The predecessor to the Noritake porcelain line, Morimura-kumi, was established in 1876, in Ginza, a suburb of Tokyo, Japan. Thus, a long and illustrious history began for the famed maker of some of the world’s most remarkable china. With the founding of a trading house, Morimura Brothers in New York City two years later, trade between Japan and the United States was born. This imported goods store was the first of its kind to bring the United States fine imported porcelain from Japan.
After a visit to the Paris Expo in the late 1800s, the Morimura brothers became captivated by Western tableware which featured white porcelain with a design. By 1904, the brothers opened a factory called Nippon Toki Gomei Kaisha in a tiny village near Nagoya called Noritake. From this location, a vast array of Noritake china would emerge, with each era of the Noritake porcelain branded in its own unique way.
In its early years, Noritake porcelain had a decidedly Art Nouveau flair complete with flowing curves, colorful trees, and blossoming flowers. The European patterns popular at that period of time were also made at the Noritake china factory. Catering to the upper classes, Noritake porcelain was made into chocolate pots, candy holders, sugar bowls, and coffee and tea pots, and other fancy pieces of Noritake china that were used by hotels, restaurants, the Imperial Household Ministry as well as the naval department.
World War I signaled the close of the Art Nouveau era of high class ornaments for Noritake porcelain. The company sought to embrace the advantages of industrialization and mass production while closing the chapter on the hand painted pieces of the Fancy Line of Noritake china. They applied techniques in assembly line production to the Noritake porcelain factory in order to supply enough Noritake china to satisfy the exporters demands. By 1914, the company was able to export its first Noritake tableware. Within just thirteen years, Noritake dinnerware sets comprised more than 50% of their exports, outselling the Fancy Line of Noritake porcelain.
Just because the Noritake Fancy Line was not hand painted does not mean that the company did not make porcelain in that style any longer. On the contrary, Noritake used its assembly line production system to make a type of upper class decorative ornaments, complete with the vibrant and bright colors of the Art Deco style that first caught the eye of designers at the 1925 Industrial Decoration Expo in Paris. All but forgotten by many, this style of Noritake porcelain has recently enjoyed renewed attention and interest by collectors worldwide because of its bold and vibrant colors.
There have been many stamps used by Noritake porcelain to mark its china. Perhaps one of the more famous marks is the word, Nippon, as it is often mistakenly associated only with Noritake china. It is, in fact, a word that denotes Japan as the country of manufacture, and nothing more. Coupled with the distinguished Noritake porcelain wreath, however, the capital letter M or N, signal a Noritake porcelain piece.