‘Edo Blue’ in Imari Ware
(in cooperation with the Ota Memorial Museum of Art)

July 2, 2019 to September 22, 2019

In Japan, dyeing technology advanced rapidly during the Edo period, and indigo dying, in particular, spread among the common people. Beautiful blues in all sorts of shades became available, known by names such as asagi, hanada and koi-ai. It was also during the Edo period that a significant ceramic industry developed in Arita, in what is now Saga Prefecture, where potters succeeded in producing Japan’s first domestic porcelain. This was known as Imari ware, taking its name from the port from which it was shipped. One of the main product lines was a type of blue-and-white ceramics called sometsuke, made by coating the white porcelain base with a clear glaze and applying designs in a softly blurred blue. The very name sometsuke is a reference to indigo dying, as it means “to dye.” New forms of expression in sometsuke developed constantly, keeping pace with changes in tastes and fashions in blue.
Imari ware followed trends carefully, picking up new ideas and fashions and incorporating them into products. One particularly important development occurred in the early 18th century, when the kilns moved into larger-scale production of blue-and-white dishes in response to market expansion and the flourishing of food culture. Around the same time, the Arita kilns also began to make porcelain versions of everyday products that until then had been made of metal or wood, such as the hand pulls for sliding doors and playing pieces for the game of shogi. As a result, Imari ware sometsuke came to contribute an even bigger part of the blue that brightened the lives of people during the Edo period.
This exhibition is organized in cooperation with the Ota Memorial Museum of Art, which specializes in ukiyoe woodblock prints and is holding a concurrent exhibition on the same theme. Under the shared title of “Edo Blue,” each museum will draw on its own collection to show how the color blue was a vibrant part of the lives of people during the Edo period. At the Toguri Museum of Art, we will present a gorgeous selection of Imari ware in the beautiful blues that have come to symbolize the Edo era and lifestyle.




Toguri Museum

1-11-3 Shoto,
Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0046
Phone: +81-(0)3-3465-0070