[Japanese Majolica Tile]

I first became aware of the existence of "Japanese majolica tile" when I saw gorgeous tiles covering the walls of changing rooms and washrooms at the Funaoka Onsen in Kyoto. Gorgeous shades of green, light blue, and pink, various patterns, and uneven three-dimensional designs. I was curious and later looked them up and found out that they were called "Japanese majolica tiles."

Japanese majolica tiles are multi-colored relief tiles produced in Japan from the early Taisho period (1912-1926) to the Showa period (1935-1989), imitating modern British "Victorian tiles." They are decorated with relief patterns such as flowers and other irregularities in metal molds, and colored one by one by hand with a brush. From the end of the Edo period to the Meiji era (1868-1912), Victorian tiles used in Western-style architecture began to attract attention, and Japanese tile makers conducted research to produce these tiles domestically, and by the end of the Meiji era (1868-1912), they had perfected the Japanese majolica tile by dry molding method. At the time, tiles modeled after Victorian tiles were called "majolica tiles" in England because of their similarity to Mallorcan ware from Spain and Italy, and the name spread to Japan as well.

At the height of the export of Japanese majolica tiles in the early Showa period, they were exported to Southeast Asia, Australia, Africa, and other countries, especially in Asian countries such as Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand, where all kinds of Japanese majolica tiles made by Japanese tile manufacturers were incorporated into buildings. In Taiwan, there is a movement to preserve the historical value of Japanese majolica tiles. Originating in England, majolica tiles were transformed by Japanese technology and spread around the world, where they are still decorating architectural structures today.

In Kyoto, Japanese majolica tiles can be seen not only at Funaoka Onsen in Kita-ku, Kyoto, but also at Sarasa Nishijin, a cafe located a few doors down. Sarasa Nishijin opened in 2000 after renovating the 93-year-old "Old Fujinomori-yu," which was a sister public bath to Funaoka Onsen. The luxurious structure allows you to enjoy the Japanese majolica style at any seat. Funaoka Onsen is also a must-see spot when you visit Kyoto, not only for its spectacular Japanese majolica tiles, but also for its unrealistic world of openwork carved balustrades in the changing rooms and carp swimming in the pond under the corridor between the changing rooms and bathrooms. I would like to continue to find Japanese majolica tiles that still remain today, like a treasure hunt, in many places in Japan and around the world.

Funaoka Onsen
Sarasa Nishijin
Imadegawa Showroom