After Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s military expeditions into the Korean peninsula at the end 16th century, many Korean potters were brought to Japan. One Korean potter discovered high-quality kaolin at Mt. Izumiyama in the Arita region (now Saga Prefecture) and succeeded in making Japan’s first porcelain. This was the birth of Arita ware.
Arita ware made great strides as an industry with the development of overglaze enamelling techniques that added colors like red, gold, green, blue, and purple. It reached its peak in the late 17th century, with the wares being extensively exported to Europe and the Middle East. Back then, since the porcelain was being shipped out from the port town of Imari, they came to be known as Imari ware.
Exports later declined, but production for the domestic market continued, especially for tableware and ornamental items. Today, Arita remains one of the most prominent porcelain-producing regions in Japan. Arita ware is known for its milky white base and colorful overglaze decorations, and its production is based on a division of labor, with each step in the process being performed by highly-skilled artisans.
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