Imari Jars

Imari porcelain was made in the Japanese town of Arita and shipped to Europe from the port of Imari, which is at the southern tip of Japan. Arita was among Japan's premier porcelain-making towns because of the region's naturally white kaolin clay. Some Imari pieces date as far back as the mind 17th century. Most export items were made for trade with Europeans, mostly the Dutch.

Early Imari porcelain pieces were usually white with blue decoration. Among the blue and white patterns are the styles known as hato, icho and gobenka. These items were always hand-painted with the blue underglaze. A typical later period Imari jar would feature colorful enamel in the Chinese style and exquisite gilding. Vibrant hues of green, purple and yellow and red were common. Collectors prize these pieces for their highly decorative qualities. Items are often decorated with images of flowers, exotic birds and fruit. Some colorful styles to seek out include yoraku, zakuro, and takarazukushi. In these later styles, the color was applied over the glaze for the most vibrant finishes.

Many themes and patterns have special meaning. For instance, those items decorated with turtles and cranes are especially lucky gifts for newlyweds. Those decorated with a red ball show a motif common in Buddhist monasteries. Be on the look out for items that are signed on the bottom. Typically, the markings will contain both Japanese characters and the words "Imari Japan." Jars are sometimes available in pairs, allowing you to add matched sets to your Imari jar collection.

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