the very end of the 16th century is gaining more plausibility.

The finest of Shino tea ceramics can be found in areas such as the region covering the northern district of Toki City in Mino and Kani City, Kujiri, Takane, and Oogaya. Mass production of Shino Ware in great numbers spread to other areas, and after the introduction of connected climbing kilns, the entirety of Mino along with Seto could be considered to be production areas. There were many types of Shino tea ceramics due to the combination of methods and because of the existence and non-existence of glaze on Shino, the ware was divided into Muji Shino (plain Shino) and E-Shino (pictured Shino).
Originally, Shino was a type of ware that needed white space, but as something that was given color, various types of bowls were made such as ones that had ocher painted onto its surface, and Beni Shino which had a tinge of red.
There are Aka-Shino and Nezumi-Shino for which the techniques of underglazing were developed. These involved the usage of tetsu-e methods, the application of oni’ita clay to the entire work, the scraping off of the designed area leaving that area white (the technique of shironuki) and then the application of feldspar glaze. In Aka-Shino, this process is used on bowls, whereas in Nezumi-Shino, teacups, picture dishes and bowls are used. Neriage-Shino involves the mixing together of normal white material and material that contains iron to form pottery that includes teacups and mizusashi water containers.

The glaze of Shino tea ceramics is valued for its non-uniformity. The pinholes that appear on the surface give a softer appearance to the entire surface in contrast with white porcelain, and the flame color derived from its firing makes it an object of appreciation. During the Momoyama Era, the need for an abstract characteristic in teacups meant that even when using a tetsu-e design, a clarity of design was not always evident in the pottery. Tableware, in contrast with this idea, had a lot of picturesque designs in comparison with teacups and showed a tendency of even greater clarity.

Shino as mass-produced ware pursued glazing and homogeneity in its desire to keep up with the original Chinese white porcelain and aobana pottery. Shino, as a representative of Momoyama tea ceramics includes Hanagaki Uno’s prized Shino teacups as national treasures (Mitsui Library), Furugishi’s Shino mizusashi water vessels as important cultural assets (Hatakeyama Memorial Hall), Shino mizusashi water vessels ((Kousetsu Art Gallery), Minemomiji’s prized Nezumi-Shino teacups (Goshima Art Gallery), and Sekirei Nezumi-Shino fumibachi bowls.


From the Keicho (1596-1615) to Kan’ei (1624-1644) Eras, this was the generic term for the unconventional decorative ceramic ware created in Mino. It was also known as Oribe Ware, or oribe-yaki.
The naming of Oribe may have originated from the Keicho period’s peerless master of the tea ceremony, Oribe-no-kamishigenari Furuta(1544-1615), and it was thought that Furuta’s tastes may be reflected in Oribe.
However, this has never been recorded in any literary documents, and it is merely due to the fact that individuals who own Oribe kutsujawan teacups have Oribe Furuta’s signature written on them in tetsu-e style. Proof doesn’t go beyond this point.

In February 1600, in which he took an evaluation with some famed tea masters, it was mentioned in Kamiya Soutan’s diaries (soutan nikki) that Oribe Furuta had used Seto (at the time, Mino Ware was also called Seto Ware) teacups that were incredibly warped, and in the 1627 issue of “Soujinboku”, it was also written that Furuta had enjoyed using warped Seto teacups.
In addition, it was written in 1629’s “Seisuishou” that sake cups named Oribe were popular, and the fact that people raced to get pottery with the Oribe label was noted in “Kanyoroku” by Gang Hang of Korea, an official who was introduced to Japan through the Battle of Keicho.

Afterwards, Oribe also made a name for itself in teacups. Koushin Senno (1613-1672) referred to “Oribe Ware Teacups” in December 1672 via “Shodougutomegaki”. The 1694 issue of “Koukin Wakanshodougu Michishou” established the matter of Oribe Ware, and introduced utensils such as tea containers, water vessels, bowls, and other tools needed for the tea ceremony. Perhaps the general notion behind Oribe Ware in a contemporary sense is that it probably got its start during this time.
In particular, in the passage on kutsuchawan: “A low dimple goes into its height, the clay is white, there isn’t any light persimmon color in the black glaze, there is black dyeing in the white glaze (this is an incorrect reference to tetsu-e) for designing”. Evidently, this passage refers to Kuro-Oribe teacups. In Hiro Konoeie’s “Kaiki” which began in 1724, there is a description of Oribe Ware which also applies to the Oribe Ware of today.

When looking at Oribe Furuta’s tea gatherings, it is recognized that he had used Seto Ware teacups in 1600, but he had also used Shino and oboshiki containers as kaiseki utensils and from 1603, he developed a taste for using Karatsu Ware. The kaiseki utensils which are thought of as being Oribe Ware got its beginnings from 1609, and it is recognized that there was a transition from Shino and Karatsu Ware to Oribe Ware in terms of development.

Oribe Ware, as it is known, is split into two different types. One represents Kuro-Oribe and Sou-Oribe which used a black glaze, and the other one centers around the kaiseki utensils which mainly used green glaze and tetsu-e design. The two are typically regarded together as pottery been used by Oribe Furuta during the Keicho Era, but are better understood if considered separately.
Kuro-Oribe and Oribeguro don’t share any genealogy at all when it comes to Mino Ware black-glazed teacups. It is thought that the strengthening of the action behind Setoguro teacups which were simple hantsutsu teacups, and the linking of results which enriched the expression of the modeling with crooked teacups may have brought about the kutsugata (shoe-shaped) Oribe teacups. This accomplishment may have occurred just before the year 1600.
Generally speaking, teacups that only have black glaze applied are called Oribeguro, while Kuro-Oribe have added tetsu-e design to the black glaze. Just like Shino Ware, the pottery uses white-colored clay of mogusa earth which is somewhat more tightly packed than Shino. However, it incorporates red clay and adds hakudei (white mud) tetsu-e design. Then, it is patched together with red and white clays; glaze is applied onto the white clay portion while a narumide pattern is applied onto the red clay portion via tetsu-e.
Narumide teacups are very scarce and their reputation is very high. The basics of creating Oribe Ware lies in applying glaze on unfired pottery. Kugibori, or hole-drilling, is also used for decoration and the shape is brought to life. Without putting the pottery into special boxes inside the kiln, the cups are directly piled up and fired so that the glaze clings onto the bottom of the cups and the glaze around the rim starts to peel. Inside the base of the cup, the brand of the specific kiln can frequently be seen.

Firing involves an intense reduction flame, and during this process at a fixed temperature, a technique is used to draw out a black color which results in a jet-black glaze.
Oribe tea containers such as the prominent “Gakifuku” derive their fame from their black glaze. On the other hand, the time when green glaze and tetsu-e design were utilized for decorative purposes on Mino Ware isn’t definite, but it is assumed from literature and archaeological excavations that they had become popular during the early years of the Keicho Era (1596-1615). These products were segregated into the main utensils used for the tea ceremony and those used for kaiseki. Within these main utensils, incense containers have remained as frequent masterpieces, but personal effects such as mizusashi water vessels and flowerpots are quite scarce.

Within kaiseki utensils, bowls and containers are especially seen as prized products but the number of masterpieces for sake bottles is low. The characteristic circular shape was done away with, and shapes developed from rectangles, hexagons and octagons were derived, along with representative forms such as cranes, boats and fans. Even irregular shapes were derived with mukouzuke containers bearing the fruits of this innovativeness.
A lot of them didn’t have bases attached to them and instead had legs attached to have them seemingly float above the table. They were dyed in different colors with green glaze and tetsu-e. The tetsu-e design involved combining a novel geometric design to the traditional pattern, and striving to be the best in the world, it became a popular abstract design in the 20th century. It should be noted that this accomplishment was a first in contemporary art.

Prominent kilns are concentrated in Toki City, Gifu Prefecture within which former estate kilns have borne a vigorous role. Other kilns include Kamagane, Inkyou, Ootomi, and Tsumagi in Toki, Oohira and Yashichida in Kani City, Ookawa-higashi in Mizunami City, and Kasahara in Kasahara Town. Yashichida and Ookawa-higashi Kilns were prominent around the early Edo Era, whereas Kasahara Kiln was prominent during the mid-Edo Era.
Furthermore, during the late Edo Era in the 19th century, old-style Oribe works were created once again. According to these techniques, Oribe is divided into classes such as Sou-Oribe (Oribe pottery that has been applied completely with green glaze), E-Oribe (a mix of green glaze and tetsu-e), Narumi-Oribe (tetsu-e applied to the red clay sections while green glaze is applied to the white clay sections), Aka-Oribe (white mud tetsu-e combined with red clay) and Shino-Oribe (Oribe with Shino Ware-like designs).

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adapted from KADOKAWA the Encyclopedia of Japanese Ceramics / Article and Photos by Tajimi City

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