Tokoname Ware: Japanese Pottery Excellence

Tokoname ware, also known as Tokoname-yaki, is a type of pottery, stoneware, and ceramics that originated in and around the town of Tokoname, located in Aichi prefecture, central Japan. It has a rich history dating back to the 12th century, and it was one of the Six Ancient Kilns of Japan.

Bizen yaki; Echizen Yaki; Seto yaki; Shigaraki yaki; Tamba yaki; Tokoname yaki


Pottery making in Tokoname has been part of daily life since the Heian period, and it became famous in the 14th century when a kiln called the Takasaka kiln was built. In the late 19th century, Koie Hokyu constructed a chambered “climbing kiln,” which was completed by his son, Koie Hoju, who established the excellent reputation of modern Tokoname ware. He laid the foundations for earthenware pipe making and introduced the redware for which the town became renowned. Yamada Jōzan III, a third-generation potter, was named a Living National Treasure in 1998, and Tokoname was officially protected as a local brand in January 2007.


Today, Tokoname ware is renowned for its wind chimes, redware tea pots, shochu servers, tea incense burners, and industrial products such as roof tiles, toilet seats, and water pipelines. Antique bonsai pots are also collector’s items that are still produced today. The manufacturer INAX operates several museums in Tokoname that showcase the history of industrial production.

Tokoname ware can be found through the Tokoname Pottery Association Cooperative Union, the Tokoname Pottery Wholesale Association, and the Tokoname ware wholesale centre Ceramall.

Climbing Kiln

About 60 climbing kilns formerly operated in Tokoname. The Tōei Kiln is a climbing kiln that was constructed in Meiji 20 (1887) and used until Shōwa 49 (1974). It is the largest climbing kiln existing in Japan, with eight firing chambers running a 17° incline and ten chimneys of varying height. It was designated as an Important Tangible Cultural Property by the government in Shōwa 57 (1982).

General Production Process of Tokoname Ware Small Teapots

Clay Preparation

The first step in producing Tokoname ware small teapots is to extract fine clay particles from the collected clay. The selected clay is thoroughly kneaded until it reaches a muddy liquid state.

Pottery Wheel Work

Using a potter’s wheel, small teapots are cast one part at a time, including the body, lid, handle, and spout. The body is placed on the wheel and rotated, while a spatula or similar tool is used to gradually smooth the form. The other parts are also rotated on the wheel and smoothed. Care is taken to ensure consistent drying of each piece.

Part Completion

As the pieces dry and harden, unnecessary parts are shaved down to achieve a neat appearance. Minor adjustments are made to ensure a perfect match between the body and lid. This step focuses on completing the pieces with meticulous care and attention to detail before they fully dry.


The spout and handle are attached to the body. Circular openings are made in the body using a special tool, and the various parts are joined together. This process requires high skill to ensure a seamless fit between the parts. The drying state and hardness of the pieces are closely monitored during assembly.


During this step, the pieces are dried slowly to prevent cracks or deformations. Attention is paid to maintaining uniform drying, as even slight changes in temperature or humidity can affect the drying process.

Polishing of Unglazed Pottery

The unglazed pottery is polished with a cloth or other implements until a glossy surface appears. Through multiple polishing sessions, a beautiful gloss is achieved.


Before placing the pieces in the kiln, various engravings are done by hand using a seal carving knife. This step showcases the artisan’s craftsmanship and adds decorative patterns to the teapots.


The dried and engraved small teapots are loaded into the kiln. The kiln door is closed, and the pieces are fired for approximately 12 to 18 hours at a temperature of around 1100℃ (2012℉). Today, computer controls regulate the kiln temperature, which significantly impacts the color of the fired pieces. After firing, the teapots are removed from the kiln after about a day, and they shrink to about 80% of their pre-firing size.

Inking and Rinsing

The small teapots are polished again, and ink is applied to the engraved parts to emphasize the patterns. After washing away the ink, the patterns stand out beautifully.


Tokoname ware small teapots are known for their excellent airtight quality. The lids and bodies are carefully checked for any gaps, reshaped, and polished to achieve a perfect fit. Since each teapot is produced individually, slight gaps may appear when paired with different lids. With this step, the shudei small teapot is considered complete.

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