I recently learned that among my friend’s different hobbies one of them was collecting Kutani ware, a type of porcelain from Ishikawa which formerly was called Kaga Province. Curious to learn more about Kutani, I looked it up on Wikipedia. I learned that there were two phases: Ko-Kutani (old Kutani) that dates from the 17th and early 18th centuries and Saiko-Kutani that dates from the 19th century.
The term kutani means "Nine Valleys". The first mention was in 1655 during the Meireki era. According to tradition, stones suitable for porcelain making were found in the Kutani mines of the Daishoji clan. Gotō Saijirō, a member of the Maeda clan, was sent by orders of Lord Maeda Toshiharu of the Kaga domain to Arita in Hizen province to learn how to make porcelain. He set up a kiln in the village of Kutani. The lords of the Kaga domain became great patrons of Kutani. Porcelains from this early period are specifically called old Kutani (古九谷 ko-Kutani) and are very rare. Ko-Kutani enjoyed popularity for the next few decades after 1655. The styles of the old Kutani were Aote (青手), which used colors of deep green, yellow, dark blue and purple, and Iroe(色絵), which used colors of red, green, purple, dark blue, and yellow. Arita however also produced a number of vessels in the ko-Kutani style, as well as Kakiemon porcelain. Production suddenly closed down in 1730. The reasons for this closure are debated. Theories put forward include that supplies of the pigments necessary for the glazing were difficult to find, or that there were financial difficulties. A memorial stone stele to Gotō was later erected near an old Kutani ware kiln in Kaga.
In 1804, or possibly 1807, production was re-established with the help of several kamamoto, or production potters. New overglaze painting techniques from various kamamoto were infused in the development of what became known as revived Kutani (再興九谷 saikō-Kutani). In the 19th century the style shifted to a more red design called aka-e (赤絵), which features intricate designs. The gold technique is called kinran-de (金襴手), and the combination became aka-e kinran-de (赤絵 金襴手) Kutani.
One of the first important exhibitions abroad was in 1873 at the Vienna World Exposition, where kinran-de was exhibited. This helped spread its popularity and contributed to the growth of exports to Europe. The style of producing Kutani was named a traditional craft in 1975. There are now several hundred companies which produce Kutani ware.
Many years ago another old friend collected sometsuke, blue and white pottery, and he had a very large collection at the time of his death. His business allowed him to travel extensively throughout Japan and everywhere he went he looked for new pieces to add to his collection. He had an excellent eye for spotting good pieces. Not having that skill, I never dared collect for myself, so contented myself with just admiring his collection.