In the quaint town of Arita located in Saga Prefecture, Japan, lies a centuries-old pottery tradition that has captured the world's attention. Renowned for its delicate craftsmanship and timeless beauty, Arita pottery showcases the skill and artistry of generations of talented artisans.
Nestled amongst the picturesque mountains of Saga Prefecture, Arita has been at the heart of Japan's porcelain industry for over 400 years. Considered to be the birthplace of Japanese porcelain, the town's porcelain heritage dates back to the early 17th century when Korean potters first brought their expertise to Japan. With access to rich clay deposits, the town of Arita soon flourished. The intricate designs, vibrant colors, and craftsmanship of Arita pottery soon gained international acclaim, becoming sought-after all around the globe.
What sets Arita pottery apart is the distinct techniques and styles employed by its artisans. Making Arita pottery involves multiple stages including clay preparation, shaping, glazing, and firing. Arita pottery showcases a diverse range of artistic expressions, from the iconic blue-and-white Imari ware to the delicate Kutani-style painting. The craftsmanship is characterized by meticulous attention to detail, intricate patterns, and a delicate balance between tradition and innovation.
While Arita pottery remains deeply rooted in tradition, the artisans also embrace modern influences to create contemporary pieces. Many potters in Arita have begun collaborating with international designers, infusing new ideas and interpretations into their works. This mix of tradition and innovation has resulted in a fascinating blend of styles.
For pottery enthusiasts, a visit to Arita is a dream come true. The town boasts numerous pottery workshops, kilns, and galleries where visitors can witness the artisans in action and purchase one-of-a-kind pieces. The shops in the town itself have beautiful facades, so even for those not interested in pottery, one can still enjoy the charm of this old town surrounded by mountains.
Furthermore, Arita hosts an annual ceramics festival called the "Arita Porcelain Market," which attracts international collectors, enthusiasts, and curious travelers. Running from April 29th to May 5th, make sure to bring a large bag for your purchases and have your wallet at the ready if you plan to visit. This vibrant event showcases the best of Arita's pottery, offering visitors a chance to immerse themselves in the rich heritage of the craft and buy a lifetime’s worth of pottery.
If you’re looking to extend your trip, slightly further afield are the towns of Imari and Okawachiyama, two other delightful pottery villages to explore. In particular, Okawachiyama, with its quaint cobblestone streets, feels like a hidden village nestled deep in the mountains of Saga.
Arita pottery is more than just a cup or plate or bowl. It represents centuries of cultural heritage passed down through generations. With a commitment to embracing the new, it’s exciting to anticipate what Arita’s artisans will create in the coming years.
About the author:
Ailsa van Eeghen
Ailsa has been living in Japan since 2015 all the while enjoying the rich beauty of Kagoshima prefecture. She finds the most joy in exploring little villages, driving around the countryside and exploring the lesser known parts of Japan. Keenly interested in Japan’s regional diversity, you can often find her at michi-no-eki admiring all the local produce. You can find more of her travels and deep dives into Japanese culture on her Instagram @daysofailsa where she writes about her life in Japan.