Searching all of Japan for handcrafted items that express its heart and soul, our proprietor, KASHIYUKA, presents things that bring a bit of luxury to everyday life. This trip took her to Iga Marubashira, a hamlet known for its pottery in the mountains of Mie prefecture, where she encountered a traditional donabe , a crockery casserole that’s the product of ages of accumulated wisdom in making food delicious.
The ceramics studio Doraku Gama in the city of Iga has been celebrated since the Edo era and is a favorite of noteworthy craft connoisseur Masako Shirasu. Ms. Michiho Fukumori, the 8th-generation artisan and head of the studio works the wheel. "From very small ones for one person to the huge hagama , they offer a wide variety of earthenware pots," remarks our shopkeeper KASHIYUKA.
Sharing the joy of a delicious meal together — it seems that now we can once more partake of that everyday pleasure in life. The destination this time is Marubashira in Iga city, Mie prefecture, a town widely known for producing Igayaki pottery. I visited Doraku Gama (Doraku Kiln), which has been making the large clay casserole called donabe in its rustic woodland setting since the Edo period. I learned that the studio’s artisans cultivate the rice fields and grow other crops as well for themselves. The connection between food and pottery is an essential element of life here. At the studio the first thing I saw was a mound of dark soil known as Iga clay, also referred to as “donabe clay”.
Purchase No. 66【Donabe of Igayaki】Made from rare and precious “donabe clay”, a handcrafted casserole dish for everyday use.
“Iga’s clay is from soil that accumulated at the bottom of Lake Biwa in prehistoric times, when Japan’s climate was semitropical. It’s characterized by a high organic matter content from such things as felled trees and plants. When fired, this organic component burns off, leaving behind countless tiny holes. The air-filled holes result in the pot’s heating slowly and perfectly evenly, and it retains heat long after it’s removed from the source,” says Michiho Fukumori, 8th-generation artisan, as well as a chef who used to cook for a Buddhist temple in Kyoto. She showed me how the donabe is made, which begins with kneading the soil. This is done so that the tiny air pores will be evenly distributed throughout the clay. It is then shaped on the wheel, taking care not to destroy the structure of the holes.