Located in Higashi Mino, in Gifu Prefecture, where more than half of Japan’s ceramics are produced, Maruasa Porcelain Factory Co., Ltd. is the industry leader in manufacturing cups and saucers. All ceramics are baked at 1,300 degrees Celsius or above for 22 hours, resulting in high-endurance products. The OEM products that Maruasa makes have a fine thickness and design unique to Japan.
Maruasa’a customers are major tableware manufacturers in Japan, the United States, and Asia, to which Maruasa Porcelain Factory has delivered more than 250 million items.
The white coffee cup in Japan
The vast Mino plain is in the center of the Japanese archipelago. Home to the headquarters and factories of global firm, Toyota Motor Corporation, the Mino plain is the powerhouse of the Japanese manufacturing industry. On the west side of the plain is the Higashi Mino area of Gifu Prefecture. The region has been a production center for ceramics since the 16th century.
Maruasa Porcelain Factory is a traditional manufacturer, which has created ceramics for 100 years in the Higashi Mino area. It mainly makes OEM products for tableware companies in Japan and the rest of Asia as well as the United States and has created and shipped more than 250 million ceramics worldwide.
Maruasa specializes in cups and saucers and most Japanese have once drunk hot coffee in a white cup at a café or at home that Maruasa created. It’s not surprising because Maruasa’s coffee cups are sold by Japan’s famous tableware companies and at world-famous amusement parks. They are also used in nationwide coffee shop franchises.
For more than 50 years, Maruasa has also been producing OEM products for export, to be sold by major American tableware firms and kitchenware brands.
Thin and durable ceramics fired in 1,300-degree kiln with reduction firing
Maruasa has delivered cups and saucers to tables all over the world for more than 100 years. So how did Maruasa earn this trust? The secret lies in the endurance of its ceramics.
Porcelain is usually fired in kilns at around 1,270 degrees because the temperature ensures the endurance, heat-resistance, and quench test results of the final product meets the industrial standards of Japan and other nations. However, Maruasa raises the kiln temperature to 1,300 degrees. It might be only 30 degrees hotter but it makes a big difference to the porcelain. Moreover, by applying a method called reduction firing, the oxygen in the kiln is removed, allowing the purity and density of the clay to increase. After slowly firing the porcelain for 22 hours, it has a very high endurance level. The reduction firing can create a highly durable product without water absorbency. Unglazed, the surface of the ceramics is fine and smooth.
A one-degree temperature change will greatly affect the clay’s shrinkage. Hence, abundant accumulated knowledge on firing is essential. Maruasa’s CEO, Keishiro Matsumoto, shared confidential details about the temperature change and shrinkage. The white, round, 2cm-wide samples all showed various degrees of shrinkage after firing. “In our company’s 100-year history, we have been able to accumulate our knowledge. We have a trade secret, called ‘the heat curve’ that shows the speed at which the kiln temperature changes. The glaze applied after the biscuit firing must be blended based on the temperature.”
In general, a standard cup is 4mm thick but a cup from Maruasa is only 1.5mm thick. Yet, its endurance remains high and production can be done on a large scale. When the ceramic is thinned, molding becomes difficult. It can be done manually by an artisan working carefully on a single cup. But Maruasa Porcelain Factory, being a major OEM, produces the same cup by the thousands. Quality control for mass production, such as the machine setting, accuracy of the mold, and quality of the clay is difficult. In Maruasa’s factory, that information has been passed down from artisan to artisan since the company’s establishment. By providing stable high-quality products, Maruasa has earned the trust of the international market.
Production using artisans’ skills; cleared quality tests in various nations
Maruasa is strong in the strengthened porcelain field. Strengthened porcelain clay consists of 20 to 30% alumina. Maruasa has shipped more than one million strengthened porcelain units that have high break resistance to a major kitchenware manufacturer in the United States.
Maruasa is also strong in its typical Japanese design. Since it has approximately 300 cup designs and 1,000 saucer designs and can make new designs from scratch, Maruasa can meet all customers’ needs. It also has fine ceramic staining skills. In general, ceramic stains become pale when the temperature rises. But, with the appropriate blending of the glaze, even under 1,300 degrees the company can secure the color the customer requested and provide an abundant number of samples.
When you visit Maruasa’s main factory, you will witness a unique scene. A work platform called Free Curve transports the cups in the air while they are drying. In each booth, skilled artisans work with their hands and the machine. The kneaded clay will be divided into pieces by the operator and then molded by the high-speed potter’s wheel.
After the cups are dried and their handles are attached by hand, they will be burned unglazed in a long kiln called the tunnel kiln. When the heat from the firing is quenched, the glaze will be applied to the cup. The inner cup will be covered with a ceramic fiber that is used in the aerospace industry. Finally, the cups will be baked in the fiber shuttle kiln, which has very high insulation that is effective for 22 hours. If a brand name or illustration is to be added to the cup, staff will place a silkscreen ceramic decal on it and bake it again at 800 degrees.
Maruasa’s products meet quality standards for ceramics of various countries. For instance, they have cleared Proposition 65, which is a leaching standard of the state of California. With experience of exporting worldwide, staff can make a speedy delivery.
Maruasa is not just committed to OEM products; it recently started to focus on the development of house-brand products. Collaborating with a brand in New Zealand, it created a pastel-colored eggshell porcelain cup. It is aiming to gradually promote its house-brand products.
Staff hope you will enjoy a cup of coffee in one of Maruasa’s coffee cups. The more you use its cups, the more you will appreciate the fine history of the Japanese pottery manufacturing industry.
Maruasa Porcelain Factory Co., Ltd.
Company Name: Maruasa Porcelain Factory Co., Ltd.
Business Content: Manufacturing porcelain cups and saucers
Head Office Address: 3-8 Hoshigadai, Tajimi, Gifu Prefecture
CEO: Keishiro Matsubara
Number of Employees: 21