Zen, Alive. Fukui

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Fukui may not be full of large shopping malls or sightseeing destinations that attract large groups of tourists from overseas, but the lush environment, terroir and distinct climate of Fukui have led to the creation of our outstanding traditional slow food and sake cultures, while Fukui's history and climate have shaped our traditional arts and crafts. Our deep Zen-like spirituality has been handed down from generation to generation, becoming the cultural and historical heritage that lives on today.

Inheriting and Preserving Traditions for the Future

Echizen Pottery – Designated Japan Heritage

Inheriting and Preserving Traditions for the Future

This time, my journey took me to an Echizen Pottery kiln in Ozowara, in the town of Echizen. This area is the location of the first kiln built in Fukui Prefecture, and it is said to be the birthplace of Echizen Pottery, where more than 200 old kilns have been discovered.

Echizen Pottery has a long history

Echizen Pottery has a long history – it is said to have started about 850 years ago. Pottery production developed from a focus on items for daily use such as water jars and mortars. With modernization, the craft was in danger of dying, however with archeological excavations of kiln remains, the craft was recognized as historically important, and it underwent a revival. It became known as one of the Six Ancient Kilns of Japan, and was designated as a Traditional Craft of Japan.

Echizen Pottery

Echizen Pottery is the name given to pottery fired within Fukui from local clay. There are currently around 80 potteries in Fukui, and of those, 20 operate in the town of Echizen – the birthplace of Echizen Pottery.

chrysanthemum kneading

Before shaping the clay, it must first be kneaded. The photo shows a type of kneading called “chrysanthemum kneading” in which the clay is kneaded to remove the air from inside the clay.

carefully shaped on a potter’s wheel

After the clay has been kneaded, each piece is carefully shaped on a potter’s wheel. Even for making the same vessel, the artisan uses his hands. His long years of experience have led to precision accuracy.

shaped pieces are left to dry out

The shaped pieces are left to dry out, and they are then biscuit fired. To make the pieces strong and give them luster, a ceramic glaze is applied to the surface and the pieces are fired once more.

Echizen PotteryEchizen Pottery

Pottery made in this way is classic – the pieces have a characteristically simple feel to them.

There are now fewer people to carry on the tradition of Echizen Pottery which began some 850 years ago

There are now fewer people to carry on the tradition of Echizen Pottery which began some 850 years ago. However, there is hope, in that there are some people who are interested, and are willing to carry on the tradition into the future. It is an inheritance of historical value produced in Fukui. The spirit of Echizen Pottery has been passed on from generation to generation. From now and into the future it will continue to capture people’s imaginations.

Echizen Pottery Village

For those who want to know more about Echizen Pottery, “Echizen Pottery Village” is recommended as the place to go.

Echizen Pottery VillageEchizen Pottery VillageEchizen Old Kiln Museum

There is plenty to see, including the Fukui Prefectural Museum of Ceramics where you can try your hand at making pottery on a wheel, and the Echizen Old Kiln Museum (opened in October 2017) where you can discover the history of Echizen Pottery.

Echizen Old Kiln Museum

There are also stores that sell Echizen Pottery dishes, vases, and more (various credit cards accepted). Experience the warmth of Fukui – where the spirit of ZEN lives on.

【Fukui Prefectural Museum of Ceramics】

【Echizen Old Kiln Museum】

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