Day trippin’ to Japan’s town of porcelain near Sasebo

Photos by Tomoko Tanaka
Photos by Tomoko Tanaka

Day trippin’ to Japan’s town of porcelain near Sasebo

by Takahiro Takiguchi
Stripes Japan

Whether you’re a ceramic art lover or not, a town in Sasebo will dazzle you with the beautiful crafts it produces.

Known as the town of porcelain, Arita Town is home to the renowned aritayaki porcelainware. The town itself is a short 30-minute drive from Sasebo Naval Base and it makes for a great daytrip.

Here is where Japan’s first porcelain work was baked over 400 years ago and has since grown to become a centerpiece of the ceramic art world.

Tomoko Tanaka of Stars and Stripes Sasebo Office recently took a day trip to the small town to check out the art and traditions of arita-yaki porcelain.

The town is dedicated to all things ceramic and potter with many studios, multiple museums and shops for visitors to enjoy. Arita Porcelain Park and Sueyama Shrine are two popular tourist attractions where you’ll learn the unique history of the town’s craft and the area’s culture.


Arita Porcelain Park a European-style theme park for porcelainware

During Tanaka’s visit to the park, both the museum and restaurant were closed due to COVID-19 prevention measures. However, Noborigama, the multi-chamber climbing kiln was operating. Potters allowed Tanaka to see the process and also let her feed firewood into the kiln.

Through the hand-on experience and potter’s guidance, Tanaka learned how hard it is to keep the temperature at 2,462 degree Fahrenheit or higher in such a pristine traditional kiln throughout the baking process.

A pot needs to get baked at the high temperature for 30 to 50 hours before it is cooled down in the kiln for 20 days. Then, the unglazed pot is painted or drawn on before one final bake in the kiln. The whole process of arita-yaki takes at least a month or more, according to the potters.

At the park, you can experience some of the production process, such as making a clay model with a potter’s wheel and drawing and painting of the unglazed saucer or mug cup.

The souvenir shop is open, so don’t forget to check out the nice souvenirs for your friends and family.

Sueyama Jinja - God of Porcelain

The town is also home to Sueyama Jinja, a 363-year-old Shinto shrine to the god of porcelain.

From Arita Porcelain Park, it is only a 15-minute drive away. The features of the shrine including the torii gate, Komainu guardian dogs and more are all made of porcelain making this a very unique place.

“The large porcelain torii-gate with elaborate blue pattern designs looked very majestic,” Tanaka said.

From the hill of the shrine, visitors are treated to a beautiful view of the entire city with shining golden gingko trees and the autumn-covered mountains.

Arita Town is a beautiful place to visit and enjoy just another facet of Japan’s rich culture. Check it out!

Arita Porcelain Park

Sueyama Shrine



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