Noritake china dates back to 1876, when a company called Morimura Gumi (Morimura Brothers) established offices in Tokyo and New York. Morimura was the predecessor of Noritake Company Limited, although the official name change did not happen until 1981. Over the years, the company manufactured a wide array of china, backstamped with more than 400 different marks. Research the many and varied backstamps used in different eras to separate real Noritake china from copies.
Backstamps are the Key
Note that in 1904, the company operated as Nippon Toki Gomei Kaisha, located strategically in Noritake, a village near Nagoya with abundant raw materials and a highly skilled workforce. In 1906, the company used the backstamp “Royal Sometuke,” meaning “royal blue.” Its famous backstamp with the Maruki symbol and the word “Nippon” was also registered in 1906. In 1908, the company registered a backstamp with the letters “RC,” which stood for “Royal Crockery” combined with the image of a “Yajirobe” mechanical balance toy, and “Noritake” printed thereunder. The first exports to America were in 1910, when the backstamp featured the letter “M” for Morimura within a wreath and the words “Hand Painted Nippon.”
Bear in mind that Art Deco designs were fashionable in the late 1920s and 1930s and were adopted in Noritake china. Some Noritake wares of this period say “Hand Painted Imported Noritake China.” The Larkin Company of Buffalo, New York, imported these premium wares and offered them to their mail order customers.
Remember that the company had its own decorating facilities, but also contracted with outside artists in Tokyo, Nagoya and Kyoto. To make the distinction, in 1924, for example, china decorated by subcontractors for the American market bore a cherry blossom backstamp and “Japan” or “Made in Japan” without the Noritake name.
Think about the significant effects of World War II on Noritake china production. “Rose China” was the prevalent backstamp between 1946 and 1952, accompanied by the image of a rose, and sometimes “Japan” or “Made in Occupied Japan” while the Noritake name was omitted. However, by 1947, the Noritake name reappeared over a spoke-in-scroll crest.
Consider that it was not until 1953 that the letter “N” totally replaced the letter “M” for Morimura in the center of the wreath backstamp that was in use on some china in the 1920s. “Japan” and “Made in Japan” were part of the backstamp. The first appearance of “Noritake China” together with the letter “M” was in 1930.
In the post-war years, Noritake diversified into new areas, including melamine and casual dinnerware in the 1960s, earthenware and stoneware in the 1970s, industrial ceramics in the 1980s, and international expansion in the 1990s. Early company records were lost during the war years, and it is not possible to verify every aspect of its production history. However, check sources like the Noritake Collectors Guild for information about the company’s history and backstamps.
Consult reference books like "Early Noritake China: An Identification and Value Guide to Tableware Patterns," Aimee Neff Alden, Marian Kinney Richardson (photographer), 1986.
Based in Northern California, Maureen Katemopoulos has been a freelance writer for more than 25 years. Her articles on travel, the arts, cuisine and history have appeared in publications such as "Stanislaus Magazine," "Orientations," "The Asia Magazine" and "The Peninsula Group Magazine." She holds a Baccalaureate degree in journalism from Stanford University.