Pottery Tour and Treasure Hunt at Kouraku (Happy) Kiln
To learn about the history of Japanese ceramics and the pottery-making process while gaining a unique insight into village’s culture, there is no better way than a detailed tour of a kiln.
In Arita, there are only two kilns are open for tourists to explore, Gen-emon Kiln and Kouraku Kiln (also known as the Happy Kiln). While both tours are equally fascinating, Kouraku’s tour is offered in various languages, making the experience more accessible for foreign visitors. These days the Kouraku Kiln also offers visitors the opportunity to purchase Arita ware cheaply in the form of a treasure hunt. For a 5,000 yen or 10,000 yen fee pottery hunters are armed with a flashlight, basket, gloves and are given 90 minutes to fit as much pottery as you like into your basket. If you’re an avid collector, the 10,000 yen opportunity gives you access to a more exclusive selection of ceramics.
During the 15 to 30 minute tours, Pimenta and his team offer their extensive knowledge on pottery peppered humour as they guide visitors step by step through the entire pottery-making process. While on the tour you’ll witness the local experts honing their craft and even get the chance to step into one of the ovens, of course when not in operation.
Having been producing ceramics in this location for over 150 years, the facility has now amassed a large backlog of stock which for some mysterious reason has gone unsold. As a way to clean out a little, the kiln now offers tourists their unique treasure hunt experience. Visitors are given the chance to stock up on as much ceramics as they can fit in a grocery basket. Once the factory tour is finished, “hunters” are guided to a warehouse housing crates over-flowing with ceramics. Equipped with a plastic basket, a pair of gloves, and a flashlight, you will get two hours to grab as many pieces as you can.
If the hunt gets tiring, don’t worry the warehouse is equipped with a sofa, a coffee machine, and music to help you rest a refuel. The treasure hunt starts at 10am and runs all the way through to 3pm. On weekdays those interested in the treasure hunt can show up unannounced but prior reservation is required on weekends. If you want to be a little more meticulous, give yourself plenty of the time to carefully comb through the wares, there’s a lot to discover.
The price does not include wrapping, so at the end be prepared to wrap your own unearthed wares. Kouraku Kiln is located 2km northwest of Arita Station and can be reached easily by bicycle or on foot. Although keep in mind that you will need to carry your treasure home, so consider getting a taxi or car back to the hotel if you plan on taking advantage of the haul.