Japanese Sumida Ware

Sumida or Sumida Gawa Ware is a style of art pottery first produced in Japan at the end of the 19th century and intended for export to the West.  The stand out feature is the addition of figures or other three dimensional items to the object.  Most commonly these are children, monkeys and architectural forms.  The pottery is generally quite heavy and thickly potted.

The name comes from the river Sumida - the first workshop producing these items was located on the banks of this river, and this has also lead to the term gawa being added - gawa is the Japanese word for river.  The original producer is considered to be Ryosai, who's family continued the tradition through Ryosai III.  Key production of Sumida ware is generally considered to be c1890 to c1920 and then dropping off before WW2.  Some sources also cite limited post war production.

Notable features include the glazes, often very thick and applied in a way that they run down the item during firing, similar to fat lava from Germany.  The glazes are often multi coloured with the colours merging.  Flambe glazes are also prevalent.  Commonly part of the object (usually the lower or base area) will be left unglazed then painted after firing (often red or orange).  This paint is far less durable than the glaze so tends to wear with time.

The complexity of Sumida ware varied significantly, although quality generally remained quite good even with the more basic designs.  Price wise well glazed and produced examples are now fetching fair amounts while more basic examples are still very reasonable. To check our stock of Sumida Ware you can click here.






Japanese Sumida ware dish with drip glaze and applied figures of children, late Meiji.


sumida gawa ware Japanese Sumida ware bowl detail with applied figures of children and flambe glaze, Taisho period.