Bizen Ware gets its name from a small village, Imbe, Bizen, which sits next to Katakami Bay in Okayama. It is a highly-regarded and ancient pottery technique, dating back over 1000 years. Bizen Ware comes in a variety of styles, but is usually easy to identify due to its use to two very different clays.
To produce Bizen, an artisan will mix together two clay of different densities. For added stability, one of the clays should have a high iron content, which is usually evident from the deep reddish color. Once formed, the pieces will be placed in a kiln and baked over pine wood. Since pine contains resin, it allows the kiln to reach very high temperatures – sometimes as high as 1200 degrees.
Depending on the conditions and the pottery's placement in the kiln, Bizen Ware artisans can create a variety of different types of pieces. And while there are a few general rules to the firing process, all of the variables at play make it nearly impossible to predict the results. This organic quality is yet another reason why Bizen Ware is so popular among collectors.
People often report that food tastes better when eaten from a Bizen plate, and that sake is more delicious when drunk from a Bizen cup. Some even claim that their flowers last longer when they are placed in a Bizen vase. Though dismissed as exaggerations, a scientific study into this phenomenon reported that Bizen pottery is capable of blocking some 90% of infrared light. This helps preserve the taste of food and drink by keeping the ingredients fresh.
Though expensive, Bizen has become immensely popular with restaurateurs all around the world. However, anyone can enjoy this unique pottery by purchasing a single teacup or dish online. Just remember, even a single piece can lead to a desire for a collection.