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Asian art

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Rectangular plate decorated with a map of Japan and neighbouring islands and countries



Arita ware



Throughout the Edo period Arita potters explored an immense repertoire of decorative devices. Among the most striking of these motifs is the ‘Rectangular plate with a map of Japan and neighbouring islands’. Maps were in use in Japan long before the ‘nanbanjin’ (‘southern barbarian’) Portuguese traders and Catholic priests had introduced the science of cartography (7). Nevertheless, it was only in the early nineteenth century that the novel use of maps as ceramic decoration appeared in Japan. It was a reflection of the growing self-perception of the nation as a single entity, a result of increasing domestic travel in Japan during the Edo period. By the early nineteenth century, even though there was growing awareness in Japan of its own existence in the wider world, contemporaneous insularity was still reflected in the details of the plate’s design. Each Japanese province is named, in contrast to other lands, labelled with such titles as ‘country of little people’. (8)

(7) See Kouwenhoven (2000)
(8) Menzies (ed.) (2003a, p.266).

Excerpt from Daniel McOwan, ‘European export ware’ in James Bennett and Amy Reigle Newland (eds.), ‘The golden journey: Japanese art from Australian collections’, Art Gallery of South Australia, 2009, p. 242.
©Art Gallery of South Australia 2009. Reproduced by permission.

Arita ware or Imari ware?
Arita ware (porcelain made around the Arita region) is commonly referred to as 'Imari ware' both in Japan and overseas because porcelain products from the region were transported to domestic and overseas markets through the port of Imari, approximately 15km north of Arita. For the sake of consistency, all porcelain works produced during the Edo period in the Art Gallery Of New South Wales collection are catalogued according to the production site, e.g. Arita ware and Hasami ware.

Imari itself was home to the Nabeshima ware, exclusively produced at the Ôkawachi kilns for official use of the ruling Nabeshima clan. With the establishment of the Meiji government in 1868 the independent fiefs of the Edo period were replaced by prefectures in 1871, and the Ôkawachi kilns entered the free market. The term 'Imari ware' (or Ôkawachi ware) now applies to works produced in Imari from 1871 to the present.


Other Title

Imari ware map plate

Place where the work was made




Media category


Materials used

porcelain with underglaze blue


5.6 x 32.4 x 29.0 cm

Signature & date

Not signed. Dated on base, in Japanese, "[Made in the Tempô period]".


Purchased 1981

Accession number


Artist information

Arita ware

Works in the collection



Where the work was made

Shown in 2 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 3 publications


Daniel McOwan, The golden journey: Japanese art from Australian collections, 'European export ware', pg. 240-243, South Australia, 2009, 242 (colour illus.), 331 (colour illus.).

Jackie Menzies, Three years on: a selection of acquisitions 1978-1981, 'Asian Art', pg. 85-103, Sydney, 1981, 92 (illus.). 11

Jackie Menzies (Editor), The Asian Collections Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'Ceramics', Sydney, 2003, 266 (colour illus.).