Years ago, a stunning exhibition of rare Imari ware compelled me into researching the field, and pulling the threads associated with its history. Imari ware played a major role in the reciprocal influences of Eastern culture and Western culture. Not only was it exported in very large quantities from the mid 17th century, it had a tremendous influence on the styles developed by European porcelain manufactures, such as Meissen, Sevres, Chelsea, and closer to home, Bayeux. As it is often the case in Japan, the starting point was a foreign influence from the continent (China for the concept, and Korea for the craft, mastered by a large number of potters forcefully “imported” into Japan during a brief Japanese incursion into their Kingdom), until Japan developed it till perfection. Imari is the name of a harbour, from where the first cargoes got exported, but in Japan it is known as Arita ware, the name of the city where most kilns and workshops are located, in Saga Prefecture, Kyushu Island. For readers fluent in French, I can only recommend the book written by Yvan Trousselle on the topic, La Voie du Imari.
Of course traditional porcelain ceramic has been challenged by new habits in gastronomy (food, service, table arts). At the yearly table arts event in Tolyo, I admired the creativity of Arita craftsmen and artists aiming at winning their public back, with new shapes, visual and tactile impressions. I liked that sake tasting set for home and travel use.