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A Traditional Pottery Town Where Built an Imperial Palace in Mid 8th Century

Shigaraki-gu : The Ancient Capital Covered in a Mysterious Veil

It is about 1250 years ago that the Emperor Shomu moved the capital to this place and built his palace. After only 5 months' glory as the center of the politics, the capital was put back to Heijo-kyo (Nara), because of the people's disagreement and some serial natural disasters.

An Image Reproduced in Computer Graphic based on Excavation

Nobody knows the reason why the Emperor Shomu chose this place located deep in the mountains and far away from Heijo-kyo as the new capital. But archaeological researches gradually clarify how the Emperor, full of passion, designed this capital, which is spiritually based on Buddhism.

A Texture-eaves-tile and An Armor-tile Found out of the Excavations

It is said that excavations of the tiles, ancient earthenware, etc. provided for the palace prove the beginning of ceramics Shigaraki-yaki. But the beginning of its pottery is thought to be in the latter half of the 13th century.

257 stones still remain in good order at the excavation place of the imperial palace, Shigaraki-gu.

Characteristics of Shigaraki Ware

The clay of Shigaraki is gathered at the spots where the sediments of ancient Biwa-lake are distributed over, and the origin of the sediments is thought to be the accumulation of the weathering product of granite. The granite, whose crystal is rough, weathers easily, and becomes the high quality clay for the ceramics.

The characteristics of the Shigaraki ware are firstly its color development of "the blaze color", and secondly, "the vidro glaze" and "the texture of being burnt" realized with the natural glaze. Its rich texture, which comes from the soil and the kiln, has been appreciated by the masters of tea ceremony who like wabi-sabi.

Evolution of the Shigaraki ware

A variety of every-day articles were baked since the potters started using the ascending kiln in Edo era. As people's lifestyle has changed, the clay of Shigaraki has also changed its final form to suit it.
Here are some examples:

Since the beginning of production in Edo era, the Hibachi ( or the brazier), a kind of heater, increased the production continuously in Shigaraki, where 90 % of whole national production was covered just after the World War Ⅱ. (It declined after the development of the electricity and the gas occurred between the latter half of the 50s and the 70s.)

The plant pot has been the leading product since about 1965.

The famous amiable ceramic ornament of raccoon has been popular, always until today, throughout Japan since 1951.
The boom began in 1951 when the citizens welcomed the Emperor Showa, at the occasion of his visit to Shigaraki, by displaying the ceramic raccoons along the town-streets.
The lovely ceramic raccoon is still the symbol of Shigaraki. You will see them in many places of this town when you come into it.

Various kinds of product have been created until today, as the people's life style of every age requires, such as; gardening ware, tableware, kitchenware, vase, building material, etc.

For the future of Shigaraki ware

The excessive demand, which allows the consumerism to run, has caused modern stresses and environmental problems. Aware of that, we think that Shigaraki ware should not be a mere object, but that it should help the users to enrich their life and the space surrounding them.

Shigaraki-Labo fixes its eyes upon the future, and aims to create our new products considering the mental and physical health as well as the environment. We would be grateful if our products could be helpful for your better everyday-life.