Shodai-yaki takes its name from Mt. Shodai (Arao City, Kumamoto Prefecture) where the indigenous clay has a rich iron content, perfect for sturdy pottery. Kilns in the area date back to the Nara (710-794) and Heian (794-1192)-eras when there were about 100 Sueki kilns.
When Hosokawa Tadatoshi moved from the fief of Buzen to take control of the fief of Higo in 1632, two master potters were appointed. One of these was Genhichi, the first of a long line of potters of the Hinkoji family, and the other was Hachizaemon, the first of successive generations of potters from the Katsuragi family. It was the appointment of these two men that is said to have marked the beginnings of the making of Shodai-yaki. Much later on in 1836 and under a directive from the local clan, Senoue Rinemon, an official of the Shogunate, built the Senoue kiln as part of a program promoting industry in the area. The skills and techniques associated with the production of Shodai-yaki have been handed down over the years and it is the Noda and Chikashige families, which have inherited them and still use them to this day.
Made from a local iron rich clay, a particular feature of this ware is its bold and yet simple character. By modifying the blend of glazes and by utilizing the changes which take place at different firing temperatures, delicate control is exercised over the production of colors for the blue, yellow and white Shodai-yaki. In addition, the dribbled, extravagant patterns and the depth of color of the glazes harmonize with the forms of the pieces, to produce this sense of bold simplicity.
Today a wide range of household goods as well as tea items are being produced by a dedicated band of 43, who are employed by just 12 firms in the area.