Vintage Marutomoware: Made in Japan

Vintage Marutomoware: Made in Japan

One reason I love vintage so much are the stories behind each piece. Did you grow up with something that was just always ‘there’ for as far back as you can remember? I did.

For as long as I can remember this little sugar bowl sat on the back of our stove. It was always empty, but it was always there.

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Now it sits on my windowsill, still empty but still there. It makes me smile.

About a month ago while out treasure hunting I came across its mate, and I actually hesitated for one suspended second.

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Why did I hesitate? Well, I think the pieces are really sweet, but not my normal style. I was over-thinking the process until I actually connected that we have a connection!

Tip: Never over-think vintage!

Now this little cream and sugar set both sit on my windowsill.

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‘And’ I have found a handy use for this little creamer.

You see, we have a small pot of fresh basil that sits by the windowsill.


So I use the creamer to water it, because it’s the perfect size. Every time I use it, I smile.

I’m so happy I took a leap of faith and followed my heart on this one!

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With all this nostalgia came a bit of curiosity, so I looked into the history behind these cottage ware pieces.

From what I’ve learned…

These are Marutomoware pieces made in Japan in a little community near Noritake. Early Marutomoware dates back to the 1920s and 1930s, and was marked ‘Made in Japan’. There were also similar wares, ‘Marumon Ware’ and ‘Maruhun Ware’, but along with ‘Made in Japan’ these pieces were marked with a ‘K’ inside a circle and often with Japanese characters underneath.

Did you know that until 1891, goods exported to America did not have to be stamped with their country of origin in English?

It was after this that all exports had to be identified in English, so this meant the Japanese exports were marked with ‘Made in Japan’ as common practice. With WWII that all changed for Japan, and exports during the years of 1945 to 1952, were marked with ‘Made in Occupied Japan’ as a result of the American occupation of Japan. It was only after the Occupation that Japanese exports were marked simply, ‘Japan’.

So, what I can determine (guess) with my pieces is this.

The sugar dish is either a Marumon Ware or a Maruhun Ware piece, because it has the circle stamp described above though the ‘K’ isn’t clear.

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I also believe this piece is from the 1920s – 1930s because of the ‘Made in Japan’ stamp. The heavy crazing of the porcelain is also a clue.

Now the fun part is the creamer. I believe this piece is a Marutomoware from the same period, 1920s – 1930s, because it is stamped only ‘Made in Japan’.

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Again, note the heavy crazing of the porcelain.

The mystery is, why do these pieces match so well if they are from different companies?

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And that, my friends remains the mystery. I don’t have the answer to that – do you?

What vintage pieces do you cherish from your past? I would love to hear your stories, too!

Thanks for stopping by!

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Photographs by Sheila Zeller. Please link and credit if you choose to use! πŸ™‚

33 thoughts on “Vintage Marutomoware: Made in Japan”

  • I loved your story! and… since you asked I have one too! When I was a kid we had a small milk pitcher shaped like a childs’ face… on the forehead there was a fly. It was so cute… I recently found it at my moms and she let me bring it home. I love it!

    • Cynthia! I am so happy you shared your story – thank you! It made me smile, and I’m so glad you have the little milk pitcher in your home now. It’s amazing how connected we are to these pieces even after this many years!! Enjoy πŸ™‚

  • A cute set to remind you of the past. I have a set of two hostess plates and teacups that are marked Made in Japan that were given to my in-laws at some point in time. I wonder if that means they were made before the war? Interesting.

    • I will be sure to provide an update if anymore information comes my way! I’m keeping my fingers crossed that someone out there knows more and will share! πŸ™‚

  • Wow how cool is that!!!! It’s like they finally found each other and crazy that they’re from Japan!!!! What a fabulous journey and story. They certainly ended up with the best person. I totally remember things on our stove that just sat there too. Funny how our parents could be.

    • My husband calls these decisions, ‘taking a flyer’ – I call them instinct! πŸ˜‰ I’ve had the little creamer for about a month or so, and every single time I water the basil I feel happy, every time I glance at the windowsill and see both pieces sitting there they really do make me smile, inside and out! I love that connection to my memory of home… and no, I don’t have a bunch of quirky things lined up on the back of my stove! πŸ™‚

  • First of all, these are SUPER cute. I especially love the windmill sugar bowl! And I love hunting at antique markets, as well. We recently got an antique mirror that was originally hung in a movie theatre in the 20s! I love thinking about all the people who’ve used it before me. It’s great to have some pieces with history.

  • I loved reading your story! Your vintage pieces are so adorable!! Here’s my vintage collectible story: My Mom and Dad used to go to auctions occasionally when I was little and I used to dread it…at the time I found it soooo boring! Until the time we went to an auction where I spotted and begged my parents to buy me two vintage Japanese-made (like your’s) salt and pepper shakers that looked like little British soldiers marching in their uniforms! The salt and pepper holes were at the top of their dress helmets – they are so adorable! Well they did buy them for me and after I got married I displayed them in my dining room every where we lived! The serendipity part? I actually married a soldier! I’m an Army wife who fell in love with her very own Canadian soldier!!!! Our boys love hearing that story! Thanks for the great post!

    • Thank you so much Heather for sharing your story – I loved reading it, and it made me feel so many things! I was smiling, laughing, and even felt a little choked up in a good way that you found and fell in love with your very own soldier! Your little salt & pepper were a sign of what was meant to be, and ‘that’ is what the stories are all about. Thank you again for sharing!!!

    • Thank you for stopping by, Terri! If I learn anything more, I will definitely do a follow-up post – I’m so curious now, and really hope more information comes my way!

  • Well that’s the sweetest story ever! I love your little matching pair, they are perfect together and not from the same company, how interesting is that! I love how you know your vintage stuff. I am a total knee jerk collector, if I like it, I get it… well within reason of course. πŸ˜‰ I have so many cherished things from my family, I must say they are my fave, but my Grand-Mama’s vintage snow shoes have to be my most sentimental. xo

    • I think knee-jerk is good, Laurie – that’s the ‘don’t overthink it’ part! I am very sentimental about family pieces – my Dad doesn’t get it. He thinks I just love ‘old’ stuff, but for me it’s all about the connection to the people behind the pieces and the stories that they hold. Love that you have your grand-mama’s vintage snow shoes – that is very, very cool!

  • So adorable! I love your tip about not over thinking vintage. I’m kicking myself for not picking up some poodle salt and pepper shakers the other day (they were so adorable)!

    • I think sentimental is a big key – for me anything that has meaning attached to it becomes part of the story, and I think that’s what makes pieces so interesting! πŸ™‚

  • So lucky to have the pair! I think personal style is flex – as long as it feels right to you, it all seems to work together. So sweet that you have all these memories sitting in your kitchen, and how fun that you were able to find out something about them!

    • You are so right, Dani – I also believe personal style is all about flex. I think if there’s no flex, there’s no real personal touch, and that’s when things start to look vanilla, and like a show room. Meh!

  • Hi Sheila,
    This post is from the long ago summer but I just saw it today and I have the answer to your question about why different pottery companies in Japan made the same designs. It is because they copied the designs of any pottery maker in the United States who had a popular pattern. They didn’t worry about copyright before the war, during the occupation or after the war. They copied Hummels, California Pottery, Lefton, any of the hundreds of American companies that was successful. Because the cost of pottery coming from Japan was less expensive, people bought the less expensive versions of the popular pieces. Unfortunately, many, many small companies went out of business in the United States. Ohio and California companies closed by the score.
    Fox and Finch Antiques
    Richmond, IL

    • Thank you so much Ginene – I really appreciate this information and that you took the time to share. How sad is the reality of the copies? As much as I am thrilled to now have a pair, I’m not a fan of the blatant knock-off. Thank you again!

  • I have a jug which was handed down. It is a Foxhunt with the Foxes head as a pourer and the liquid pours from the mouth. It has a stamp on the base …..Marutomo Ware. T in a circle Handpainted Japan. Japanese Pat. No. 80033 . Do you know anything about this piece. Thank you.

    • Hi Patricia,
      I did a little bit of searching, but I couldn’t come up with anything concrete. I do not have any personal knowledge of your piece, but would love to learn more – it’s a neat piece, and from your description, it might be a milk jug. I did receive some information from Ginene Nagel of Fox and Finch Antiques ( See her comment on my post, but perhaps connecting with her might help shed some light on your Marutomo Ware.
      Good luck! I hope you are able to learn more,

    • I have a rough collie dog milk jug with the same markings on the bottom as your fox’s head. Its been in my family for as long as I can remember and to my knowledge never used to hold milk! I was born and raised in Brisbane Australia.
      I suppose it was bought as a gift for me or my sister after the war but no-one who might know is alive now to ask.

      • Thank you so much for your comment, Kris. What a wonderful keepsake for you. I feel a bit wistful that there is no-one left for you to ask about the piece you have. I’m happy for you that you have it after all these years…

  • I bought a very strange looking kangaroo shaped milk jug at an op shop here in Brisbane, Australia, for $4. Just researching this morning the stamp on the bottom. It is Marutomoware “Made in Japan” with a letter T in a circle. I have found koala and kookaburra versions online but not the kangaroo. It is a bit scary to use as the kangaroo looks possessed when milk comes out of it’s mouth, but I still love it

  • Your find make a cute windmill set! I have a lidded bowl that resembles an orange with leaves and two white blossoms on top. It is marked “Maruhon Ware, K in a circle, Occupied Japan”.

    Occupied Japan markings were used on items made for export during 1947–1952. Very interesting what Ginene Nagel said above. Makes sense!

  • I’ve just picked up a sitting Corgi about 4 inches tall with Made in Japan, Marutomware, a circle with a T in it. Anyone have more information? Spefically, the meaning of the T in the circle

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