Experience the beauty and tradition of ceramics at Banko no Sato Hall

Experience the beauty and tradition of ceramics at Banko no Sato Hall

Visitors to Banko no Sato Hall in Yokkaichi will have a chance to appreciate traditional Banko ware. This distinctive clay pottery has been crafted in Mie Prefecture for over 300 years and the tradition lives on in the showroom and hands-on experiences at Banko no Sato Hall. Browse the extensive display of Banko ware in various shapes, styles and colors. There are examples of expertly crafted tableware, vases, teapots and more. For guests looking for an interactive experience, there are pottery workshops for all ages and skill levels where you can make your own unique pottery as a keepsake from your visit.

Written by Nathan Raymond
About the Author:

I live in Gifu with my family. One thing I appreciate about living in Japan is the opportunity to have hands-on experiences with traditional arts and crafts. It is always a joy to learn from local artisans who are eager to share their knowledge with visitors to their city. 

I arrived in Yokkaichi at Kawaramachi Station on the Kintetsu Nagoya Line. It was a short five-minute walk to Banko no Sato Hall and I had no trouble finding it. After exiting the station, I passed by a small park, turned left and walked a few more minutes to the large modern building where I was going to learn about traditional Banko ware.

It is always exciting when I get the chance to learn more about traditional Japanese crafts. On this visit, I was keen to see many examples of Banko ware. At home, my family uses one of these dishes for making hot pot and I knew I would see many unique dish and teapot designs at Banko no Sato Hall.

When I walked into the building, I was amazed by all of the beautiful pottery on display. Each dish had a unique design and the range of colors used was incredible. In addition to the many serving dishes, plates and bowls, there were also some items that were designed for a special purpose such as grilling food.

Caption: There was an amazing array of tableware on display at Banko no Sato Hall.

In Japanese, “Banko” means forever, and this style of pottery was first made around 1736 in Mie Prefecture by Rozan, who was a master of the tea ceremony. The mark that Rozan put on his pottery indicated that he hoped his work would last forever and the name Banko ware was born. 

Over the past 300 years, the styles of Banko ware have changed with the times as artisans have adjusted to the culture and use of the products. New designs and styles of Banko ware are still being created and future generations will continue to appreciate the beautiful and functional pottery as time goes on.

Around the end of the Edo Period, one of the most popular types of Banko ware was Banko ware Kyusu, which is a kind of teapot that is famous for brewing flavorful Japanese tea. 

The clay used to make kyusu has the effect of softening the astringent component of tea and enhancing the umami component by reacting with the iron in the material. These teapots are also beautifully decorated and make wonderful souvenirs from a trip to Japan.

Caption: This Banko ware Kyusu teapot has a playful design.

As I continued looking around the expansive display area at Banko no Sato Hall, I kept discovering fresh styles and designs. I learned that the kyusu are actually made from high quality fired volcanic clay.

I also found out that the word “kyusu” translates directly to teapot in English and that it usually refers to a teapot with a side handle design. This style originated in ancient China and was introduced to Japan centuries ago. The popular design was then naturalized into the culture here as it was commonly used in the preparation of green tea. 

The green tea leaves are brewed loosely in the pot with plenty of room to release their aroma and flavor. Inside the spout, there is a clay or metal filter that will catch the tea leaves as you pour your delicious hot beverage into a cup.

Caption: Another kyusu teapot with an exquisite and interesting design.

It was easy to appreciate the beautiful designs of the kyusu and they felt so refined when I picked them up to take a closer look. These teapots are more expensive than the standard ones, but they are worth the price to someone who truly enjoys the wonderful flavor that can be found in a perfectly brewed cup of tea. I also felt that a kyusu would be a great accent piece to any home as a work of art.

The other most common type of Banko ware in Japan is earthenware pots. These pots are used to cook rice and other dishes such as hot pot. They became very popular when Japanese households started switching from cooking with firewood to gas. 

Due to the materials used to make the pots, they can withstand high temperatures and do not break easily. They also transfer heat slowly, so the sweetness and umami can be drawn out of the ingredients while they are cooking.

Because both kyusu teapots and earthenware pots have their roots in Banko ware, this pottery style is known all over Japan and has been part of the food culture in the country for hundreds of years.

Caption: The glaze on this deep blue pottery set gives them a refined appearance.

My knowledge of pottery is fairly limited and I have no experience in making these kinds of teapots, earthenware and tableware. I was impressed by the delicate designs and range of colors used to decorate them. Although the items are all functional in the kitchen, they are also individual works of art that show an awesome level of creativity. 

Caption: It was easy to spend a long time admiring all of the great pottery.

In addition to being a treasure trove of pottery art, Banko no Sato Hall also offers workshops for visitors to create their own masterpiece. After seeing all of the wonderful items on display, I thought it would a special experience to make something with my own two hands. The style, design and color options seemed endless.

Caption: It is encouraging to see the work of so many others who had visited.

On the day I visited, there was an entire class of children from a local school participating in a workshop. The students’ excitement to make something created a high energy atmosphere in the workshop and they were clearly having fun. The workshop space was large and each of the children had plenty of room at their individual stations to work on their pottery designs.

Caption: The students were respectful to the instructor and focused on their projects.

As I watched the children working, I could see that they were all trying to effectively apply the techniques they were learning. It was inspiring to see young people studying a traditional Japanese craft with enthusiasm and joy. The combination of modern equipment, respect for history and artistic spirit reminded me why I love living in Japan.

Caption: The students created art from simple chunks of clay.

Each student started with a shapeless lump of clay and slowly started forming it into some style of vessel or dish. It was so much fun watching them work and seeing their faces light up as their ideas became reality on the tables in front of them. The beautiful thing about pottery is that each piece is unique, just like every child that was in the workshop that day. 

Caption: Little by little, the students' ideas started to take shape.

I could see that some of the students were more artistically inclined than others, but it was clear that they were all enjoying the experience of making something by hand. I knew they would all be proud of their work and that they would take them home to show to their families. In some cases, they may even use their pottery at home for eating or drinking.

Caption: The students really enjoyed getting their hands dirty in the clay.

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