- The Antique Chinese and Japanese Porcelain Collector's Page

Japanese Porcelain Marks


Hirado was an important kiln in the history of Japanese ceramics and its widely varied wares rank among the finest made and considered by many as the finest in the world in the 1780-1870s, others cut the end of that period earlier, to around 1840, or the time of the first Opium war in China. The kiln was active from the early 17th century until the demand dwindled duwe to changing taste on the export market, and the kiln closed early in the 20th century.

Early history

Hirado wares were originally made exclusively for the wealthy Matsura family. Close to the Korean peninsula, Hirado was a natural locus for international shipping and trade between Japan, Korea and China. A Korean potter - who married into a Japanese family and took the Japanese name Sannoj├┤ - found kaolin, the basic ingredient in porcelain clay, at the village of Mikawachi in the mid-1600s. Sannojo's kilns, established under command of the Hirado daimyo (feudal lord), began producing Hirado Mikawachi wares. Early Hirado ware was known in Japan for its high quality and fine craftsmanship.

Golden age 1751-1843

The golden age of Hirado porcelain lasted from 1751-1843, during which time the finest porcelain in Japan was produced. When the economic structure of the feudal system began to disintegrate during the early 19th century, daimyo support of the kilns was replaced by export contracts with the Dutch East India Company.

Popular export 1840 to early 20th century

In the 19th century, Hirado ware was especially in the Victorian West renowned as an desirable export ware. By the 1840s Hirado ware had become an export eagerly sought by sophisticated buyers in the West. Hirado porcelain was featured in the great international expositions of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. With the advent of modernism in the early 20th century, however, demand for Hirado fell.

Jan-Erik Nilsson

Introductory text written by and together with several expert members of the Gotheborg Discussion Board

The superior quality, milk-white Hirado ware, was made at the Mikawachi kiln, located in Mikawachi, in the Hirado fief, in Kyushu, Japan, some 7km distant from Arita.
899. Mark: Mikawachi Nagamoto-za, or Tsukuru.. Meaning: "Mikawachi Nagamoto made". Hirado eggshell porcelain dekorated in Kutani (red painted) aka-e style. Mikawachi is the location of production, Nagamoto is the probably independent decorator, rather than also being the maker of the porcelain, which is cheap and probably bought in for "value-adding" by decoration. Perhaps Nagamoto-san identified a market niche by decorating cheap Hirado table ware in Kutani aka-e style. The lidded bowls found in Holland. Date last decades of the 19th century.

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The marks page was originally initiated by a donation of marks from the collection of Karl-Hans Schneider, Euskirchen, Germany in July 2000. The section have since then been greatly extended by a large number of contributing collectors.