Chess pieces made of traditional Arita ware are unveiled. (Video by Kenro Kuroda)

ARITA, Saga Prefecture--Traditional Arita ware porcelain has entered its fifth century by setting foot in the huge chess market.

Takashi Haraguchi, president of pottery sales company Toraku, and others developed chess pieces made of porcelain and began selling them by subscription, targeting the estimated 700 million people who play the board game across the world.

Haraguchi, 66, noted that the momentum is growing toward adding chess to Olympics events in the future.

“We want our chess pieces to be used in the Games,” he said. “I hope to promote Arita ware through chess across the world.”

Producers of Arita ceramics, which marked the 400th anniversary of their creation last year, have been working aggressively to expand their sales networks overseas.

The special chess pieces not only boast colorful and distinctive designs but they are also made from what is billed as “the world’s strongest” ceramic material.

The new material, developed by the Saga Ceramics Research Laboratory last year, is four times as strong as ordinary porcelain. Ceramics made of the new material do not break easily when they fall to the floor, according to laboratory officials.

Taking into account the fact that chess pieces made of France’s Sevres and other types of ceramics were already available, Haraguchi was determined to “develop chess pieces using Arita ware that are of higher quality than Sevres-made ones.”

With the help of the laboratory, Haraguchi started working with local pottery producers and other parties to create the pieces.

Ten types of sets, each including 16 chess pieces, were developed, some featuring gold leaf and the old Imari ware design.

Each set will be priced at 200,000 to 500,000 yen ($1,794 to $4,485).

Arita ware originated in 1616, when Ri Sanpei, a potter from the Korean Peninsula, found pottery ingredients in what is now Izumiyama in Arita.

Ceramics created in the region were exported to Europe in the latter half of the 17th century, while the Saga domain, the Tokugawa Shogunate and the Satsuma domain put Arita pottery on display at the Paris International Exposition of 1867.