Asahi Yaki (朝日焼)

Asahi yaki is a kind of earthenware produced in Uji City, Kyoto Prefecture. As Uji cha (Uji tea) plantations flourished, earthenware for chanoyu (tea ceremony) were actively produced. During the Edo period, a kiln of Asahi yaki was counted among the Enshu Shichiyo (best seven kilns selected by Enshu KOBORI, a famous master of ceremonial tea).

The name of Asahi yaki is said to be derived from Mt. Asahi at the foot of which its kiln was located, or from its own red spots (Gohonte) which are suggestive of kyokko (the morning sun).

History

Since long ago, the Uji region has always had an abundance of good quality clays, where old kiln sites of unglazed (ceramic) ware are found. During the Muromachi period, before Asahi yaki was born, the Uji region had produced another type of earthenware called Uji yaki which had no clear historical background, but some famous wares remain.

Today, we have the oldest pottery with the mark of Asahi yaki engraved during the Keicho era. But, Asahi yaki seems to have been highly appreciated since the Momoyama period when tea ceremony had arisen and prospered, and Jirouemon Tosaku OKUMURA, originator of Asahi yaki, was praised by Taiko (father of the Imperial adviser) Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI and then changed the letters of his name from 藤作 (literally, grower of wisteria) to 陶作 (creator of pottery) both of which remain unchanged in pronunciation. Subsequently, the second generation Tosaku has boosted the reputation of Asahi yaki under the protection and guidance of Totoumi no kami (the Governor of Totoumi Province), Masaichi KOBORI (also known as Enshu KOBORI). At the same time, Enshu has created a lot of valuable pottery at the Asahi yaki kiln.

During the period of third generation Tosaku, when the custom of tea ceremony spread widely from the general warrior class to donoue (high rank couriers), and kuge (court nobles) classes and also to the townsmen, Uji cha plantations became increasingly productive and Uji cha was traded at high prices. In parallel with this, Asahi yaki reached a new height of prosperity by producing high class utensils for tea ceremony according with the trend of Uji cha.

Features of Asahi Yaki
The most distinctive feature of Asahi yaki are its typical red spots that appear by calcination of ferruginous material clay. Depending on how the red spots appear, there are different names.

Hanshi
It is the name given to what a master has created, to give an easily understandable explanation. This term refers to pottery that have rough red spots standing out on the surface.

Kase (literally, deer's back)
In contrast to Hanshi, it means pottery that have a texture of fine spots on the surface. This name originates from patterns similar those found on a deer's back.

Beni kase (literally, pink deer's back)
It indicates pottery with kase patterns, such as earthenware containing clear red spots caused from particularly abundant iron present in the.