Monday, July 12, 2010

J is for Japanware

Japan (Nippon-Koku) - Land of the Rising Sun - is an archipelago of 6852 islands located in the Pacific Ocean of East Asia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the North to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the South. Its history includes countless dynasties, feudal rule by samurai, Buddhist traditions, Jesuit missionaries, expansionism, and militarization. These influences from the 'outside' world, followed by prolonged periods of isolation created the independent country we know today, with its current Constitution adopted in 1947. Japan has the 10th largest population, 2nd largest largest economy and is the 4th largest exporter in the world. According to the U.N. and the W.H.O. it also has the highest life expectancy. It is a country of exotic culture and spellbinding beauty!

Until the signing of a Trade Treaty in 1858, Japan had a closed door policy with the U.S. and others. This Treaty paved the way for Tchizacamon Morimura and his brother to export lovely Japanese porcelain (Morimura Gumi), and then open a shop in New York City (Morimura Brothers). Others followed, with Hotta Yu Shotten, and Meito (very short lived). From 1891 - the 1930's, the 'Nippon' base mark was replaced by an "M' in wreath, 'Japan', 'Made in Japan', and then 'N' for Noritake. Paper labels were often used as well.

Clay from Japan presents a lovely light translucent and durable porcelain. The beauty and originality of its wares, coupled with its proximity to the sea and inexpensive labor force made Japan a leader in hand painted china from the late 19th Century and well into the 20th Century. Exhibitions in Vienna, Philadelphia, and Paris served to expose the world to these lovely items. Once you begin to recognize these exquisitely hand painted pieces, to have a few for beauty and use will certainly be in order. Happy searching!

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