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    

Rare Vintage Deco Noritake Lady Figural "sisters" Bowl - Luster- Sheldon & Sayo Noritake Jar Flapper GirlVintage Deco Noritake 2 Swans Form Bowl / Basket - Deep Orange - Sheldon & SayoVintage Deco Noritake Large Koi Fish Figurine - Bone China - Sheldon & SayoVintage Deco Noritake Oblong Bowl - Figural Chicken Gold Orange - Sheldon & SayoVintage Deco Noritake Swan Master Salt - Iridescent Luster - Sheldon & SayoNoritake/nippon #20056 Rare Condiment / Bon Bon Server PristineRare Vintage 5 Piece Noritake Dresser Set W/1920s Fancy Lady "red M" No ReserveVintage Art Deco Noritake Double Handled Midnight Blue & Gold Sunflowers Bowl Noritake Leopard Figurine Nippon Porcelain Figure Very Rare Item 1935Noritake Wall Pocket Lusterware Green With Flowers. "m In Wreath", VintageVintage Deco Noritake Banjo Style Vase - Cream, Blue & Green - Sheldon & SayoNoritake / Nippon 175/16034 / Christmas Ball Master Berry Service Set New Noritake 3482 Sweet Leilani Legendary China Four 5-piece Place Settings Nib Vintage Deco Noritake Vase - Ship At Sea - Tan & Blue Luster - Sheldon & SayoVintage Noritake Japan Bone China Hen Figurine Chicken Foil LabelVintage Noritake Desert Hand Painted Sugar Bowl E&j.l. LidVintage Noritake VaseNoritake Tree In The Meadow Round Covered Butter Dish Vintage Morimoto Red MNoritake Tree In The Meadow Open Sugar Bowl Handled Morimoto Red M MarkVintage Deco Noritake Hat Pin Holder - Purple Violet Flowers - Sheldon & SayoNew Noritake 3482 Sweet Leilani Legendary Fine China Oval Vegetable Bowl Nib Vintage Deco Noritake Vase - Blue & Tan Luster With 3 Birds - Sheldon & SayoNoritake Morimura Vase 8" Tall, 1911-1921 Hand Painted, Gold Trim, W/chipNoritake Tree In The Meadow Syrup Or Cream Pitcher 3 1/2" Morimoto Red M MarkNoritake Occupied Japan Red Border Floral Gold Rim Dinner Plates-6 -#2 Of 2New Noritake 3482 Sweet Leilani Legendary Fine China Oval Platter Nib New Noritake 3482 Sweet Leilani Legendary China 5-piece Sugar Bowl & Creamer Vintage Noritake 1359 Tea Pot -- Rare -- Teal/black Fish Pattern -- Mid-centuryNoritake Azalea Cheeze Vintage Deco Noritake 3-legged Bowl - Orange Japanese Pagoda - Sheldon & SayoNoritake Ivory China Adagio 5 Piece Place SettingAffection By Noritake Ivory China Noritake Shenandoah ChinaLot Of 5 Vintage Noritake Fleurgold Us Design Fruit/ Berry Bowls,very Nice! New Noritake 3482 Sweet Leilani Legendary Fine China 8 Soup Bowls Nib Noritake Carolyn 2693 Fruit/dessert Bowl - Set Of 4New Noritake 3482 Sweet Leilani Legendary Fine China 8 Fruit Bowls Nib Noritake China "tahoe" 3 Dinner Plates (10 1/2") / Never UsedNoritake Royal Hunt #3930 Bread & Butter / Dessert Plate Set/6 PlatesNoritake 175/16034 Christmas Ball (mini) Square Bon Bon Bowl / Nut DishVtg 4pc Noritake Japan Ornate Gold 75th Anniversary 1979 Tea Cup Saucer SetNoritake~ireland~morning Jewel #2767 6 Footed Cups1917 Bing & Grondahl Christmas PlateNoritake Azalea Hand Painted Round Covered Vegetable Dish # 19322Pair Of Noritake Shell Shape Dishes. Green MarkNoritake Ivory China Gravy Boat With Attached Under Plate Reverie Pattern #7191Noritake Kilkee 8pc Set With Lots Of Accessory PiecesNoritake Redlace In Red China, 12 Place Settings, Extras!Noritake Azalea Child's PlateLot Of 5 Noritake Vintage Fleurgold Dessert Plate Usa Design Raised Gold/whiteNoritake Ontario 3763 Gravy Boat, 3 3/8" & Plate (relish Butter Dish) MintNoritake Violette 3054 Dinner Plates, Mint, Set Of 10Noritake Brookhollow Salt And Pepper Shaker Set Never Used.Vintage Red Stamp Noritake Morimura Azalea 19322 Footed Compote DishNoritake 44 Pc Queens Guard 7712 Fine China Set Gray And Gold Rope W/ Gold TrimNoritake Crestwood Platinum 5 Pc Setting6 Noritake Ivory China, Affection #7192, Berry Bowls, 5 1/2"Noritake Affection # 7192 10" Round Vegetable/serving BowlMint Noritake Barrymore Oval Vegetable Bowl