Atsumi Old Kilns

Atsumi Old Kilns

From the end of the Heian period to the beginning of the Kamakura period, the Atsumi Peninsula was home to the Shinto domain of Ise Shrine and the National Guard domain of Mikawa Province, where pottery was actively produced to meet the demand of the priests of the shrine and the aristocracy in the centeral goverment. These were called Atsumi Old Kilns, and more than 600 kilns in 100 groups were built from the southwest of Toyohashi City to the tip of the Atsumi Peninsula, where daily commodities and products with strong religious colors were produced.

The pottery produced in the Atsumi kilns includes pots, jars, yamachawan-bowls, katachuchi-bowls, and small plates. Custom-made items such as “Akikusamonko” the national treasure ash-glazed pottery with an autumn grass design were also produced. At the end of the Heian period (1181), Todaiji Temple was burnt down and rebuilt in the Kamakura period (1191). The kiln site at the tip of the Atsumi Peninsula produced excellent products unique to the Atsumi kiln, such as products related to religion, sutra containers, ceramic five-ring pagodas, and cinerary urn, and it is believed that Tōdaiji ordered tiles from the temple.

Unlike Seto and Tokoname pottery, the characteristic of Atsumi ware is that it is molded from sandy clay and finished firing is gray and blackish brown, and there is no feldspar blowout. The painted patterns of characters, birds and plants on the surface of the vessels were called “kokusenmon” or “kokugamon”, and many custom-made items were fired with a brush to apply gray glaze to the shoulders only, which was rare at the time. The finished pots and jars were loaded onto ships and transported to Oshu Hiraizumi, Ise and Kyushu by sea, mainly on the Pacific side.

The Atsumi Peninsula was a major pottery production area at that time, and the Fujiwara clan of Oshu Hiraizumi was the largest purchaser. With the establishment of the Kamakura shogunate by Minamoto Yoritomo, the Atsumi kilns declined and disappeared as the high quality ceramics of Seto came to be preferred. Later, the mysterious “black pottery” of unknown provenance discovered in various locations was found to be the Atsumi pottery by the discovery of kiln ruins with the Toyokawa canal construction around 1960.

Atsumi ware came to be known, the history is still short and full of mysteries at the Atsumi kiln, but despite the fact that it was producing an enormous amount of products, there are many things I do not know where on earth the white clay used in the tea bowl, molding and firing method. The solution of the mystery is my future work, and to make the kiln as close as possible to the kiln that was in operation at the end of the Heian period and the Kamakura period, and restoring the Atsumi old kiln is my big next goal. And I think it is my job to get to know the splendor of the Atsumi pottery in the area where I live to as many people as possible.