Friday, May 10, 2024

Tozan Shrine Arita: Japan's Porcelain Shrine


Tozan is the popular reading of the kanji for Sueyama, the official name of this shrine in the old town of Arita in Saga.

While most torii entrances are made of stone, concrete, wood, and even sometimes metal, the one here is made of porcelain.

Not only that, but some of the komainu, lanterns, and other features are also made of porcelain.

Arita is said to be the origin of Japanese porcelain, when kaolin, the fine white clay used to make porcelain was discovered nearby in the early 17th century.

The local legend has it that it was a man named Yi Sam-pyeong, a Korean known in Japanese as Kanagae Sanbee, who discovered the kaolin deposit , and a bust of him stands in the shrine. (photo 3)

The shrine was founded in 1658 as Arita Sarayama Sobyo Hachimangu, with the name changing in early Meiji to Sueyama Shrine.

As a Hachimangu the primary kami would be Hachiman, considered an incarnation of Ojin a semi-mythical early Emperor.

In 1923 Nabeshima Naoshige was enshrined here. He was the local Daimyo credited with "bringing" many Korean potters to the area during his retreat from Korea at the end of Hideyoshi's invasion.

Many sources use fairly passive verbs to describe this "resettling" of Koreans but in reality they were kidnapped and enslaved.

Many of the estimated 50,000 to 200,000 Korean captives were farmers but technicians like potters were much sought after. Kidnapped Korean potters were responsible for Satsuma ware and Hagi ware, but also mining engineers, movable-type printers and even Confucian scholars were also kidnapped accompanied by massive looting of art such as temple bells and statues.

The previous post in this series exploring Arita was on the surrounding Historic Preservation District.


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