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Japan has a long history in ceramics. It goes back as far as the 16th century when Japan opened its ports to the Western world. In the 1850's, U.S. Naval Officer Matthew C. Perry convinced the Japanese government to reopen their ports to the West. At that time, there were no laws requiring countries to mark their wares with the name of their country. In 1891, a law was passed requiring all countries mark their exports with the name of the country. Japan marked their exports "Nippon", Japanese for Japan. In 1921, the word "Nippon" was ruled unaccepable by the United States. The Japanese were required to mark their exports "Made in Japan". This continued until the beginning of WWII, when all exports from Japan to the United States was discontinued(1941-1945). During the occupation of Japan (1945-1952)all exports from Japan to the United States were marked "Made in Occupied Japan". Since the end of the occupation, all exports were marked "Japan". The quality, detail, and price varied from crudely made to lavishly decorated; from inexpensive to expensive. Many items were meant for souvenirs in the United States for the tourists. Others were for carnivals used as prizes. They were mass-produced and not very well made. The better items were targeted for gift shops, department stores, and china shops. These were more expensive and very well made and some very elaborate. This is where you will find teapots, cookie jars, vases, and pitchers. Many of the teapots and cookie jars have wicker handles and are often found to be damaged or missing. You can find replacements quite easily and usually inexpensively. If you are lucky enough to find one with the handle still intact, clean it gently with lemon oil. This will keep it from becoming brittle.For more information on Made in Japan pieces, watch for next month's newsletter. I will give you some ideas on how to tell the old from the new pieces.
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