When the precursor to Noritake Co., Limited was founded in 1904 in the village of Noritake outside Nagoya, Japan, the choice was not accidental. The land around Nagoya was rich with kaolin, the type of clay most favored by manufacturers of fine porcelain. Since one of the company’s goals was to produce Japan’s finest china, Noritake needed to be close to the best source materials available.

It didn't take long for the company to achieve its initial goal—by 1910 it could claim Emperor Taisho among its customers. Noritake made dinnerware for the Japanese Navy, and by 1911 its cups, saucers, plates, and bowls were sold in department stores throughout Japan.

This early success was obviously welcome, but Noritake had a second, loftier goal—to supply Western-style china and dinnerware to the West. The first breakthrough on that front was a pattern called Sedan, which was exported to the U.S. in 1914. The ware was simple, predominantly white, with a cream-colored, hand-painted, flower-dotted border.

Other lines of dinnerware were characterized by their liberal use of gold glaze. By the early 1920s, Noritake had introduced assembly-line techniques, which allowed the company to more widely distribute its dinnerware around the world.

Around the same time, Noritake produced a "fancy line," which borrowed from Art Nouveau and Belle Epoque styles. After the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris, Noritake’s fancy-line products shifted to embrace Art Deco.

Steering the company in the direction of Western tastes was an Englishman named Cyril Leigh. He promoted both floral and geometric designs in the Art Deco style. He pushed his colleagues to read publications such as Vanity Fair and Vogue, and to study the work of illustrators such as Erté and Homer Conant.

In particular, Noritake designers would borrow liberally from Conant, copying details from his prints of the 1924 Broadway musical Madame Pompadour for their hand-painted plates and plaques. Other classic Noritake imagery depicted nostalgic scenes of quiet ponds or solitary farmhouses in rural settings...

As Noritake expanded its export of dinnerware and fancy pieces, it created a cherry-blossom backstamp for ceramics shipped to the United States; the backstamp, which included the words "Made In Japan," was used from 1921 through 1941. A second backstamp, previously called Komaru and now known as Maruki, featured a symbol that resembled a six-legged spider and was used on pieces shipped to the United Kingdom. A third backstamp from 1914 to 1940 had an "M" set within a wreath; these were stamped on pieces imported by Morimura of New York.

Noritake’s popularity in 1920s America coincided with the acceptance of cigarette smoking by women. The company responded to this opportunity by creating whimsical ashtrays, cigarette boxes, and humidors, many in the shape of women with bone-white skin, often holding or puffing a cigarette. Sometimes the women depicted in Noritake pieces were dressed as harlequins; other times they resembled flappers in iridescent gold dresses.

Other ashtrays with a decidedly feminine look were those with figurals of cats, dogs, and birds perched on their edges. And since cigarettes and cards were joined at the hip during this period, many Noritake tobacco pieces were decorated with hearts, spades, diamonds, and clubs, each of which would have a stylish woman’s face at its center.

Two of the most collectible types of Noritake from the 1920s are the so-called Gemini and Sisters bowls. The Sisters consisted of figurals of identical twins on either side of a bowl, whose interior was often decorated with flowers or butterflies. The Geminis were similar, except the figurals faced away from each other and their arms were bent back to create a handle for the bowl. Other bowls had one to four handles in shapes that ranged from wicker baskets to serving platters—windmills at sunset, birds in flight, and fountains in courtyards were typical of the company’s imagery.

For the dining table, Noritake produced honey pots in the shapes of gaily colored beehives, complete with gold-glazed bee figurals buzzing about their outside surfaces. Sugar-and-creamer sets were quite common, as were salt-and-pepper shakers, many of which were shaped like women’s heads or painted in styles that suggested Pennsylvania Dutch influences.

In the bedroom, Noritake fans could purchase "dresser dolls," which resembled the female-shaped cigarette containers but were designed for powder puffs. Hatpin holders, perfume bottles, and trinket trays in rich, lustrous glazes were also produced. The "lemon plates," which sport a single black or golden loop handle, are great for beginning Noritake collectors because they are so plentiful, with the exception of plates decorated with a woman fanning herself. The lemon plates were designed to hold lemons for afternoon tea, so naturally tea services were also manufactured.

Finally, Noritake produced a wide range of vases and containers for plants—from low, square or round vessels for ferns to ornate and even garish flower frogs. Some vases resembled tree trunks, albeit ones with iridescent bronze surfaces; others used traditional Greek shapes as canvases for floral motifs, birds, and the ever-present farmhouses and windmills. Particularly arresting are the vases whose mouths have been bent back so they resemble a pitcher plant, as well as the various styles of fans vases and sconces, which are known as wall pockets among collectors of vintage and antique Noritake.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Gotheborg.com

Gotheborg.com

Jan-Erik Nilsson's extensive reference on antique Chinese porcelain. Jam-packed with information (e.g. on porcelain… [read review or visit site]

The Bowes Museum: Ceramics

The Bowes Museum: Ceramics

This gallery showcases highlights from the 5,000 items in the museum's ceramics collection dating from 1500-1900. I… [read review or visit site]

Asian Art Museum

Asian Art Museum

You can get happily lost searching through the 10,000 or so objects on the Asian Art Museum's website. For example,… [read review or visit site]

Ceramics at The V&A

Ceramics at The V&A

A great reference on ceramics from the Victoria and Albert Museum. Learn about different ceramics techniques and st… [read review or visit site]



Most watched eBay auctions    

Noritake Art Deco Figural Lady Tray / DishNoritake Porcelain - Rose Decorated Jeweled & Gilded Coffee Pot - Art Deco!Old 1930s Art Deco Noritake Japan Figural Clown Luster Salt & Pepper Shakers SetNoritake Art Deco Lady In Orange Dress With Bouguet Basket Lusterware PlateNoritake Figural Duck Salt, Pepper, Mustard And Tray ~~~ Art Deco, Luster!Noritake Komaru Mark Hand Painted And Gilt Lidded Trophy Urn PorcelainVintage Deco Noritake Pin Dish - Blue Luster Dog W/tan Base - Sheldon & SayoStunning Antique Noritake Porcelain Hand Painted Dragon Lidded Bowl. C1900.Beautiful Gilded Noritake Floral Tea For Two SetVintage Deco Noritake Powder Puff Box - Blue Luster W/flowers - Sheldon & SayoVintage Deco Noritake Large Mallard Duck Figurine - Bone China - Sheldon & SayoVintage Noritake Dressing Table Box And Three Candle Sticks Blue Komaru MarkAntique Art Deco Noritake Egyptian Revival Handled Dish God Anubis JackalVintage Deco Noritake Wall Pocket Blue Luster & White Stripes Sheldon & SayoVintage Deco Noritake Shallow Oblong Bowl - Figural Cicada Bug - Sheldon & SayoVintage Noritake Penguin FigurinePair Art Deco Noritake Figural Luster VasesVintage Noritake Japan Handpainted Nippon Floral Vase With GiltVintage Deco Noritake Wall Pocket Vase - Figural Bees W/flower - Sheldon & SayoRare Tall Noritake (nippon) Red Crown Crane Porcelain Bird Figurine - Vintage6 Pcs Syracuse N&w Railroad Hotel Roanoke Dogwood China Made In The Usa!!Rare Vintage Deco Noritake Hanging Wall Plaque - 2 Large Collies- Sheldon & SayoNoritake - Japan Fine Bone Porcelain Red Crown Crane FigurineVintage Noritake Art Deco Individual Breakfast Coffee Set Handpainted N1265Rare Noritake Art Deco Sunflower Bowl ~~~ Excellent Geometric ShapeVintage Deco Noritake Wall Pocket Vase - Flying Seahorses - Sheldon & SayoNoritake Marywood Lugged Cereal Bowl Qty 12Nippon (old Noritake) Scenic Chocolate Set, Pot, Six Cups And Four SaucersExquisite Noritake Heavy Gilded Tea Cup And Saucer - PerfectVintage Deco Noritake 6 Salt Bowls - Green & Orange Luster - Sheldon & SayoVintage Deco Noritake 3 Diff. Colored Bud Vases - Bone China - Sheldon & SayoNoritake Bone China Pacific Majesty #9771 8- Cream Soup Cups Bowls & UnderplatesSet Of 8 Place Settings And Extras Vintage Noritake Ivory Heather PatternNoritake Bone China Barrymore Bone China Oval Vegetable Serving Bowl~japan 9737Noritake Breakfast Set! Salt, Pepper, Egg Cup, And Tray! Art Deco Luster!Noritake Blue Dawn 7-3/4inch Set Of 8 Soup Bowls 622,fine ConditionMontblanc By Noritake Vintage Ivory China # 7527 6 Cup Teapot ,w/platinum TrimNoritake Miyoshi Lot 12 Bread Plates #7194 Ivory China Pastel Flowers Gold Tr Vintage Noritake Deck Oh Curd Or Cigarette HolderVintage Japanese Geisha Girls Coffee / Chocolate Pot - 10 1/2 InchesNoritake Vase With Sailing ShipVintage Noritake Howo Phoenix Bird Covered Casserole,handled Serving Bowl-l@@k!Noritake Azalea Dolly Varden Basket Red Backstamp 1930'sNoritake Crestwood PlatinumAntique (circa 1912) Florian Bassett By Noritake Nippon 10 Inch Dinner Plate GucNoritake Blue Adobe4 Pc Noritake "clearlake" Dinner Plates 7914/japan/wht-blue $278 ValueNoritake Ranier 6909 Round Covered Vegetable Bowl Serving Piece HandlesNoritake Sanibel Blue Salad Plates - Set Of 11Noritake Keltcraft Misty Isle Deerfield 9159 Set 8 Dinner Plates Excellent Vintage Noritake Porcelain S & P Salt And Pepper Shakers Japan Whitehall TahoeNoritake Keltcraft Misty Isle Deerfield 9159 Set 8 Soup Cereal Bowls ExcellentSet Of 5 Coffee Cups Saucers Noritake Kyngold Pattern #317Noritake Barrymore Fine China 9737 Round Serving Platter Near MintNoritake Keltcraft Misty Isle Deerfield 9159 Set 8 Salad Plates Excellent Noritake Boulder Ridge Stoneware 12" Platter Chop Plate Southwest 3 Water, 1 Ice Tea Noritake Sweet Swirl Midnight Dark Blue Goblets Vintage Noritake Landon Round Vegetable Serving Bowl MintNoritake M Morimura China 5 Pc Place Setting Green Gold Edges Floral Vtg #inv ENoritake China - Colburn Pattern - Sugar Bowl With Lid