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Japanese pottery

Japanese pottery and porcelain are one of the oldest crafts and art forms in Japan. There are many kilns and famous districts for pottery which are distinguished by the differences in local clay and traditional techniques.

Since ceramics are held in high esteem due to their connection to the tea ceremony, the artistic traditions are well-funded and popular even among modern Japanese people. In this blog by Japanese teacher Yamamoto sensei, he introduces the pottery traditions of Onda Yaki from Hita area in Kyushu.

You can listen to Yamomoto sensei reading the blog himself and also learn new vocabulary and Kanji from this advanced Japanese reading practice.

Visiting a pottery village





  この里は九州の日田にあり、陶器は「小鹿田焼」 と言います。1705年に朝鮮から技術が伝わりました。陶器に使う土は近くの山より取ります。この土は川の水の流れを利用して自然に動くで、長い時間かけて細かくされます。静かな山里に臼の「ぎゅーパッタン」という重い音の繰り返しは 「残したい日本の音風物100選」に選ばれています。


  その細かくなった土は、各家の庭で「土こし船」と言う道具で濾過されます。陶器は「蹴ろくろ」と言う回転台を足で蹴りながら、その上で形が作られます。その時、模様づくりに使うのは「とびカンナ」と言って、古い時計のぜんまい再利用して作った道具です。陶器は斜面を利用して作った「登り窯」 で昼夜を問わず3日間かけて焼きます。その時、高温のかまどの入口にはいつも人がいて、中の様子を小さな窓より見ています。そして一日中まきくべ続けます。


 世界的陶芸家バーナードリーチ(Bernard Howell Leach:イギリス)が、1954年に伝統を守っている「小鹿田焼」 に憧れ、この里を訪れました。その際、彼は三週間山里に滞在して陶器づくりの技術を教え、自らも陶器を作りました。これにより「小鹿田焼」は、日本だけでなく海外にまで広く紹介されるようになりました。




To listen to this blog, please watch our Youtube video. 



 この里は九州(きゅしゅう)の日田(ひた)にあり、陶器は「小鹿田焼(おんだやき)」 と言います。1705年に朝鮮(ちょうせん)から技術(ぎじゅつ)が伝(つた)わりました。陶器に使う土は近くの山より取ります。この土は川の水の流れを利用(りよう)して自然に動く臼(うす)で、長い時間かけて細(こま)かくされます。静(しず)かな山里(やまさと)にの「ぎゅーパッタン」という重(おも)い音の繰(く)り返(かえ)しは 「残(のこ)したい日本の音風物(おとふうぶつ)100選(せん)」に選(えら)ばれています。

 その細(こま)かくなった土は、各家の庭(にわ)で「土(つち)こし船(ぶね)」と言う道具(どうぐ)で濾過(ろか)されます。陶器は「蹴(け)ろくろ」と言う回転台(かいてんだい)を足で蹴(け)りながら、その上で形が作られます。その時、模様(もよう)づくりに使うのは「とびカンナ」と言って、古い時計のぜんまい再利用(さいりよう)して作った道具です。陶器は斜面(しゃめん)を利用(りよう)して作った「登(のぼ)り窯(かま)」 で昼夜(ちゅうや)を問(と)わず3日間かけて焼(や)きます。その時、高温(こうおん)のかまどの入口(いりぐち)にはいつも人がいて、中の様子(ようす)を小さな窓(まど)より見ています。そして一日中まきくべ続けます。

 世界的(せかいてき)陶芸家(とうげいか)バーナードリーチ(Bernard Howell Leach:イギリス)が、1954年に伝統(でんとう)を守(まも)っている「小鹿田焼」 に憧(あこが)れ、この里を訪れました。その際、彼は三週間山里に滞在(たいざい)して陶器づくりの技術(ぎじゅつ)を教(おし)え、自(みずか)らも陶器を作りました。これにより「小鹿田焼」は、日本だけでなく海外にまで広く紹介されるようになりました。


Visiting a pottery village

Today I want to introduce an old pottery village. In this village, pottery was made by 10 families of comprising only of relatives from almost 300 years ago. The methods of making the pottery are almost all done by hand and have not changed since olden days.

The village is called Hita and is found in Kyushu and the pottery is known as Onda Yaki. The techniques were passed on from Korea in 1705. The clay that is used in the pottery is taken from a nearby mountain. This clay is gound down finely over a long period of time, using a large Japanese pestle and mortar which uses the flow of the river to work naturally. The repetitive heavy sound of the grinding pestle and mortar with the backdrop of the quiet sounds of the mountain village, “gyuu battan”, was chosen as one of the '100 Japanese natural sound features that should be preserved'.

The finely ground clay is then percolated in the gardens of the famous families using a tool called a 'Tsuchi Koshi Bune'. The clay is then mounted onto a turntable called a 'Kerokuro' and the shape is made while kicking the turntable around with the feet. The patterns are added to the clay at this time using a tool called a 'Tobi Kanna' which is made by reusing a spring from an old clock. And then the clay is fired in a kiln, which uses the slope of the mountain so is known as a 'Nobori Kama' or sloping kiln, day and night for 3 days. During this time, there is always someone at the entrance of the high-temperature hearth keeping an eye the state of the contents inside through a window. And the person continuously adds firewood to the fire all day.

In 1954 the world-famous potter Bernard Leach from England revered the way in which the tradition of pottery was preserved in the Onda Yaki method, and came to visit the village. He stayed in the mountain village for 3 weeks and learned the techniques of pottery making ad also made his own pots at that time. From this time, Onda Yaki became famous not only in Japan but around the world as well.

Most of the processes are done by hand so the shape and design of each piece of pottery is different. This is another attractive point of Onda Yaki. My family bought five pieces of Onda Yaki that we liked and we promptly used them during that evening's dinner.

陶器(とうき) pottery

里(さと) village

親戚(しんせき) relative

軒(けん) counter for buildings (esp. houses)

手作り handmade

臼(うす) An Usu is a large Japanese mortar with a pestle called kine

繰り返し(くりかえし) repetition

音風物(おとふうぶつ) natural features of sound

濾過(ろか) percolation

回転台(かいてんだい) turntable

蹴り(けり) to kick

模様(もよう) pattern

ぜんまい spring

再利用(さいりよう) reuse

斜面(しゃめん) slope

登り窯(のぼりかま) climbing kiln

昼夜を問わず(ちゅうやをとわず) day and night

かまど hearth

様子(ようす) state

まき firewood

世界的(せかいてき) worldwide

陶芸家(とうげいか) potter

伝統(でんとう) tradition

憧れ(あこがれ) yearning

滞在(たいざい) stay

自ら(みずから) oneself

工程(こうてい) process

魅力(みりょく) fascination

我が家(わがや) one's family

気に入った(きにいった) to like


Konnichiwa! My name is Hiroshi Yamamoto. I live in Oita in Kyushu with my family (my wife, daughter and an old female cat). Oita is famous for hot springs. I often visit hot springs in the winter.

My hobbies are gardening and watching soccer. When caring for my plants, I notice their daily changes and I feel relaxed. About soccer, I played soccer until about 20 years ago. But now I just watch the game.

I worked for a machine manufacturer for about 40 years. During that time, I worked in various departments including factory, trade, research and development, sales, general affairs, accounting, and auditing. I think I can help you to understand about business, industry and life in Japan from my experience.

What is your purpose of studying Japanese? Let’s make your dream come true by learning Japanese. I will do my best in our class to help you achieve your goals. Please knock on the classroom door at any time.

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