Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Noritake factory in Chikaramachi, Japan Q: My mother received this tea or luncheon set as a wedding gift in the late 1920s. It was never used but was always in our cupboard. We would appreciate any information about the dishes.

A: This crown and wreath mark was used by the Noritake factory on Chikaramachi Street in Nagoya, Japan. In 1876 Baron Ichizaemon Morimura and his brother founded Morimura Bros., a trading company, in Tokyo. In 1904 Morimura established a porcelain manufacturing company, Nippon Toki Gomei Kaisha, in Noritake, Japan. The company began exporting porcelain dinnerware in 1914. "Made in Japan" was used as part of the mark about 1908. The Chikaramachi crown mark was registered in 1928 and was used for several years. The company name became Noritake Co., Limited in 1981 and is still in business.


Mark Brown, wnantqs@verizon.net said...

CHIKARAMACHI, An Early Member of the Noritake Family
by Marshall (Mark) Brown

The name Chikaramachi has been an integral part of the history of Noritake china since 1896. Little documentation exists today because nearly all the early records were lost when an incendiary bomb destroyed the home offices of Noritake on 19 March 1945. In the rubble and ashes were over 50 years of one-of-a-kind porcelain samples, ceramic molds, original drawings and sketches, registration records, etc.

The Morimura brothers, Ichizaemon and Toyo, first founded Morimuragumi (Morimura Association) in Tokyo as a Japanese goods export business, and the Hinode Company in New York in 1876. By 1882, they realized the great potential for chinaware and gradually developed what would become Noritake as their main line of merchandise. Existing records indicate that Morimuragumi had already established several exclusive porcelain decorating factories in Tokyo, Kyoto and Nagoya by 1884. In 1896, land was purchased to construct 5 buildings to consolidate the entire decorating process in Nagoya and the project was completed in 1899. Of significance is the name of one of the two parallel streets between which the buildings were constructed, Shumokucho and Chikaramachi.

The first Chikaramachi back stamp was registered in 1912. It consists of the Chinese ideograph character for tree within a circle surrounded by the words CHIKARAMACHI above and MADE IN JAPAN below. Noritake referred to this as the MARU-KI backstamp. There are no records indicating the significance of the blue, green or red color varieties.

The second series of three backstamps was registered in 1928. A crown within a laurel wreath had the word CHIKARAMACHI in a semi-circle above and MADE IN JAPAN in a straight line below. This mark appears in green or black. The second mark is red and consists of a slightly smaller crown within a laurel wreath with two lines in a semi-circle above CHIKARAMACHI and HANDPAINTED, and a semi-circle below, MADE IN JAPAN. The third mark is a samurai helmet with the word Chikaramachi in script in a semi-circle above, and MADE IN JAPAN in a straight line below. It is unknown what color varieties were produced. There are variations of the backstamps with the words FOREIGN or IMPORT used in place of MADE IN JAPAN. This was for those pieces exported to England.

Although it is unknown why Noritake developed and identified Chikaramachi as a separate line, there are several indicators that point to it being an apprenticeship program. First, the quality of the porcelain of many Chikaramachi pieces is quite crude having numerous imperfections and rough, unfinished edges. Second, the painting on many of the pieces is not up to Noritake standards with little consistency in layout and a definite lack of finesse in the brushwork. Yet, there are pieces that are the equal of the best of Noritake, almost as if they were produced on a trial basis to perfect the design before allowing their integration into the parent company lines. It's not known when they stopped using the Chikaramachi back marks, but all production, along with U.S. exports, ceased in 1942.

My sincere appreciation to Keishi Suzuki of Noritake Co, Nagoya, for his research in the company files, and to Mineko Sherrod for introducing me to Keishi.

Kayce Cover said...

I have two cups and 3 saucers of the CHK6 pattern and I really appreciate this information. Thank you.

Madonna Beaudette said...

I think I have a small dish from the 1928 series. It has a tree on it, and on the back a crown with laurel wreath, Chikaramachi curved at the top and made in Japan in a straight line. This dish is oval shaped and is 3 1/2 inches long, and 2 inches high. Is it a rare piece?
Thank you for your help.
Madonna Beaudette
Windsor, Ontario, Canada