Narrow-necked storage jar

Historical period(s)
Muromachi period, 1400-1450
Stoneware with natural wood-ash glaze
Shigaraki ware
H x Diam (overall): 47 x 36.8 cm (18 1/2 x 14 1/2 in)
Japan, Shiga prefecture, Shigaraki, Probably Minami Matsuo kilns
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Ceramic, Vessel

Jar (tsubo)

Japan, Muromachi period (1333 - 1573), Shigaraki ware, stoneware, WWII-era provenance
Provenance research underway.

Between 1100 and 1600, more than eighty regional kilns in Japan manufactured unglazed stoneware vessels in a standard repertory of wide-mouth vats, narrow-necked jars, and mortars. The versatile jars were used for any purpose that required a durable and watertight container, from storing seed grain to fermenting wine to interring cremated remains according to Buddhist practice. The makers of these jars were farmers who occasionally made pottery; thus the jars exhibit a range of skill.

The most successful of such regional kilns--Bizen, Shigaraki, Tamba, Echizen, and Tokoname--have continued operation to the present day, although technologies and products have changed drastically.

Although the jar forms shared similarities from kiln to kiln, the colors and textures of local clays characterized the products from individual kilns. In the 1500s, Japanese connoisseurs, who occasionally used such jars instead of imported, glazed Chinese jars for storage of tea leaves, began to express admiration for the subtle coloration of the clay and the effects of ash melting on the unglazed surface. This is the first recorded instance when Asian storage jars were appreciated for their appearance as opposed to their utility.

Published References
  • Louise Allison Cort. Clay as Content: The Significance of Shigaraki Clay in Japanese Ceramics. no. 3, December 2003. p. 39, fig. 1.
  • Louise Allison Cort, Bert Winther-Tamaki, Bruce Altshuler, Niimi Ryu. Isamu Noguchi and Modern Japanese Ceramics: A Close Embrace of the Earth. Washington and Berkeley. p. 108, fig. 3.3.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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