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Q: The Value, Scarcity and Collectability of Japanese Tokoname, Late Meiji Period ( Answered,   1 Comment )
Subject: The Value, Scarcity and Collectability of Japanese Tokoname, Late Meiji Period
Category: Arts and Entertainment
Asked by: carlysle-ga
List Price: $125.00
Posted: 17 Jun 2005 07:01 PDT
Expires: 17 Jul 2005 07:01 PDT
Question ID: 534187
I own an extensive (250 plus) collection of Japanese Tokoname Ware,
made in the Tokoname Kilns of Japan during the Late Meiji Early Tasho
Period. They range from Large Urns (26 inches in height) to toothpick
holders (2x3inches). Some are in perfect condition and others have
chips or cracks. I am trying to find out how rare and collectable
these items are. I would like to know of any books or publications
that exist about Tokoname. I would also like to know where any large
of Tokoname are;Museums, collections,etc. Also,I would be interested
in any auction houses that deal in Tokoname or related items and if
there is a larger interest in collecting Tokoname in Japan than in the
United States.
Subject: Re: The Value, Scarcity and Collectability of Japanese Tokoname, Late Meiji Peri
Answered By: nenna-ga on 25 Jun 2005 09:07 PDT
Good morning carlysle-ga and thank you for your question.  I have done
a bit of researching on Tokoname ware and am pleased to be able to
provide you with the following information.

* * * * * 

History of Tokoname Ware:

Japan has six ancient kilns, Tokoname being the oldest.  Tokoname ware
was produced for religious purpose, being made as the vase to contain
Buddhist sutras.  Therefore, most Tokoname ware has been discovered in
religious sites all over Japan.

According to the chronological division of Japanese history, Tokoname
pieces produced before early Modern Japan should be called old
Tokoname ware.  Tokoname pieces produced after the Kamakura period
(1185-1333) are called "Tokoname ware of the Muromachi period"
(1338-1573)  and the ones of modern Japan, "Tokoname ware of the Edo
period" (1800-1867).

Tokoname ware has a coarse sandy grey body and is covered with a
natural greenish-yellow wood ash glaze on the body.  Old Tokoname ware
was a product of the tunneled sloping kilns.   Later, surface kilns in
the Muromachi period began to be established and produced not only
religious objects but also various utensils for daily use.

With the change in kiln construction, the kind of clay used also
changed. Mountain clay, which is low in iron content, was used for old
Tokoname ware. But for production during the Muromachi period, potters
began to use clay, which was found in large quantity underneath their
rice fields.  This clay was high in iron content and the
refractoriness was lower than mountain clay.  This meant that the
pottery could be fired harder by the lower heat of the surface kilns.
A Tokoname vase of the Muromachi period appears to be "stoneware".
Vases and jars made from clay containing iron oxide, when fired,
turned black all over, showing one of the characteristics of Tokoname
ware of this period.

Stamp impressions on Tokoname ware are also characteristic of old
Tokoname ware. Depending on the size of the vessels, stamps were
impressed on the shoulder or body, in one, three or five lines.  A
mudra of the Shugendo sect of Buddhism was carved on the shoulder of
some of the Tokoname jars made during the late Kamakura through the
Nanbokucho periods.  Sand marks are often seen on the bases of old
Tokoname pieces and no other Japanese ceramic except Tokoname ware has
those marks.   However, some of the old Tokoname pieces are not sand
marked and instead, bear the mark of "clog supports". This indicates
that the vessels were potted on a "rotary stand".  The rotary stand is
a kind of potter's wheel.  This method of potting on a rotary stand
and utilizing sand was practiced until the Muromachi period.

Big flat bowls were also potted on a rotary stand. A bowl was given
its finished shape by trimming the underside, and while the foot was
formed separately, it was later attached to the body. We find many
foot rims of flat bowls showing places where chaff-remains stuck
during the firing of old Tokoname ware indicating another one of its

Listed below are the classifications of Tokoname:

?1.  Large Jar with Ash Glaze - This type of jar shows the most
salient characteristics of old Tokoname ware. It is rough in
appearance and stands out with a powerful masculine sense of form.
Usually, these jars are stamped with three or six horizontal bands on
the body. Sometimes they are often stamped with only one band on the
shoulder. Originally the stamps were few in number showing slight
variations. But towards the end of the Kamakura period, a greater
variety of stamps were in use. There are a few jars with an incised
mark on the shoulder, dispensing entirely with stamped impressions.
The largest sizes of these jars are 93.0 cm. and 88.0 cm. in diameter.

2.  Vase used in Sutra Mound - The standard height of this type of jar
is around 35.0 cm. The most productive period of vases for sutra
mounds was 1100 A.D. to 1150 A.D. and these vases are found in great
quantity. The markings are either stamped or incised. Great care was
taken in making these vases in a highly distinctive style and potters
fired them with a feeling of respect.

3.  Large Flat Bowl - There are four sizes, measuring respectively
22.0 cm., 27.0 cm., 33.0 cm., and 40.0 cm. in diameter, and were used
as covers for vases or jars in the sutra mounds. Plain and
undecorated, these mortar shaped bowls have a spout to assist in the
answering of one's prayer.

4.  Vase with Three Carved Lines - This vase has three carved
horizontal lines on the body, and is referred to as "san-kin-ko" in
Japan. The vase was made as a container for Buddhist sutras, but was
often used to contain the ashes of the cremated in the early Kamakura
period. The design of three carved horizontal lines is characteristic
of old Tokoname ware and evidently, is unique to this ware. Judging
from the excavation sites vases with the three carved lines seem to
have represented moral rules govering the five human relations. The
vase is divided into five sections by the three lines on the body,
that is, "sky, wind, fire, water and earth".

5. Vase - The vases with three carved lines disappeared after the
early Kamakura period and vases the same size as above began to be
produced. This transition probably represents a change of religious
attitude. The vases with three carved lines were produced with a lofty
ideal, while the new vases display an intimate feeling and are
somewhat distorted in shape.

6.  Vase with Carved Design - A strange mark is carved on the shoulder
of the vase produced at the end of the Kamakura and through the
Nanbokucho periods. This means that a new religion had taken root
during this time.

7.  Roof Tile for Buddhist Temple - This is called a"white pottery
tile". The roof of the Ninnaji temple, a ruined temple at Okazaki Park
and Anrakujuin in Kyoto, are covered with these tiles. In the Tokoname
area, the roofs of old buildings at Noma Omura are covered with
similar tiles.The tiles were fired in fairly large quantity during the
late Heian through the early Kamakura periods.

8.  Lipped Bowl - This type of vessel was produced in small quantity
and large size lipped bowls are very rare. The hard edged small lipped
bowl may have been used for camellia oil expression.

9.  Small Vase - While there are not many examples of this type, none
have been excavated from sutra mounds. They are found only at kiln
sites of the late Heian and early Kamakura periods, and their purpose
is not clearly understood.

10.  Flat Bowl - This is usually called "yamachawan" or, mountain tea
bowl by many people. We, however, would like to call it a "flat bowl",
as "yamachawan" does not describe its function. It is a forerunner of
the earthenware cup used at Shinto shrines later on. There were many
kilns that produced this type of ware, firing three or four thousand
flat bowls at one time. The bowl has the characteristic shell-like
pattern on the flat base (itozoko), a mark left by the cut-off string.
The foot of the bowl was formed separately and later attached to the
body, and shows places where chaff-remains stuck during the firing.
Sometimes, the bottom of the bowl shows sand marks.

11.  Lipped Dish - This is a flat dish with a spout and was used as a
lid for the vase with three carved lines. The lipped dish was
originally made for this purpose. When we made excavations at the
kilns of the late Heian period (794-894), which were producing only
flat bowls, we discovered that ten percent of the products at these
kilns were lipped dishes.

12.  Small Cup - Like the flat bowls, these cups were produced in
large quantity. This cup has the shell-like pattern on the flat base
resulting from the twisted thread used to cut the piece free. And like
the flat bowls, the foot of the cup, which was formed separately and
later attached to the body, shows places where chaff-remains stuck
during the firing. Sometimes we find flat based cups without any foot
rim. As there is evidence that a small cup was used in household
Buddhist shrines of the Muromachi period, this cup was probably made
for that purpose.

13.  Net Sinker - These were found in great quantity at the kiln sites
of the Kamakura period and there is the possibility they will be found
at the kiln sites of the Heian period. Four kinds of sinkers are known
and they were strung to fishing nets as sinkers.

14.  Ink Slab - There are very few examples which have been excavated.
A few ink slabs which have been uncovered date from the Kamakura
period. Ink slabs were chiefly used when people copied Buddhist sutras
but most of the ink slabs were Sue type pottery. It is very
interesting for us to find Tokoname ware ink slabs of the Kamakura
period at the time when the custom of sutra mounds was not so active.

15.  Small Stand - There are not many excavated examples of small
stands in old Tokoname ware. Usually there are two small bowls on the
stand. Similar examples of the same size and style are found in the
remains of Sue pottery at the old kilns of Atsumi peninsula and
Sanageyama. It is very interesting that these three wares look as if
they derived from the same ceramic stock. As the stand is very small,
it must have been a ceremonial vessel and not actually used in daily

16.  Die - Only one excavated example is known. As the die represents
the four directions, the heavens, the earth and stars, it must have
been used as ceremonial vessel for praying to God.

17.  Small Ball - We find many examples of this in old Seto ware,
however, there have not been many excavated pieces in old Tokoname
ware. It is said that the small ball was used as a bullet in warfare,
but this is doubtful because some of the small balls were found in
sutra mounds. It must have been used as a substitute for a crystal

18.  Long Necked Vase - The vase has a band of flower petals in relief
between the neck and shoulder, and this is one of the characteristics
of old Tokoname ware. We find many examples of this style both in
large and small pieces. As they were produced in the Heian period and
faith in the teachings of Kannon Bodhisattva was widely popular during
this time, it may represent a suibyo (water bottle) held by Kannon
Bodhisattva, as a symbol of purity.?

Source:  History of Tokoname Ware
( )

* * * * * 

Tokoname ware today is predominately used for Bonsai pottery. 
Tokoname has produced the most recognized bonsai pottery in the last
900 years.  Potted plants in the bonsai tradition are distinct forms
of garden art and Tokoname is legendary for producing some of the most
high quality and prized pieces among bonsai enthusiasts.

Source:  Tokoname and their legendary bonsai pots
( )

Below are some links to pictures of ancient Tokoname ware:

( )
( )
( )
( )
( )
( )

= = = = = = = = = = = 

I have a found a few names and contact information for experts in
Japanese art who might be able to help you determine the owrth of your

Jon P. Kennan, Associate Professor at Colby-Sawyer College. His
current work involves anagama wood-fired ceramics and he is an expert
on Japanese art and ceramics, and art history.  You can contact him

Jon P. Kennan
C/o Colby-Sawyer College
Fine & Performing Arts, Building SC
541 Main Street
New London, NH 03257
Phone: (603) 526-3666 ext. 3460

* * * * *

Connie Norman teaches art to junior high school students in Cheyenne,
Wyoming. A graduate of the New York State College of Ceramics at
Alfred University, she has also studied ceramics in Tokoname, Japan.  
You can contact her via:

Anderson Ranch Art Center
P.O. Box 5598 
5263 Owl Creek Rd. 
Snowmass Village, CO 81615

Main Phone: (970) 923-3181
Fax: (970) 923-3871
General E-mail:

* * * * * 

Christie?s Auction house has two individuals who specialize in
Japanese art;  Katsura Yamaguchi and Susan Lewis.

( )

= = = = = = = = = = 

The following are books I found on Tokoname Ware that might interest you:

Sawada Yoshiharu: TOKONAME. Famous Ceramics of Japan Vol. 7. Tokyo, 1982

* * * * *

Ode to Japanese Pottery, Sake Cups and Flasks by Robert Yellin
ISBN: 4-907731-05-1
( )

* * * * *

Tokoname (Famous Ceramics of Japan) by Yoshiharu Sawada

= = = = = = = = = = 

Here are a few auction sites that have current auctions or have
previously sold Tokoname Ware:

RubyLane:  (,cs=Antiques:Antique+Japanese+Meiji+Period+Tokoname+Vase,id=1.12.html

* * * * * 

Sotheby?s sells Tokoname ware every once in a while.  In 2001, they
sold a large Heian period Tokoname vessel for $70,500.

Image:  (

Source: (

Sotheby?s  will give you their opinion of the (likely) value of your
property if offered in a Sotheby's auction.  According to their
website ( ):

	?It will take approximately 4-6 weeks for our specialists to respond
to auction estimate requests.

	Sotheby's offers auction estimates solely on the type of property
that we sell at auction. For those areas in which we do not specialize
or for items which fall below Sotheby's minimum consignment values, we
are not able to give auction estimates or any other information.

	Auction estimates are, of course, subject to change based upon
firsthand inspection of your property.

	Auction estimates do not constitute a formal appraisal of the fair
market value of property and are not generally suitable for insurance
or other purposes.

	Our auction estimates are solely for your personal information and
may not be relied upon, copied, or distributed for any purpose without
prior written consent.?

You can view their auction estimate and request form and its instructions at:
( )

* * * * *

Christie?s auction house can give you an auction estimate as well. 
Print out the Auction Estimate Request form and mail the completed
form with a clear color photograph to:

Christie's Auction Estimates Service
20 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, NY 10020

This form can be found at:

( )

?Please fill out an individual Auction Estimate Request form for each
item. Photographs and other materials submitted will not be returned.?

Additionally, you can make a request via email.  Include the
information requested in the Auction Estimate Request form and attach
a clear jpeg image. Send a separate email for each item to

* * * * *

Ebay: ( )

* * * * *

( )

= = = = = = = = = = 

The following museums have some Tokoname pieces though I cannot verify
how many and if it constitutes a ?collection?:

Suntory Museum
( )

* * * * *

1300 Gora, Hakone-machi, Ashigarashimo-gun
Kanagawa Prefecture 250-0408 

( )

* * * * *

Los Angeles County Museum of Art: 
( )

* * * * *

4-203 Segi-cho, Tokoname-city, Aichi Pref., 479-0821

* * * * *

TOKONAME Ceramic Art Institute
7-22 Okujo, Tokoname-city, Aichi Pref., 479-0822

* * * * *

TOKONAME Ceramic Park
1-47 Okuei-cho, Tokoname-city, Aichi Pref., 479-0823

For more information on Tokoname, contact the Tourist Section of
Tokonome City Office at telephone number 0569/35-5111.

I hope this answers your question.  If you would like clarification
before rating my answer, please do not hesitate to ask!

Google Researcher


Japanese Pottery Information Center
( )

( )

Google Search Terms:

Tokoname Auctions
Tokoname Books
Tokoname Museums
Japanese Ceramics Experts

Clarification of Answer by nenna-ga on 27 Jun 2005 10:00 PDT
I had sent an eamil to Sotheby's re: additional experts in the area of
Tokoname ware and this was the reply I received this morning:

"Thank you for contacting Sotheby?s.

Sotheby's can prepare appraisals to suit a variety of needs, including:

Estate tax and estate planning
Charitable contribution
Collateral loan purposes

A completed appraisal will include detailed property descriptions and
itemized values in a bound document with an affidavit and summary

Sotheby's appraisals are widely accepted by the Internal Revenue
Service, tax and estate planning professionals, and insurance firms.

The appraisal fee is based on the volume and nature of the property,
as well as the amount of time and number of specialists required.
Sotheby's will refund the fee pro rata should you consign any of the
property to us for sale.

For additional information, please contact:

Sotheby's Trusts, Estates, and Appraisals
Phone: (212) 894-1115
Fax: (212) 894-1116

If you are just looking to get an idea of the value of your items, you
may wish to get an Auction Estimate. For your convenience the link has
been supplied below:

Thank you for your inquiry. If we can be of further assistance, please
contact us at (541) 312-5682.


Amable B. O'Neal
Sotheby's Customer Assistance
US:  (541) 312-5682
Fax:  (541) 312-5684"


Clarification of Answer by nenna-ga on 27 Jun 2005 14:05 PDT
Sorry for yet another clarification but I received a seperate email
from Sotheby's today re: someone who has expertiese in Japanese
ceramics who might be able to help you:


Sachiko is the head of Japanese works of art in New York City.

Thank you,

Request for Answer Clarification by carlysle-ga on 01 Jul 2005 11:17 PDT
Although the information provided by the researcher is pertinent to the
subject, I think I was specific in the period of Tokoname pieces I have
wanted to know more about the value and scarcity of the pieces in
The pieces were made from approx 1880 to 1920. If there is further
information concerning that period of work, it would be appreciated.
Thank you,

Clarification of Answer by nenna-ga on 01 Jul 2005 12:12 PDT
I wanted to let you know that I am working on your clarification and
will get back to you promptly.


Clarification of Answer by nenna-ga on 05 Jul 2005 15:14 PDT
Hello again carlysle-ga!

According to your clarification, you are interested in ?the value and
scarcity of the pieces in question.?

Please be reminded that we are merely Google researchers and no Google
researcher would be able to tell you with certainty, the value of your
collection.  That being the case, I suggested that you contact the
trained professionals at Sotheby?s and Christies, who would be able to
provide you with a legal estimate.  Additionally, I supplied you with
current auctions, giving you a ?ballpark figure? for single pieces
being sold today as well as the name of a professional to contact who
would be able to tell you a bit more about the Tokoname history and
the possible ?popularity? of pieces produced in the Meji (1868-1912,
when Japan underwent industrialization) and Tashio (1912-1926)

Here are some additional auction links for Tokoname ware in the
periods you are referring to:

( )

( )

( )

( )

( )

As you can see, they range from $150.00 to $600.00.  IF your pieces
were worth, on the low end, $150.00 a piece, you are talking about a
collection worth close to $38,000.00.  But again, I am not an antique
appraiser, nor do I have any education in Japanese ceramics so I will
once again suggest that you contact either Sotheby?s or Christies for
an auction appraisal.

As for scarcity, in all the research I did on the internet, I was able
to identify 3 major auction houses that had a current auction for
Tokoname ware (a single piece), one major auction house that had a
past, successful auction (this piece was from the Heian Period, 12th
century) and a handful of smaller auction houses hosting pieces.  That
alone tells me that there are not many pieces of Tokoname ware readily
available or there are not many people willing to part with their
pieces.  I am of the opinion that it is rare to find ?old? Tokoname
Ware (compared to the newer pieces being produced and sold in today?s
market) and even rarer to find such an extensive collection, such as
what you have.

I am curious to know how you came across such a large collection to
begin with? :)

I hope this clarifies things further.  If you need anything else,
please let me know! Good luck!


Additional Sources:

Additional Google Search:

Meiji Taisho period japan tokoname
Subject: Re: The Value, Scarcity and Collectability of Japanese Tokoname, Late Meiji Peri
From: chinwag-ga on 25 Jun 2005 02:03 PDT
I suggest you try ebay current and completed auctions. There are just
a few pieces there but they did not fetch very much. I think it just
depends upon quality and age. I also suggest you contact 3 or 4 major
and local auction houses and, if possible, send them clear photographs
of your best pieces. I know someone who is an expert on Japanese
ceramics and if you cannot get the help you need I could email him for

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