Japanese porcelain and pottery not only feature beautiful artwork–the pieces tell a story of history beyond the surface. For instance, the clay that’s used in making the pottery points to the area it was made. The regional styles and techniques each potter used reflect the time frame it was made. Techniques used by other countries appear in many pieces of Japanese pottery. Yakimono means “fired thing” in Japanese, an important term that explains the surrounding culture of Japan when it comes to their ceramics and pottery. Often, the Japanese art on pottery imitated China and confused buyers. However, the beauty of the pottery has allure for collectors throughout the world.
Search your Japanese pottery or porcelain piece for identifying marks, usually found on the bottom of the item. Use your magnifying glass so you can see clearly and distinguish all marks and names. Note the location of the words and exactly how they are positioned with the picture. Depending on your particular item, you may have several marks or Japanese words, or the piece may not have anything at all.
Identify any words in the marks. Sometimes the English words in the markings will help determine a particular time frame. For example, "Occupied Japan" and "Made in Occupied Japan" pinpoints the fact that these items were made in the years from 1945 to 1952 after World War II. Noritake and Nippon are additional words that you might see and they mean "Japan". You may find some words in Japanese, which will make it more difficult to identify, but if you pay close attention to the lines, it will help you in your search for identification.
Decipher whether the mark is a stamped mark, engraved into the item, or if it has been painted. There may also be a label on your porcelain or pottery piece and if so, keep it intact because the details on the label can be very helpful.
Take several clear pictures of the mark as well as photos of the whole porcelain or pottery item. This step is optional, but Japanese marks are extremely difficult to describe in full detail, and it may not be convenient to carry your item around.
Stop in at your local antique shops and ask the dealers if they are familiar with Japanese porcelain and pottery. Show the pictures.
Research the Japanese mark online. At Gotheborg.com, you can search the mark by name, for example, click "Nippon," and it will bring up various Nippon marks and give you a brief description.
Check your library or visit a bookstore to locate a book with Japanese marks. If your mark has a name included, such as Noritake, you can look for a book specifying Noritake marks.
Obtain the assistance of an appraiser in your area. Although there is a cost involved to enlist the services of an appraiser, this may be a good option for you, especially if the mark is not easily identified. An advantage for you is the fact that the appraiser will not only verify the mark for you, but you'll also receive an estimation of the value of your Japanese item.