Kilns and Firing at Shimaoka Setojo

Mitsuyan removes the plug from a stoke hole in the side of one of the noborigama chambers.


Mr. Shimaoka does a visual check of the yohen chamber, to see if it's ready for the introduction of charcoal.


Hiroshiyan stokes the main firebox.


Inside the fiery inferno, tea bowls undergo their last few degrees of vitrification.

Before the glazing begins, the bisqueware is laid out and dusted. Fukuyan pauses with a glaze ladle.


Good view of the variety of wares produced.

And more around the corner!

Glazed teacups are loaded into saggers, which will be stacked in the kilns chambers to form bag walls, which help deflect the flames and distribute the heat more evenly.


The old main noborigama at the Shimaoka pottery.


Firewood stacked alongside the kiln, ready to be used as the firing progresses.


Atop the noborigama, a kettle keeps hot water ready for tea, and orange peels and peppers dry for later use in spicy dishes.

In the last chamber of the special kiln, Fukuyan inserts packets of salt wrapped in newspaper.


In those days, it was a regular sight to look out at the horizon and spot someone else's wood firing in progress. Following the trail of smoke  would reveal the location of its source.

Mr. Shimaoka's Kilns

At the time of my apprenticeship at Tatsuzo Shimaoka's pottery in Mashiko, there were the following kilns in operation:

The old, main noborigama, which had four chambers which were loaded with glazed wares, and was oxidation fired about once every five weeks. This kiln held the bulk of the pottery's production wares made by the apprentices and shokunin.

The "special" noborigama, which produced wares with various results. This kiln was used almost exclusively for Mr. Shimaoka's personal work. The bottom chamber, or firemouth of this kiln held unglazed wares which were fired in the style of Shigaraki pottery. Mr. Shimaoka called this effect "haikaburi", meaning "ash covered". Feldspathic chunks were mixed into the clay, which, along with the molten wood ash glaze from the firing, produced beautiful and unique results. The next chamber in this kiln, i.e. the first chamber from the firebox, was fired somewhat in the style of Bizen. Once again, unglazed wares were loaded onto seashell stilts (so that the undersides of the pieces would get glazed with ash too), and the pots depended on a combination of fly ash glaze, and reduction from being immersed in charcoal at the peak temperature of the firing. Mr. Shimaoka called it the "yohen" chamber. The second and third chambers of this kiln contained regular glazed wares, however the results would show definite effects of wood ash from the firing. The fourth and last chamber of this kiln was used for slat glazing. Once again, unglazed wares were loaded on seashell stilts, and when the kiln reached peak temperature, salt was introduced, resulting in beautiful salt glazed surfaces. Mr. Shimaoka's use of slips for inlay, which contrasted in color from the clay would really show wonderful results coming out of this kiln.

A small wood fired round kiln was also used occasionally at the time for enamelware firing, and for back up bisqueing.

There was also a gas kiln used at that time at the Shimaoka pottery, but it was really only for occasional use.


Tall vase with inlay. Fired in the "haikaburi" chamber of the special noborigama. Heavy fly ash buildup on one side show the cross draft nature of the noborigama firing.

Tall vase with herringbone pattern inlay. Glazed before firing in one of the glazeware chambers.

Tea bowl and sake bottle which came from the "yohen" chamber of the special noborigama. Charcoal effects of the firing are well evidenced. Shell marks show that the bottle was fired on its side.


Salt glazed jar with blue slip inlay.

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This Page Was Last Updated on December 02, 2016