About 1300 years ago during the Asuka period(592-710), the earthenware called Sueki is said to have been the beginning of pottery culture in the Tono region of Gifu prefecture. Within the first 30 years of the Azuchi Momoyama period, and concurrent with rising popularity of the evolving tea ceremony which came from China, the Minoyaki appeared with higher artistic quality. Free-form, both bold and delicate rich color painting is the unique artistic style of Minoyaki, and is called, Mino Momoyama Pottery. Said to be the pinnacle of aesthetic sense, numerous pottery were forged for the use by tea masters. Among them, the Kiseto, Setoguro, Shino, Oribe has been loved throughout the years, and is still the basis of Minoyaki.
However, Minoyaki, in its pursuit for beauty and taste of the work, was in danger of decline over the Meiji(1868-1912) to the Showa(1926-1989) periods. The artisans not only had to keep the tradition but also had to seek a new way of life, choosing to bake ceramic pottery for everyday use. This lead to the widespread acceptance and practice of crafting everyday use ceramics. To realize low-cost production, a division of labor system was introduced. Tokitsu-cho, Izumi-cho, made green tea bowl and cups, Tsumagi-cho made coffee cups, Dachi-cho made bowls, Oroshi-cho made sake bottles, Hida-cho made dishes. These are all examples of the division of labor techniques that were rooted in each region during this time period. In addition, sliding picture and copperplate were developed using decorative techniques such as screen printing, and is what lead to the region becoming the highest ceramic pottery producer in Japan.
Before long, the railway development made it possible to transport large quantities of Minoyaki quickly, which allowed Mino wholesalers to travel throughout the country, actively marketing their products. They could quickly respond to changes in consumer demand, and this led to Mino becoming the top region for ceramic pottery production. While being called the “City of Pottery ” it lacked symbolic form as those of Saga prefecture Aritayaki, Ishikawa Prefecture Kutaniyaki, and Tochigi Prefecture Mashikoyaki. A vast variety of high quality works were produced without making distinction between pottary and porcelain, such as Oribe,Kiseto,Seiji,and Sometsuke, and became a part of peoples natural lives throughout Japan.
And now a new challenge arises in the region. Whether it is traditional style pottery or modern style pottery that maintains the traditional technique, the possibilities are as infinite as the number of artisans and their kilns. In the future, what new pottery is in store and how will history change. New challenges for Minoyaki had begun.