Sitting about 20km east of Nagoya City you’ll find Seto City. Touching the border of Gifu Prefecture, this rugged, mountain populated pocket of Aichi has over the years become so synonymous with Japanese pottery that it became a major foundation for the generic Japanese word for pottery, ‘setomono’. If you’re a fan of Japanese craftsmanship, or even just have a passing interesting in the world of ceramics, you’ll definitely find something to interest, entertain and inspire you here in this historic little hub.
The city’s ceramic history goes back to around the 10th century (although many argue it may have been much earlier). It was here and in the hills of Sanage that Japan’s first glazed ware was crafted. The city’s reputation for pottery fully came into effect during the Kamakura-period when a legendary local craftsman by the name Toshiro Kato established a kiln right here in the town. Legend says he travelled to China to study the art before returning to Japan in the search of high quality clay, he found it here in Seto and decided to set up shop.
In the centuries that followed, the city essentially built itself on the base of this craft, and in the Edo-period, the town received a large portion of financial support from the powerful Owari clan, which led to a time of ceramic prosperity which continued until the 20th century. You can learn all about the city’s ceramic history at the Aichi Prefectural Ceramic Museum.
Another one of the city’s main points of interest is the Kamagaki no Komichi path and museum. As you wander through the streets here you’ll stumble across piles of old, no longer used kiln tools known as kamadogu, which have now become symbols of the town. Around this area you’ll also find the Hongyoyaki pottery shop, a historic store that has now been transformed into a quaint, yet fascinating museum displaying a large selection of artifacts from the area.
If you’re in Aichi during September it’s worth making some time to visit Seto, because on the 2nd Saturday and Sunday of the month the city is home to the popular Ceramics Festival, held on the grounds of Kamagami-jinja Shrine. Around the kiln-shaped shrine pavilion you’ll find a broad selection of ceramic related festivities including pottery markets and ceramics-making workshops which offer plenty of fun for potters of all levels. The festival draws around 500,000 pottery lovers each and every year.
From Nagoya, the best way to get to Seto via public transport is to catch the Higashiyama Line to Sakae Station, then switch to Meitetsu-Seto Line and get off at Owari-Seto Station, Seto’s main station. The trip generally takes a little over 40 minutes and costs 650 yen each way. If travelling from Tokyo Station, the best way to get there is to take the Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen to Nagoya and make the same trip from there, this trip will take about two hours and 40 minutes and cost 11,940 yen each way.
NAVITIME TRAVEL EDITOR