Iga ware, or Iga-yaki is a style of pottery produce in the city of Iga, in the Mie prefecture. It is made from local red clay and fired at high temperatures, causing it to crystallize in a reddish hue with unique brown-grey burn marks, caused by log ashes and the melting effect of its vidro, a feldspathic glass that is mixed into the clay. In ancient times, the Iga province was completely submerged under Biwa Lake. Accordingly, there is a rich amount of plankton, and other organic matter, within the clay. When the clay is fired, they evaporate and create tiny holes in the ware, which helps to preserve the heat of the vessel, and also creates a unique texture.
This rough and coarse texture is a signature characteristic of the Iga clay. Even experienced potters have a hard time handling the material, and so production is extremely limited. Every piece is unique, with slight differences created by the changing conditions of the Iga-yaki kilns from season to season, and the different placings of the bowls when firing. The Iga ware is finished with locally sourced glazes, to produce unique and interesting results. Matsubai is a light, sage green glaze that uses only red pine tree ashes. It requires an extremely high temperature to burn, and as a result, the Matsubai pieces become very hard and sturdy. Sekkai is a white glaze made of limestone. After firing, the glaze becomes clear and glass-like, revealing the cream, base color underneath. Kuroame is one of the most traditional glazes for Iga-yaki. Made from iron, it produces a black finish.
All Iga-yaki must go through a traditional preparation process called Medome, in order to prevent staining. Rinse white short grain rice in a pot of water until the water turns milky white. Take the rice out and place the Iga ware in the water. Gently cook it over low heat for 20-30 minutes and then let cool. After completely cooling, remove the Iga ware and rinse it thoroughly. Once it has completely dried, it is ready for use. For the best maintenance, towel drying after each use of the Iga ware is recommended.