Karatsu (En)

Karatsu (唐津, literally the port to “Kara” i.e. China & Korea) is an ancient trading hub located in the Saga prefecture, on the Northwestern coast of Kyushu Island. That is where the Japanese fleet departed from to wage war in Korea in the late 16th century. Karatsu is known for its earthy, often simple pottery, made of iron rich clay fired in long climbing kilns (built on slopes), that have been active since that late 16th century. A number of Korean potters were deported to Japan with invasion forces returning home, and contributed to the development of Japanese ceramics and porcelain (Arita!), including Karatsu. I am a big fan of Karatsu, and my favourite style actually is Chosen Karatsu, i.e. Korean Karatsu, where the artist potter plays with the mysteries of the combination of physics, chemistry and temperature, obtaining beautiful colors (whites, blues, browns) for the glaze.

The quality of pieces on display made the recent exhibition at Idemitsu Museum a delight (its founder had a passion for ko-karatsu, i.e. old karatsu). There I learnt that Chosen Karatsu potters were the first ones to fire sake bottles with a round belly and a narrow neck, which became the classic shape of a tokkuri. They were possibly inspired by glass vessels from the West. When two passions converge …

(credit photo karatsuguinomi)



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