• 2022/02/07
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Ⅷ. Kyushu's Pottery and Ceramics: Evolving traditions of production

Ⅷ. Kyushu's Pottery and Ceramics: Evolving traditions of production

By:  Vicki L. Beyer


As noted earlier, Kyushu has centuries, if not millennia, of history relating to pottery and ceramics. Indeed, one of Kyushu's major exports to the West during the Edo Period, when most of Japan was closed to the outside world, was porcelain products. The pottery villages producing these wares grew to become among the best known in Japan. Still today, they continue to practice their craft and are delightful places to visit.


Kyushu's modern pottery production dates from the end of the 16th century when warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1537-1598) returned from campaigning in Korea with a group of knowledgeable Korean potters. Once in Japan, they went on to identify a region in modern Saga Prefecture as having the best clay for producing ceramics. Most notably, a type of clay mineral known as kaolin, essential to the production of porcelain, can be found in this area.


Pottery and ceramics, of course, were in production even before potters in Kyushu learned to make porcelain. The earliest products were bisque-fired earthenware, including pots for storage and cooking, as well as figurines used in religious (especially death-related) observances.


Kyushu potters began to produce stoneware when the technologically-advanced "climbing kiln" was introduced to Japan from China via Korea in the fifth century. The climbing kiln is a multi-chambered kiln constructed on a hillside, with the successive chambers "climbing" the hill.  The fire heating the kiln is stoked from the bottom, allowing the heat to rise upward through each chamber before escaping at the top. This structure efficiently provides proper heat distribution at higher temperatures than had previously been possible. Many potters around the world, including in Kyushu, who prefer to wood-fire their pottery, continue to use climbing kilns today. One of the oldest surviving climbing kiln sites in Japan, believed to date back to 1734, is located in Karatsu and is today designated as a historical site.


Not long after the introduction of improved kiln technology, glazes also appeared. Natural ash glazes were likely the first to come into use, simply a by-product of the firing process. By the 6th or 7th century, sancai — glazing in three colors: green, brown, and cream — was introduced from China. From there, Japanese potters could begin to experiment and expand glaze technology for themselves.


Nonetheless, the great leap forward in pottery production came with the discovery of kaolin. Chinese and Korean craftsmen had already been producing porcelain but Japan had lacked both the key ingredient of kaolin and the technical know-how. Legend has it that kaolin was found in 1616 in the village of Arita by a Korean potter named Kanagae Sambee (also known as Yi Sam-pyeong). The now-defunct site on the outskirts of Arita, locally known as Izumiyama Quarry, can still be viewed by visitors. Kanagae is honored with a monument at nearby Sueyama Shrine, Arita's shrine to the god of ceramics. The hilltop shrine (also referred to as Tozan Shrine) further honors its god with ceramic lion dog statues guarding its ceramic torii shrine gate. Even its ema votive plaques are ceramic, instead of the usual pine wood.


Arita is still regarded as one of the leading pottery villages of Kyushu. It is one of eight pottery villages of the former Hizen Province: Arita, Imari, Karatsu, Takeo, and Ureshino in modern Saga Prefecture and Hasami, Hirado, and Sasebo in modern Nagasaki Prefecture. Generally (although not always), the pottery, whether stoneware or porcelain, of each village, is identified by its point of origin, combined with the word yaki, meaning "ware." For example, pottery from the town of Arita is known as Arita-yaki, while this of Karatsu is Karatsu-yaki.

During the feudal times, artisans and craftsmen served at the pleasure of their feudal lord. They were essentially tied to their village and their craft, unable to move or change professions without the consent of their lord. Nearly everyone in the village was involved in some aspect of pottery production, which is an intricate process requiring substantial infrastructure and support. In addition to potters, there were also people to mine and prepare the clay, foresters to ensure sufficient wood for the kilns, chemists to prepare glazes, and painters to add the decorations. The principal work of each pottery village was to produce pieces for use by the feudal lord or his retainers, including items for everyday use by the common folk subject to the particular lord.


Different pottery villages developed different styles of pottery, some specializing more in stoneware and others in porcelain. In some cases, the nature of the locally available clay dictated the type of pottery produced. There are also certain types of glazes particularly associated with certain villages.  This is not to say there aren't variations and cross-over, but there are certain general patterns. 




The coastal castle town of Karatsu has a number of kilns and is known for its stoneware produced in earth tones. Modern pottery production here dates to 1596, even before the discovery of kaolin that began porcelain production in Kyushu, giving a solid reason for Karatsu to claim to be the origin point of Kyushu ceramics.


During the Edo Period, when everyone worked for the feudal lord, potters didn't necessarily have much creative freedom. The lord indicated what he wanted and it was the potters' job to produce it.  The order may have been for everyday items for use in Karatsu's castle or by the townspeople, or it may have been a specialty item — such as a gift for the shogun, for example. What the potters lacked in creative freedom they made up for with their high level of technical skill.


One particular feature of the Karatsu-yaki stoneware is how comfortable it is. The sizes and shapes of pieces seem to fit naturally into one's hands. The ash-based glazes also have a natural look, possibly enhanced by the fact that Karatsu's local clay has a high iron content. The decorations etched or painted onto the glaze are typically simple, complementing the shape and color of the final craft. Patterns on everyday dishes are designed to be revealed as the food served on them is eaten, enhancing the pleasure of the meal in a way rarely conceived of in Western meals.


Karatsu-yaki implements for traditional Japanese tea ceremony are especially prized. One place to examine some of these pieces is at the kiln of Nakazato Taroemon, a 14th generation potter deriving from a family that has long specialized in teaware. The Nakazato kiln, located in the Choda district of Karatsu, is also known as o-chawan-kama (honorable tea bowl kiln). To date, Nakazato potters continue to use their three wood-fired climbing kilns, maintaining that the ash and smoke involved in firing this way form an integral part of the ultimate glaze and finish of their work.


Since all Nakazato potters take the given name of Taroemon, it's simplest to refer to them by their generational number — even the current Nakazato Taroemon speaks of his ancestors and their work that way.


Notwithstanding the strong desire to preserve and protect traditional firing and other methods of production, Taroemon number 14 insists that it is also essential to leave room for creativity. He says that he wants to take the craft in his own direction, rather than just repeating what came before. Indeed, to hear him talk, it seems that the Nakazato potters have always innovated and stretched themselves, trying out new designs and styles. Each has also played to his particular interests and artistic strengths. For example, number 12 was not only a skilled potter but also a fine sculptor. A large ceramic dharma figure made by him graces a garden inside the kiln and studio complex.


Taroemon number 14 is both a creative and technical innovator who is developing a method of dissipating the smoke leaving the kilns so that it does not bother his neighbors. This wasn't a problem when the Nakazatos built their first kiln here in 1734, but the city has grown up around them over time. Number 14, however, doesn't let innovation crowd out tried and true methods. He says when he's working on art pieces, such as tea ceremony ware, he prefers to use a 200-year-old foot-operated wheel. He says it enables him to better feel what he's creating. Indeed, Taroemon number 14 believes it is the technical skills of Karatsu potters that makes Karatsu-yaki so special.


The Nakazato kiln is welcoming to visitors, with a shop and galleries where visitors can see displays of a number of modern and antique works to come out of their kilns. Opening in March 2020, a gallery in the renovated minka (traditional style) home of Taroemon number 11 includes works of at least four generations of Nakazato potters. The gallery includes an adjacent fireproof warehouse. Look closely at some of the older pieces in the warehouse to see examples of kintsugi (golden joinery), the practice of using gold-dusted lacquer to repair broken pieces considered too fine to discard.


Across the road from this gallery is the kiln's original gallery and shop, a chance to gain further appreciation of the craft. The items in the original gallery are among the best works of number 14, and his father, number 13, items made in a range of styles and glazes. Again, generational differences in style are also apparent. Number 13 was especially fond of decorating his larger pieces with a swathe of turquoise glaze and images of fish. Number 14 tells tales on his father, revealing that his father would use a dead fish as his model. (Number 14 has some decorative carp in a tank in his workshop and uses those as his live models when decorating using fish.)


The Nakazato kiln produces a wide variety of dishes for everyday use as well as its artistic pieces, usually by subordinate potters working in the studio. This commercialization was a method for survival that most Kyushu potters had to adopt at the time of the Meiji Restoration (1868) when the loss of a feudal lord meant the loss of a steady employer for the potters.


For a chance to see more Karatsu-yaki, particularly tableware, visit the Furusato Hall Arpino near JR Karatsu Station. They have an exhibition about the production of Karatsu-yaki and display Karatsu-yaki from a number of the local kilns.


Takeo Kokaratsu-yaki


The Takeo pottery village, in the southern part of Saga Prefecture, claims to be the predecessor of Karatsu-yaki, since it, too, can trace its history back to a Korean potter brought to Kyushu by Ienobu Goto, a feudal lord fighting on behalf of Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Similar to Karatsu-yaki and often referred to as Takeo Kokaratsu-yaki (Kokaratsu means "old Karatsu"), this stoneware is known for its simplicity, warmth and earth tones. This style was said to be the most common for everyday items used by the common people of Hizen.




In 1607, Ienobu Goto ceded his power as a feudal lord to the Nabeshima family, whose name is now associated with one of Kyushu's most elegant porcelain. Nabeshima-yaki began to be produced in the late 17th century and continued in production until the late 19th century. It is extremely high-quality porcelain produced under the patronage of the Nabeshima feudal lords for their own use but also for them to use as gifts of tribute to the Tokugawa shoguns and other high-ranking officials, or even for the Emperor.


Most Nabeshima-yaki was produced in Okawachiyama, a secluded village not far from Imari and Arita. Nabeshima pieces show an extraordinarily high level of sophistication. Among the distinguishing features of Nabeshima-yaki are the dishes' shapes and sizes and the colors and patterns of the glazes used. Chinese-style lion-dog figurines, often glazed in celadon, were a particular Nabeshima specialty.


Delicate application of overglazes by highly skilled artisans produced unique variations in tone and color. The designs decorating Nabeshima pieces tended to be more Japanese than Chinese in style, simple asymmetrical depictions of flowers or geometric patterns. This deviation from standard practice with pottery must have seemed revolutionary at the time. Anything imperfect or flawed was destroyed in an effort to maintain the highest quality standards. The Nabeshima lords took a close interest in supervising the work of the potters, perhaps to ensure the high quality of Nabeshima-yaki. They were also extremely secretive about the production methods that resulted in such high quality pieces. The seclusion of Okawachiyama helped preserve their secrets. 


Visitors can get a sense of this by visiting the Nabeshima Domain Kiln Park, which has a reproduction checkpoint/guardhouse, old kilns, and even old potter's huts. Stroll the narrow streets of this hillside village and drop in to some of the shops selling locally-produced porcelains to absorb more of the atmosphere.


Arita-yaki and the Imari ware brand


As mentioned above, the kaolin necessary to make porcelain was first found in Arita in 1616.  Japan's upper classes were already familiar with porcelain, which had been introduced from China.  But there was a strong desire to produce porcelain domestically, which was exacerbated by the limited availability of imports due to political unrest in China in the 17th century.


The Chinese situation produced not only domestic demand for Kyushu's porcelain but also international demand – The Dutch traders of Nagasaki began to place orders as well. The initial requests were for dishes in shapes familiar to the Japanese, for use in other parts of Asia that the Dutch were trading with. In producing these items, Arita's potters also emulated the blue on white glazes of the original Chinese products, often copying the Chinese motifs as well. 


It wasn't long before the Dutch decided that they could export Kyushu-made porcelain to Europe as well, given that products that would appeal to the European market were produced. This was the beginning of the Imari ware. Imari ware is the name by which Kyushu's export-grade porcelain came to be known in the West because Imari is the name of the port from which the goods were shipped. Imari ware came from several different pottery villages of Hizen, although, generally, Arita is considered to be the largest and most prolific. Dutch traders worked closely with potters to introduce them to styles and designs that would appeal to the European market. The items produced for export during the Edo Period, now mostly museum pieces, have come to be known as "Ko-Imari" (old Imari).


Export pieces tended to be larger than those for domestic use, including lidded dishes of various sizes, plates larger and flatter than the Japanese of that time would use, stemmed goblets, and serving bowls and platters. The shapes were also unusual by domestic Japanese standards. Rather than round, they would be oblong, square, or octagonal. Sometimes the rims would be fluted or scalloped. In particular demand were ornamental pieces, including vases and decorative jars (sometimes nearly as tall as a person), as were figurines, both large and small. Those were typically used to adorn European homes and castles.


Not only the shapes but also the decoration and glazes of export pieces tended to be different.  While the Japanese usually preferred simple asymmetrical designs, European taste ran to elaborate decoration, eventually in multiple colors. This required hand-painting overglazes and multiple firings which produced "enameled" pieces known as Kakiemon, taking the name from the 17th-century potter who first developed this style of decoration.


Another popular form of decoration for Imari ware was kinrande, meaning gold brocade. Kinrande porcelains are finished with gold decoration, carefully hand-painted onto the piece at the end of the glazing process. Kinrande pieces are usually elaborately decorated on both sides, often with lush floral or geometric images as well as animals and fish, mythical creatures, and people from various walks of life. They can be studied as closely as any antique scroll to reveal exquisite detail.


In the 19th century, European exports dwindled, but the domestic market expanded. Perhaps, thanks to the rise of a wealthy merchant class, the pottery of the greater Imari area became popular across Japan, appearing in both restaurants and private homes. The ever-adaptable Arita potters quickly modified motifs and colors to suit the changing market.


Even today, the blue on white glaze that gave Arita its start back in the 17th century is regarded as the signature glaze color of Arita. Some argue that it is the standard for determining whether a piece deserves to be referred to as Arita-yaki. At the same time, red accents and other colors are not precluded and also remain popular, with new glaze colors coming on line all the time. 


According to Takanobu Tokunaga, fifth-generation proprietor of Arita's Kouraku Kiln, there are three key elements to Arita-yaki: the clay, the kiln, and the glaze. Tokunaga adds that Arita's clay is ideally suited to porcelain production, requiring little mixing or alteration. He goes on to explain that during the Edo Period, when pottery villages essentially belonged to their feudal lord, being a potter native to Arita was also essential. In modern days, that has changed, and many potters — both Japanese and non-Japanese — come to Arita in search of inspiration and skill development. One could say that Arita is a Mecca for devoted potters.


Kouraku Kiln has an "artist in residence" program that particularly welcomes these newcomers.  Tokunaga believes their input can inspire local craftspersons to new designs and ideas. According to Tokunaga, this kind of evolution of the craft is essential to the kiln's continuation. Among the new features recently introduced at Kouraku are footed serving plates with the foot attached by a strong magnet, so the plate can be disassembled for easier stacking and storage. Dishes with glaze even on the base (which traditionally has not been glazed) are popular with hostesses worried about scratching their furniture. At the same time, Kouraku Kiln continues to produce popular items, like the bird-shaped soy sauce dispenser designed by Tokunaga's father about 35 years ago. As Tokunaga says, "being innovative doesn't mean we have to get rid of things that are working."


As one of the largest kilns in Arita (they have four large gas-fired kilns on-site), Kouraku Kiln is able to engage in all steps of the production process on-site. They use molds for many of their pieces, but these must be replaced after 100 uses, requiring lots of redundancy in their work.


Kouraku Kiln welcomes visitors to its facilities, nestled on a wooded hillside. Visitors can apply a decal or paint glaze onto a dish in their workshop and have it sent to their address after being fired. Another fun activity is their "Treasure Hunt." Visitors can pay 5,000 or 10,000 yen for a shopping basket and wander through a warehouse stuffed with boxes of odd pieces, picking out the ones they want until the basket is full. One reason this is possible is that the kiln always over-produces when filling an order, as there is inevitable breakage. They inevitably wind up with "extra" pieces and this Treasure Hunt is one way to find good homes for them.


Arita is a relatively compact and inviting town. Visitors can wander its pretty streets, ducking in and out of boutiques, galleries and studios and soaking up the creative atmosphere. There are a number of small museums and, like Kouraku Kiln, some kilns offer the hands-on experience of painting glaze onto your own dish. In the oldest part of the town, many potters' studios stand behind attractive high walls made of old kiln bricks and broken pieces of pottery, the perfect form of recycling for this pottery center.


To gain an in-depth understanding of the history and complexity of Arita-yaki and Imari ware, be sure to visit The Kyushu Ceramic Museum. The museum has a vast collection of Imari ware, especially Ko-Imari, as well as more contemporary pieces. Its exhibits are arranged to provide visitors with the history of pottery in Kyushu and an overview of production, and then moves forward in time with displays of significant pieces in various styles and from multiple kilns.


Another Arita attraction focusing primarily on ceramics is the Arita Porcelain Park on the outskirts of town. This is a kind of theme park dedicated to ceramics and includes a reproduction of a famous climbing kiln and pottery lessons. It also has a museum with an extensive collection of porcelains – both Japanese and European – housed in a reproduction of the baroque-style Zwinger palace in Dresden, Germany.




The village of Hasami lies south of Arita, across the border into Nagasaki Prefecture. It, too, boasts four centuries of pottery tradition, producing both stoneware and, later, porcelain entirely by hand, resulting in rare and prized works. One of the signature features of Hasami-yaki is its translucent white glaze and the fine lines of delicate patterns in the overglaze. Icy blue-white celadon glazes are also common on Hasami-yaki. The translucence of the porcelain is a function of the fine, white kaolin used, which is mined in Amakusa.


One of Hasami's most famous products during the Edo Period was "compra" bottles, large white bottles for sake. These bottles are sometimes brought up from centuries-old shipwrecks, still containing alcohol. Another signature Hasami-style is the graceful wickerwork designs that are said to be produced only in Hasami. Everyday tableware made in Hasami kilns, with its timeless style and moderate prices, has long been favored as well. 


The potters of Hasami have evolved and innovated by working to create break-resistant tableware, a kind of reinforced porcelain. This is particularly popular for school cafeterias. For a time, at least, the famed Yoshinoya beef bowl was also commonly served in Hasami-yaki bowls, possibly similarly break-resistant. 


Like Arita, Hasami also has a ceramics park. Known as "Yakimono Park," it features reproductions of a dozen different kilns from around the world and across time.




Saga and Nagasaki are not the only places in Kyushu with a pottery tradition. In Oita Prefecture, the tiny mountain village of Onta has more than two centuries of history producing stoneware in the folkcraft tradition. Its dishes are glazed in natural earth tones, largely decorated by small lines etched into the surface of the pieces. 


Most of the villagers of Onta are involved in pottery production, working in family-owned studios passed from father to son and sharing a wood-fired kiln that belongs to the village. As the texture of clay needs to be just right for pottery production, the villages have devised a river-powered mechanism for beating the clay to the desired consistency. Visitors report that the thump of the mortars beating the clay is a particular sound to be cherished when visiting Onta.


Onta enjoyed a surge of domestic and international popularity when it was lauded by the mingei folk art movement for its preservation of traditional production methods and styles. 


Fukuoka's pottery


Another pottery village identified by the mingei folk art movement was Fukuoka's Koishiwara.   Koishiwara-yaki is characterized by its brown and other earth-tone glazes and simple etched patterns. The pieces tend to be designed for everyday use, and styles have evolved with Japanese eating habits.


One particular feature of Koishiwara-yaki is that it is "slipware." That is, before a piece is fired, it is decorated by being dipped in or painted with slip, a kind of clay soup containing various minerals, instead of glaze. This ancient style of pottery decoration is one reason Koishiwara-yaki is associated with the mingei folk art movement. 


Hoshino village is another place where pottery was produced for the feudal lord during the Edo Period. Because the village was located in the Yame area, which is famous for tea production, many Hoshino-yaki pieces were designed for storing, making, or drinking tea. The earthenware was known for its dark reddish-brown glazes. 


Unfortunately, the industry did not survive industrialization, and pottery production died out before the end of the 19th century. It was, however, revived in the 1960s and there are now several artisan potters at work in Hoshino, reviving the craft and the natural and dark glazes it was once known for.




Satsuma-yaki is produced in Kagoshima Prefecture, which was formerly known as Satsuma.  Throughout history, Kagoshima has also been a gateway city for Kyushu and it, too, brought in Korean potters in the late 16th century.


There are two principal types of Satsuma-yaki porcelains: Shiromon (white) and Kuromon (black). Shiromon is a rich ivory glaze decorated with patterns of plants or animals in primary colors with gold accents, often referred to as brocade. Shiromon has a lustrous finish that exudes elegance. 


The best pieces always belonged to the Shimazu family, who were the lords of Satsuma. As the Shimazu lords became increasingly involved in Japan's diplomatic efforts overseas, they often used superior Shiromon pieces of Satsuma-yaki as gifts to overseas dignitaries and royalty. During this period, when European demand for Japanese porcelain was otherwise waning, exports of Satsuma-yaki, which had been displayed at the 1867 Paris Exposition, were high. One place to see examples of Shiromon is at Sengan-en, the historical villa of the Shimazu family.


Kuromon, on the other hand, is a luminous black, with little additional decoration. The color comes from iron-rich volcanic ash used in the glaze. Kuromon pieces tended to be designed for everyday use, giving them a universal appeal.


One of the original production centers for Satsuma-yaki is the Miyama neighborhood of Hioki city.  Visitors can still see a kiln operated by the 15th generation of the Chin family brought from Korea in the 16th century. At the nearby Miyama Toyukan, a pottery gallery/studio, visitors can have the opportunity to throw a pot on a wheel or dab a bit of glaze on a dish.


Pottery of Amakusa


Although Saga Prefecture is famous as the place where kaolin was first found in Kyushu, today, 80% of Japan's kaolin comes from Kumamoto's Amakusa Islands. It is a particularly fine, white stone. Amakusa's pottery tradition began in the mid-18th century when a local lord, realizing his peasants were unable to survive on farming alone, devised a system of pottery production that could be done on a "part-time" basis in the "off" season. The system thrived, as did pottery production in Amakusa.


In particular, the Ueda family of the west coast village of Takahama began to produce porcelains for Dutch traders to export, leading to a substantial boon to the local economy. They developed their skill in export-quality goods by importing a potter from Hizen, who helped develop designs and patterns that would appeal to the Western market. Based on Western expectations, they began by producing dishes glazed in blue on white, often adorned with patterns originating from China. Over time, as in Arita, floral designs red accents also became popular. 


The old Ueda family's home and garden, as well as a small museum containing exhibits on the kiln's history, are located near the current kiln. The museum features many fine antique pieces, dating back to the 1770s when production for export began. Since the Takahama kiln made both products for export and products for domestic use, examples of both are on display. An explanation notes that generally, the designs of export items were not suitable for Japanese use and vice versa.


As also happened in other areas, after the Meiji Restoration in the late 19th century, the kiln had to cease operation. But a small Takahama-yaki kiln re-opened in 1952 and continues to produce today, using many of the kiln's traditional designs and patterns. 


One particularly distinctive motif developed by the earlier Takahama kiln is called Mirumon. It looks like a clump of coral or a spray of seaweed in blue glaze on the white dish. While the original Mirumon dishes were produced in the traditional glaze color, in these modern times, blue is sometimes replaced with yellow or red. The delicate white dishes adorned with just a splash of colorful pattern are translucent and practically glow when held up to the light. 


Takahama kiln may be particularly historic, but there are currently a number of active potters and kilns across Amakusa's Shimoshima. One of the largest is the Maruo Kiln, which started production in 1845 and takes its name from the district where it was located. Now operated by the fifth generation of the Kanazawa family, three brothers, the kiln maintains a large studio in Amakusa city. All three brothers, and their mother, are potters, each designing their own distinctive wares and producing them with the assistance of two other potters. Consequently, Maruo-yaki consists of both stoneware and porcelain.


One particularly exciting feature of Maruo-yaki is that each piece is handmade. As no molds are used in the making, no two pieces are alike, even if at first glance they may appear to be. The "daily ware" dishes have a natural look and feel that one can use for years and never tire of.


Maruo-yaki has a large, airy shop/gallery that invites visitors to browse, and the volume and variety means this could take hours. At the far end of the shop is a small coffee bar with indoor and outdoor seating. Purchase a piece of Maruo-yaki and get a complimentary cup of coffee made with local beans and served in your choice of a Maruo-yaki cup.  


Annual Pottery Fairs


Various pottery villages across Kyushu sponsor annual pottery fairs at which they sell their seconds and surplus items at discounts. Most of these fairs take place during Japan's Golden Week holidays (April 29 - May 5) when the weather is fine and people have time to visit. Some villages also have a smaller pottery fair in the autumn, usually for just one weekend between the end of September and the beginning of November.


These fairs are a fantastic opportunity to poke through the wares of multiple kilns and potters at once, comparing, contrasting, and finding just the right souvenir. Some fairs are better known and more crowded than others, but pottery admirers focus on the dishes and the atmosphere created by a crowd of like-minded people. If you're traveling from afar to attend these fairs, bring an empty wheelie suitcase to make it easier to move around with your purchases — they can get pretty heavy!


Okawachiyama, home of Nabeshima-yaki, hosts a fair in early April, getting a jump on the competition. Both Hasami and Arita have fairs during Golden Week. Hasami holds its fair at the Yakimono Park, with booths by over 100 vendors, most selling their wares at discounts for the duration of the festival. Arita's pottery fair is Kyushu's largest, with more than a million people descending on the village, where nearly 500 stalls line the main street. Many studios also open themselves to visitors during this time. Arita is one of the villages that also hosts a smaller event in the autumn, usually around November 3.


For those interested in more traditional earthenware pottery, Koishiwara has a three-day spring pottery fair on May 3-5 and a fall fair on the three day weekend of Sports Day in October. It's another chance to pick up a bargain or meet the potters at their kilns. Karatsu also holds pottery fairs at Furusato Hall Arpino during Golden Week and again in mid-September.


A visit to these pottery fairs and Kyushu's pottery villages provide the opportunity to experience the ways in which the sophisticated traditional craftsmanship of Kyushu potters has developed and evolved over four centuries. The wide variety of ceramics produced across Kyushu knows no bounds.