Saga – Home of Japanese Ceramics


2020.02.03

NAVITIME TRAVEL EDITOR

Saga, a relatively small prefecture nestled between Nagasaki and Fukuoka on the island of Kyushu is considered the home of porcelain ceramics in Japan, and has long attracted visitors from all over the world for this exact reason.

  • Roughly four hundred years ago, large quantities of Kaolin – a mineral essential in the production of porcelain was discovered in a local mountain. Upon this discovery Toyotomi Hideyoshi, a power-hungry Warlord who controlled large swaths of Kyushu traveled across the Sea of Japan to Korea where he sought out highly skilled craftsmen with the necessary experience and knowledge to extract the Kaolin and teach him how to use it in the production of ceramic pottery. These Korean potters were brought back to Japan against their will, but were treated in high regard once they arrived due to their in-depth knowledge on the subject.

    The entrance to Okawachiyama Village

    The entrance to Okawachiyama Village

    Modern examples of Arita-yaki

    Modern examples of Arita-yaki

    The towns history of porcelain design and production has influenced many aspects of everyday modern life

    The towns history of porcelain design and production has influenced many aspects of everyday modern life

  • Attention to detail can be found throughout the area

    Attention to detail can be found throughout the area

    The town of Arita and the isolated mountainside village of Okawachiyama served as the two main sites of this new-found porcelain pottery production, while the town of Imari served as the port from where the products were shipped to locations across Japan, and even overseas as far away as Europe. Several large-scale kilns were constructed in and around Arita and Okawachiyama resulting in large scale production and prosperity for the area unlike anything they had ever experienced before.

    Arita is lined with shops from a bygone era selling a range of pottery, also from a bygone era!

    Arita is lined with shops from a bygone era selling a range of pottery, also from a bygone era!

    There are plenty of opportunities to dig for your ideal piece of Japanese pottery!

    There are plenty of opportunities to dig for your ideal piece of Japanese pottery!

  • Today the area continues to remain a popular place for ceramics enthusiasts, with a large collection of pottery shops, studios, museums and other related attractions. Large parts of the area have seen little modernization over the past couple of centuries meaning they retain a feeling of a by-gone era, similar to that of when the pottery boom first started.

  • 04

    Arita Town

    The town of Arita is generally considered the center of the area with the bulk of the pottery production happening here. It is famous throughout Japan for its pottery, which is known as Arita-yaki, and pretty much all of the town’s attractions are related in some way to pottery including large commercial kilns, museums, galleries and an abundance of shops. Arita is also home to Izumiyama Quarry, the site at which Kaolin was first discovered.

    The entrance to Tozan Shrine in Arita is torii gate made from Arita-yaki

    The entrance to Tozan Shrine in Arita is torii gate made from Arita-yaki

    Shops of all sizes are well-stocked with a variety of porcelain goods

    Shops of all sizes are well-stocked with a variety of porcelain goods

    Inside a ceramics shop in Arita town

    Inside a ceramics shop in Arita town

  • Izumiyama Quarry, where the production of local ceramics began

    Izumiyama Quarry, where the production of local ceramics began

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    4.0

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    จังหวัดซากะนิชิมะจูระอาริตะโจโอทารุ2-5-1
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    0955423310
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  • 06

    Kouraku Kiln

    There are a number of places in and Arita that offer workshops where you can experience pottery making with the locals. One such place is Kouraku Kiln, situated a short drive from Arita Station. They offer one-day workshops where you can try your hand at simple pottery techniques as well as more immersive experiences that involve staying onsite and working with members of their local collective. They also offer “treasure hunting” sessions, where you can rummage (with care) through crates of Aritayaki searching for your perfect opiece of treasure to take home and cherish!You can read more about Kouraku Kiln here
    Smiles all Around at Kouraku Kiln

    Treasure hunting at Koraku Kiln

    Treasure hunting at Koraku Kiln

    Treasure hunting at Koraku Kiln

    Treasure hunting at Koraku Kiln

    Boxes and boxes of Arita-yaki, made over the decades sit in a warehouse ready for you to sift through, looking for your ideal piece to take home

    Boxes and boxes of Arita-yaki, made over the decades sit in a warehouse ready for you to sift through, looking for your ideal piece to take home

  • Whatever you can fit in your basket you can take home. There are two basket options, one priced at 5000 yen and the other at 10,000 yen

    Whatever you can fit in your basket you can take home. There are two basket options, one priced at 5000 yen and the other at 10,000 yen

    Inside the pottery studio at Koraku Kiln

    Inside the pottery studio at Koraku Kiln

    Koraku Kiln is also a space where artists come from overseas for internships or to work on personal projects

    Koraku Kiln is also a space where artists come from overseas for internships or to work on personal projects

    幸楽窯
    place
    佐賀県西松浦郡有田町丸尾丙2512
    phone
    0955424121
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    Gallery Arita

    Gallery Arita is somewhat of a special place, as soon as you step foot inside you are surrounded on all sides by floor-to-ceiling walls of finely crafted teacups from local pottery towns. They have over two thousand cups in total, which you are free to peruse and select your favorite for a cup of freshly brewed tea!
    The café, which is more like a restaurant in terms of quality and service, also offers a great selection of cakes, ice cream and hot meals with several local specialties on the menu.
    An adjoining building makes up their gallery, which displays a number of porcelain teacups from the region, many of which are also available to buy in their well-stocked and varied shop.

    Keep your eye out for the Arita-yaki inspired Mini Cooper, this is where Gallery Arita is!

    Keep your eye out for the Arita-yaki inspired Mini Cooper, this is where Gallery Arita is!

    The café at Gallery Arita has over 2000 teacups for you to choose from for your cup of tea!

    The café at Gallery Arita has over 2000 teacups for you to choose from for your cup of tea!

    Gallery Arita is a stylish and relaxing place to kick back and sample good local food

    Gallery Arita is a stylish and relaxing place to kick back and sample good local food

  • Which of the 2000 odd teacups will you choose?

    Which of the 2000 odd teacups will you choose?

    Locally sourced and produced food is served in a tei-shoku style

    Locally sourced and produced food is served in a tei-shoku style

    Gallery Arita is also a great place to stop if you have a bit of a sweet-tooth

    Gallery Arita is also a great place to stop if you have a bit of a sweet-tooth

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    4.5

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    จังหวัดซากะนิชิมะจูระอาริตะโจฮนโจโอสึ3057
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    0955422952
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  • 10

    Maruhiro Inc (Hasami Brand)

    Maruhiro is an ultra-stylish pottery shop located on the very edge of Arita, the pottery however isn’t technically Arita-yaki. as its produced in the neighboring town of Hasami, another area famous for its porcelain production. You can read more about the town of Hasami here. (INSERT LINK TO HASAMI ARTICLE HERE)
    Originally established in the 1950s, Maruhiro is a family-run outfit specializing in Hasamiyaki ceramics. Now in its third generation of business, Maruhiro is fronted by Kyohei Baba, the grandson of the company’s founder. His fresh and original approach to their product line sees an interesting blend of traditional aesthetics alongside elements of youth culture including street-fashion, skateboarding and contemporary music.
    The store itself is very different from your average pottery shop, with the feel of a fashion boutique. A lot of attention has been paid to presentation, atmosphere and the physical dynamics of the space.

    Maruhiro Ince Flagship Store in Arita

    Maruhiro Ince Flagship Store in Arita

    The mark of style

    The mark of style

    The interior of the shop oozes style and creativity

    The interior of the shop oozes style and creativity

  • Inside the Maruhiro Flagship Store

    Inside the Maruhiro Flagship Store

    Maruhiro have several lines of products, some more traditional than others

    Maruhiro have several lines of products, some more traditional than others

    Maruhiro ware is proving popular among young Japanese

    Maruhiro ware is proving popular among young Japanese

  • A Maruhiro teapot on display in their shop in Arita

    A Maruhiro teapot on display in their shop in Arita

    A set of Maruhiro plates on display in their shop in Arita

    A set of Maruhiro plates on display in their shop in Arita

    A collaborative effort with a Tokyo based skateboard company, this deck is made 100% from porcelain and then hand painted by a local artist in the town of Hasami

    A collaborative effort with a Tokyo based skateboard company, this deck is made 100% from porcelain and then hand painted by a local artist in the town of Hasami

    Maruhiro
    place
    Saga Pref. Nishimatsuragunaritachou Toya Otsu 775-7
    phone
    0955422777
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  • 13

    Okawachiyama Village

    If Arita is the heart of local ceramic production in Saga Prefecture, then Okawachiyama is the soul of it all! This tiny village is home to a number ok kilns that have been in use for hundreds of years producing goods destined to be shipped around the world from the nearby port-town of Imari. The pottery produced here is known as Imari-yaki.
    It doesn’t have anywhere near the number of shops, cafes or galleries that Arita has, but it has plenty of evidence of a community steeped in a history of ceramics.
    Every which way you look you can find red-brick chimneys protruding from kiln houses. Of course there are small businesses to be found in among the many pottery studios, but they are lowkey in comparison to those over in Arita. The real treat here is slowly wandering the cobbled backstreets, exploring the beautiful aesthetics of the village, which feels as if it hasn’t changed in many, many years!

    The village of Okawachiyama sits nestled in the mountains

    The village of Okawachiyama sits nestled in the mountains

    The village map which is displayed as you enter the village is of course made of porcelain!

    The village map which is displayed as you enter the village is of course made of porcelain!

    Many kilns that have been used for hundreds of years still stand today

    Many kilns that have been used for hundreds of years still stand today

  • The streets of Okawachiyama Village

    The streets of Okawachiyama Village

    The streets of Okawachiyama Village

    The streets of Okawachiyama Village

    Some of the shops allow you to see where the production of their pottery takes place

    Some of the shops allow you to see where the production of their pottery takes place

  • A small café sits on the outskirts of Okawachiyama

    A small café sits on the outskirts of Okawachiyama

    A small pottery studio at the far end of Okawachiyama

    A small pottery studio at the far end of Okawachiyama

    The river banks are also decorated with examples of Imari-yaki

    The river banks are also decorated with examples of Imari-yaki

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    0955237293
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