Shigaraki Clay: One of the 6 Oldest Potteries in Japan
Shigaraki is the name of a place in Shiga Prefecture in Japan. This place was called "Koga" once upon a time. Most Japanese knows this name, Koga, not because of the clay, but Ninja. Koga was the place where Koga Ninja was brought up. In any case, we need to clarify that Ninja has nothing to do with this clay though.
Shigaraki is one of the 6 oldest potteries in Japan. At present Shigaraki produces more than a few thousand kinds of clay and also supply various kinds of clay to many other places such as Tokoname, Bizen, Banko and Sado. In fact the most of clays being produced in Shigaraki is white clay which is suitable to get beautiful "Yohen" outlook when it is fired in wooden kiln such as "Noborigama" (Dragon Kiln). As the matter of fact, most of aritist who use Shigaraki clay to bake their product is hoping to get identical appearance. Unfortunately those clays are not suitable for teapot due to following 2 reasons.
1. The firing temperature is too high. For the most of Shigaraki Yaki, the artist uses very high temperature to fire clay.
2. The artist wants the surface of clay melted in order to create natural glazing and to cause the various color with fire.
It is nothing wrong to use this technique for making a flower base or something which is only for aesthetic purpose. However the high temperature firing is not suitable for teapot. The high firing temperature get the mineral of clay melted and drastically reduce its surface area. Once clay reduces its surface area, it gives very less effect to the taste.
We have tasted water from various kinds of Shigaraki clay and selected one particular type of clay. The Shigaraki rough clay that we selected is very rich in iron. The crude clay looks yellow-reddish in color. It is fired in reduction fire and appears in beige-orange color. Due to the highly intense porosity, you can even detect the aroma of tea coming out from the clay teapot when brewing tea. When placing teapot on table for a short while, after remove it, you can immediately observe the steam remains on the table that penetrate through the clay.
We carried out tasting using water in Japan, Malaysia and China and found out that it intensified the body and aftertaste. Shigaraki clay teapot is suitable for most kind of tea including Japanese green tea, oolong and puerh. Once upon a time, people would have been aware that the clay makes taste delicious. I believe that the fact that Shigaraki used to be the 6 famous kiln in Japan would have been thanks to the performance of clay. Unfortunately most of people in Japan nowadays only care about the appearance. Ironically normal Shigaraki clay in general performs nothing special but unique in outlook.
Limited Teapot Thanks to the Collaboration with Masaki Tachi
We have paid attention on this clay for a long time and hoping if anyone could come up with teapot. Finally, we managed to introduce Shigaraki clay teapot thanks to Masaki Tachi who is usually specialized in Banko purple clay teapot. Banko purple clay comes from Iga area. Ironically Iga also used to be the hometown of Ninja. In the history, Iga Ninja worked for government, while Koga Ninja worked for opposition. Both locations are quite close by. 伝統工芸士 舘正規 Nationally Cetified Artist Tachi Masaki
TACHI MASAKI is the Certified National Grade Hand Craft Artist （伝統工芸士） He is also certified as The Living Treasure of Yokkaichi City of Mie Prefecture: 四日市市無形文化財. Ultimately he is in the top five purple clay teapot artist in Banko Yaki.
When he was at the age of 21 years old, he has already been awarded the Minister’s Prize in the exhibition. As it was, people started to call him “Genius”.
In Japan, his work is very well recognized by teapot collectors and tea lovers. His product is very limited as each art piece is Specially Hand Made by him.
Tachi Masaki emphasizes that his teapot is not only a beautiful art piece but it is also very functional. It is “Functional Beauty”. It is the design meant for brewing tea.
On top of the numerous prizes he was awarded in the past, he had an honor to present his work to The Prince and Princess of Japan (徳仁 & 雅子) when they visited Mie Prefecture. Now he is one of the auditors who select the new generation of Banko 伝統工芸士.
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