Kyoto UNRAKU-gama | Amazing Pottery of Kyoto-ware / Kiyomizu-ware (Kyo-yaki/Kiyomizu-yaki)

About Unraku-gama

UNRAKU-gama is a house of pottery located in Kiyomizu-yaki Danchi in Kyoto's Yamashina area, a region known for its Kiyomizu-yaki and Kyo-yaki ceramics.
Just as extraordinary earthenware’s color deepens over time, some kilns mature over time. UNRAKU-gama is the epitome of such maturation. UNRAKU-gama produces ceramics unlike any other, which are acknowledged and beloved around the world.

Since its founding UNRAKU-gama has spared no effort in producing high quality earthenware. Through painstaking care all the way from clay selection through to glazing, UNRAKU-gama provides amazing pottery for all situations. Pottery that is strong, and can withstand detergents. While UNRAKU-gama will continue to hold to tradition in the future, they also seek the best ways of producing excellent pottery.

Pottery Workshop Visit Guide

The UNRAKU-gama Kyo-yaki/Kiyomizu-yaki workshop offers a unique chance to see these pottery styles as they are made. With authentic presence the artisans demonstrate advanced techniques for visitors. These techniques are often amazing, as a ball of clay takes form as a finished work in a flash.
These visits are only available to purchasing customers, and to those with a deep interest in Kyo-yaki / Kiyomizu-yaki pottery.

  • *A visit takes 20-30 minutes. (Visits are free. Please be at the store by 4:30 PM)
  • *The workshop is not generally open to the public. Please make reservations in advance via phone or e-mail.
  • *However, we reserve the right to deny requests by persons employed in the same industry. Thank you for your understanding.

Showroom and Store

Completed works are sold via the store adjoining the workshop. The store’s selection is rich and accommodates various price ranges, from reasonably-priced products that adorn the dinner table through to gifts for friends and precious works of art. From works that embody the traditions of Kyo-yaki / Kiyomizu-yaki pottery, through to unique UNRAKU-gama glazes and colorations unseen anywhere else. All products are hand-made by our craftsmen. Once you have tried something made for true ease of use based on expertise cultivated over generations, you will never want to let it go.
We also ship purchased items anywhere in the nation or overseas.

Ever-Evolving Pottery

Many are surprised on encountering the variety of exciting ceramics that UNRAKU-gama provides. We make and sell works that suit a wide variety of uses, price ranges, and situations. We hope you find the perfect items for your tastes among our many ceramic works.
Depending on order volume, we also produce original products to order.

Inside of the store.

The History of Kyo-yaki / Kiyomizu-yaki (Kyoto-ware / Kiyomizu-ware)

Kyo-yaki is a general term for all pottery created in Kyoto. Kiyomizu-yaki originally referred to pottery made in the Gojozaka area, along the route to Kiyomizu Temple. Accordingly, all pottery now made in Kyoto is referred to as “Kyo-yaki / Kiyomizu-yaki.”
Beginning in the Momoyama Era, artisans and techniques for pottery from all over the nation gathered in Kyoto, the capital of Japan at that time. With the growing popularity of tea ceremony many workshops formed and developed. These workshops provided refined aesthetic taste and advanced techniques for luxury and show pieces in demand by the aristocracy and masters of tea ceremony. On entering the Edo era, famed craftsmen Ninsei Nonomura and Kenzan Ogata were born, and perfected pottery that used advanced potter’s wheel techniques and colorful, picturesque designs.

The Tenacity to Investigate Thoroughly and Try Everything

“The tenacity to investigate thoroughly and try everything” is what lead to success for UNRAKU-gama. They have traveled the nation to find the finest materials, and studied and experimented with all manner of glazing, firing, and enameling processes in order to produce higher-quality ceramics. Research to grasp customers’ changing tastes was also irreplaceable.
In 1963 UNRAKU-gama was the first in the ceramics industry to incorporate an electric kiln for high-temperature firing. Since there was a rumor spreading at the time that Kyoto ceramics were fragile, they completed the high-fired “Aomatto” glaze in order to dispel such rumors. The glaze offers unprecedented strength and beautiful textures on ceramics. Their creations received high praise in blending this beauty with traditional designs, and the UNRAKU brand’s status was secured.

An Entire Family of Artisans

The history of UNRAKU-gama began 125 years ago, when Unraku Saito I took the first steps towards fulfilling his dreams. Currently, Unraku Saito III and his family work at UNRAKU-gama. All members of the family work in the traditional industry as artisans, and carry on the family traditions of high quality and innovation seeking.
The members of UNRAKU-gama believe that continuing family management is the most effective way to remain leaders in the field of Kyoto ceramics while sharing a clear vision in their works.

Kyo-yaki / Kiyomizu-yaki Process

Depending on the item created, many techniques are used on Kyo-yaki and Kiyomizu-yaki ceramics before their completion. This shows the general flow of work up to completion.

  1. process-1:Kikumomi

    Kikumomi

    Clay is pressed by hand to expel air for uniformity. The ripples in the clay resemble a Japanese chrysanthemum.

  2. process-2:Pottery Wheel Shaping

    Pottery Wheel Shaping

    The clay is shaped on a pottery wheel. Round items are all made on a pottery wheel, regardless of size.

  3. process-3:Kezuri

    Kezuri

    This is the process of grinding down the base of the object. The artisan judges by the sensation in their fingertips and the sound of the grinding to determine an appropriate thickness for the clay.

  4. process-4:Under-Glaze Decorations

    Under-Glaze Decorations

    These are drawn with paints that can survive the high temperatures of glost firing (1300°C). Painting occurs after biscuit firing at 700-800°C.

  5. process-5:Glazing

    Glazing

    Biscuit fired ceramics are covered with liquid glaze. Under-glaze decorations are completely hidden by the glaze for a time. The images come through the glaze over the course of glost firing. Glazing and firing at high temperatures gives pottery a smooth surface, producing strong, waterproof ceramics.

  6. process-6:Kamazume

    Kamazume

    Glazed pottery is arranged in many layers in the kiln. Loading too many or placing items at the wrong intervals causes issues with heat transferal and breakage due to temperature differences. This work requires years of experience.

  7. process-7:Glost Firing

    Glost Firing

    Pottery is fired at 1300°C for 3 days and 3 nights, using an electric kiln. During this process, a difference of just 2-3 degrees can cause the unique UNRAKU “Aomatto” glaze to vary from white to a pale green.

  8. process-8:Over-Glaze Decorations

    Over-Glaze Decorations

    Glost-fired items are decorated with images using even more colorful paints.
    A single item with over-glaze decorations is completed by decorating the object, firing at a temperature according to the paints used, changing paints, and repeating.

Access from within Kyoto

From Kyoto Station

  • Taxi:

    About 20 minutes. Go to “Kiyomizu-yaki Danchi UNRAKU-gama.”

From Shijo Kawaramachi

  • Bus:

    About 20 minutes from “Keihan Bus” platform 5 at the “Shijo Kawaramachi” stop, using route 88B. A 2 minute walk when getting off at the “Kiyomizu-yaki Danchi” stop.

  • Taxi:

    About 15 minutes. Go to “Kiyomizu-yaki Danchi UNRAKU-gama.”

From the Kiyomizu Temple Area

  • Bus:

    About 10 minutes from “Keihan Bus Gojo Keihan” bus stop using route 88B. A 2 minute walk when getting off at the “Kiyomizu-yaki Danchi” stop.

  • Taxi:

    About 10 minutes. Go to “Kiyomizu-yaki Danchi UNRAKU-gama.”

From JR or Keihan Yamashina Station

  • Bus:

    Route 29 or 29A from “Keihan Bus.” A 2 minute walk when getting off at the “Kiyomizu-yaki Danchi” stop.

  • Taxi:

    About 15 minutes. Go to “Kiyomizu-yaki Danchi UNRAKU-gama.”