Updated: Oct 8, 2020
Lets talk ceramics in this post! Since there is so much to say about ceramics in Bonsai, it’s difficult to find a good place to start. After much thought, I decided to start with a certain glazed style that I love called Namako. Usually when people in the bonsai community sees a pot in this glaze, they will refer to them as a Namako pots or containers. In Japan, Namako actually means Sea cucumber and in many ways share the same pattern and color as the glaze. There are varying degrees of blues, white, yellow and brown mixed together making each pot very unique. In this post, I’m going to share some detailed pictures of Namako pots from the past to the present, both Chinese and Japanese and talk about some way to distinguish them from one another.
A Rocky Start
Before I came to Japan, I did not like Namako pots. I talked to Mr. Tanaka and he said, “Really???” It turns out that my experience with Namako has been the poor quality types that were mass produced. Once Mr. Tanaka showed me a couple of Chinese Antique Namako pots, I quickly fell in love with them and wanted to collect more. Perhaps the biggest reason why this type of glaze is now my favorite is because I dismissed it so quickly in the past and feel a bit guilty for my ignorance. Now all I want to do is collect them and share them with people so they too can enjoy the beauty of them.
Chinese Antique Namako (100-150 years ago) Naka-watari
Lets start with the highest level of Namako pottery. I can’t say for certain that it was used earlier in the past, but in terms of Bonsai, they first appeared about 100-150 years ago. They were produced in China with great care and quality and shipped to Japan about 100-150 years ago. Ceramic pots that were produced in China 100-150 years ago are also known as Naka-watari. There are also Chinese Antique pots that were produced 200-300 years ago known as Ko-watari, but I’ve yet to see one that has this glazed. Chinese Antique pots in this post are all Naka-watari. Current value of Naka-watari Namako pots range from 300 – 5,000 US Dollars depending on size and shape.
Chinese Namako pots during the 70’s
During the early half of the 1900’s, the ceramic quality for Bonsai pots dropped significantly and the rise of Japanese ceramic pottery took hold. During the 1970’s though, there was a big push in China to produced high quality hand made ceramics that resembled the antiques. Unfortunately they never quite reached the quality levels of the antiques and are considered second class to them. These Chinese pots are known as Shinto pots. The current value for Shinto Namako pots range from 80 – 400 US Dollars depending on shape and size. Lets see what they’re all about.