various forms of the back name in Meiji kutani

the origin of the back names in ceramics

It is thought that the back name written on ceramics was born with its advent, and its prototype was born in the Song dynasty or the Yuan dynasty in China, and then  the form of the back name such as “大明万暦Dai Ming Wanli” was completed in the Ming dynasty. Strictly speaking, unlike “inscription” or “signature”, the name written by the creator or some craftsmen inside a foot of porcelain meant such as identification, because the creator himself were not allowed to write the kiln name in China.

In Japan, the back name was first marked on the pottery with the “stamp of Ninsei (仁清)“, while in porcelain, Imari copied the back names on Chinese porcelain from the starting in the early Edo period. These were “大明成化年製made in Dai Min Chenghua” or “福fuku (fortune)”.



On the other hand, even in ko-kutani in the early Edo period, “福fuku” was often written copying the back name of Ming porcelain. In the late Edo period, the revival kutani adopted the back name from the name of the production kiln, production area, etc. for the first time. Furthermore, in the Meiji period, country name such as “大日本Dainippon” or “加賀Kaga”, and production area name such as “九谷kutani” (it means just kutani ware or Kutani village where kutani were produced at first) were written down on the export kutani, and the name of the creator or store was added.

The beginning of the back names in kutani ware

In this way, the difference between Imari and the revival kutani in the back name was due to the production form. Except for the Kakiemon kiln and Imaemon kiln, Hizen porcelain in the Edo period did not have the back names indicating pottery, painter, kiln, etc. The reason for this is that in Imari, in order to prevent the Nabeshima clan from leaking technology and smuggling products, several body kilns and 16 painting factories were trapped in the protected area of Arita Town and its surroundings. Intentionally the body kilns and the painting factories were divided, so the integrated production of the products under a kiln was not allowed, not to mention, the back name of the kiln or the painting factory were not allowed to write their names. So until the first Meiji period, probably, Imari would raise its rating in porcelain market by copying the back name of Chinese porcelain.

On the other hand, in the various kilns that were established in the Kaga domain and Daishoji domain at the end of the Edo period, products unique to the kiln were made from the purpose and background of each kiln. Therefore, in the kilns aiming at the revival of ko-kutani (ao-kutani), the back name such as “福fuku” were written, and there were various names such as the name of the place where the kiln was built or the name of the kiln owner. Eventually, when a painter like Kutani Shoza (九谷庄三), who had a livelihood in the painting business, appeared, the names of the painter or factory began to be written as a back name to indicate that their work was a brand product or he was a master craftsman. The form of this name was inherited in the Meiji period and developed adding some forms.

back name “kutani” in Meiji Kutani

The name “九谷焼kutani ware” was born in 1818-1830, and “kutani ware” was written on the box containing the products from the Yoshida-ya kiln. The name and the writing spread. After that, a painter who became independent from the kiln wrote his name and his store name on the product.

In the Meiji period, when the number of painters who became independent from the kiln increased, the back name “九谷kutani” was combined with the name of the painter or his store name, and the export kutani was combined with the national name. However, when Meiji kutani was mass-produced and the products with individual back names of painters and pottery merchants decreased, their value became rare, but the crude products with only the back name “kutani” become widespread.

back name incorporating “山”

“山” means mountain. Mountains were special to the Japanese. This is because in Japan, where there are many mountains, people considered mountains to be the world where gods lived, and since ancient times mountains were the object of worship and very important for their lives. Haku-san (白山) was loved by the people of Kaga, and it was a mountain of worship for fishermen and boatmen, and Haku-san was like a sign indicating the destination. It is naturally seen as a sublime mountain, and many painters in the Meiji period adopted “mountain” as their back name.

back name incorporating “堂”

“堂” was usually the house or studio for calligraphers, writers, tea masters, painters, poets, entertainers, etc. The name meant a place where people gathered, and was given to their house and studio, so some painter added “堂do” as his factory name.



back name incorporating “大日本”

The custom of adding “大large” to “日本Japan” existed since ancient times, and “大日本dai-nippon” was used as one of the “national names” of Japan in diplomatic documents in the late Edo period. In the Meiji period, it was used externally. So kutani attached to works exhibited at the World Expo, and was often seen in export kutani.


back name incorporating “加賀”

In the Edo period, the Kaga domain had most of the three countries of Kaga, Noto, and Echu, and in the Meiji period, Ishikawa citizens were proud of the fact that Kaga had the second largest territory after the Tokugawa shogunate. So the old country name “加賀Kaga” was named as the national name.



back name incorporating “金城

In connection with “加賀Kaga”, the back name “金城Kinjo” was incorporated in Kanazawa kutani, which was the old name of “Kanazawa” in the center of the Kaga domain.



“signature” in kutani fine print

The calligrapher of kutani fine print wrote his signature as the store name at the end of Chinese poetry. He would not have a painting kiln, and if he wrote his signature with the name of the painting kiln or the painter, it would be confusing who wrote kutani fine print.


back name in products by pottery merchant

Watano Kichiji (綿野吉二) was a big pottery merchant of Meiji kutani. His name was also written as “綿埜”. This back name was used for most of the export kutani and was written in abbreviated form such as “九谷utani / 綿埜Watano”. This sample is a rare one because he added “大日本Dai-Nippon” or a famous porcelain painter.



Unique back name

“相鮮亭” was a back name received to Asai Ichimo (浅井一毫) from his load of Daishoji clan in response to his achievements for the Daishoji clan in the late Edo period and for the development of Enuma kutani.




“彩雲楼saiun-ro” would be the factory name of Toda Tokuji (任田徳次). “彩雲” is a miraculous and beautiful scene of nature, called “iridescent clouds”, in which the clouds are colored red, green, and pink (these colors are colors used by the Minzan kiln that he was engaged in when he was young). It is thought that Toda would wish to represent his own figure he aimed for as a porcelain painter, like a multi-story building (roof) built against such a scene “彩雲”.

「鬼仏」(Kibutsu)  This is another name of the first Tokuda Yajukichi (徳田八十吉). The back name “Yasokichi” was used by the first, the second, and the third at the same time, so the first Yasokichi stamped “鬼仏” in red on the back of the wooden box to distinguish from the second or the third.


back name copied from ko-imari

In ko-imari (古伊万里) in the middle of the Edo period, it had a painting style that drew a design in blue and white, arranges red balls and yoraku-mon around the design, and drew arabesque in gold on the outside. In this foot was written in two lines as “奇玉宝鼎之珍”. It is probable that “Daishoji Imari” (大聖寺伊万里) were produced by a pottery merchant of Enuma county, referring to this ko-imari’s painting style, also coping this back name.