Meiji Imari Ware was born at the dawn of modern Japan, about two decades after the Meiji restoration. Though it is not widely known today, this world renowned porcelain ware was one of the main export items earning precious foreign currency, thus financing industrialisation which was getting under way at the time. Along with Ukiyoe and other traditional crafts, it contributed to the rise of "Japonism" in Europe. This elegant and sophisticated porcelain ware was highly regarded, held in as much esteem as the porcelain from Meissen of Germany and Sevres of France. The most treasured among them was "Meiji Imari" , the Imari Ware from the kilns of Arita, exhibiting a unique blend of the West and the East.

Imari Ware is categorised by its style and design into three groups - "Ko Imari" , "Kakiemon" and "Iro Nabeshima" . "Ko Imari" refers to all porcelain manufactured in Arita before the 1870s until the end of the Edo period, excluding "Kakiemon" and "Iro-Nabeshima" ware. From the mid 17th century until the early 18th century, one to two million pieces of Imari porcelain were exported to Europe and were treasured as being as valuable as gold and silver.

The Meiji Government hoped to see a repeat of the golden days, with Imari Ware to bolster its fledging foreign currency reserve. The Seiji Company, established in 1879, was to play a central role.

The Seiji Company was established in Arita by skilled artisans in 1879, only twelve years after the Modern Meiji Government was established in Tokyo. The fledging nation was doing everything in its power to nurture its export industry.The Chinese character representing the "Sei" of "Seiji" means spirit and soul, because the potters were aspiring to produce exquisite and sophisticated creations full of meaning. Their porcelain ware was awarded a gold medal at the World Exposition in Amsterdam in 1883. Their dinner service was used when foreign dignitaries were entertained at the Rokumeikan Guesthouse, which had been completed in the same year. An Imari Ware dinner service was also used by the Imperial household.

In a departure from the tradition of "Ko Imari" , "Kakiemon" and "Iro Nabeshima" , the Seiji Company's "Meiji Imari" Ware was quite unique, combining brilliant traditional techniques created in Japan and modern technology from abroad. It embodied the essence of the Meiji ethos of combining the spirit of the East and the technology of the West.

However, the Seiji Compnay lasted only a little more than a decade, leaving behind rare examples of craftsmanship and the legend. Over the years, the legend of the Seiji Company has been allowed to fade.

Pottery making in Arita will celebrate its 400th anniversary in 2016. To commemorate this history, local potters and their kilns will work together, in much the same way as their predecessors did in the 1880s, at the dawn of modern Japan, to reproduce Meiji Imari Ware. By means of this project, contemporary potters are eager to create high quality porcelain, as well as to follow the meticulous craftsmanship and legendary art of their predecessors. They will also take pride in becoming a part of the legend themselves in handing down the local traditon to future generations.

In the search for authenticity and integrity, the reproduced porcelain will only be made from clay obtained in Arita's Izumiyama. This is because the potters believe this clay is the very essence of Arita porcelain. Not only was it used in the "Ko Imari" , "Kakiemon" and "Iro Nabeshima" porcelain of the Edo period, but, up until the end of the 19th century, the clay from Izumiyama was used by all kilns in Arita including the Seiji Company. In order to replicate the intricate artistry of the original porcelain, the reproductions will be all hand painted. A group of specially trained artists have been assiduously studying traditional skills so that they can reproduce the masterful art of the Meiji Imari.

The project to recreate the beauty of Meiji Imari Ware is intended to continue only for ten years, until the 400th anniversary of the birth of porcelain production in Arita, in 2016. During this decade, up to 170 different wares including the Seiji Company's first Western style dinner set in Japan, will be reproduced, and matched as closely as possible to the originals. You will without doubt appreciate the craftsmanship, and feel the souls of the original creators resonating across time.

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