Today up for a little change in pace from the usual anime and otakuism going on, time for a bit of Japanese history tourism! I present, the Tokoname Pottery Path! I haven’t seen a blog post on this spot before, so hopefully this will be fresh.
Tokoname itself is about 50 minutes away from Nagoya by tram, the cost is 670 yen I believe. One big advantage of this place once I arrived is that for a non major city area, it is surprisingly welcome to foreigners. Most information pamplets are available in Korean, Simplified and Traditional Chinese, English, and of course Japanese. Some of the staff at the information booths are actually able to understand English, even if they aren’t confident enough to speak it. So here we go!
Tokoname is one of 6 extremely well known pottery centers in Japan. They started manufacturing in the late 19th centuring, and today pottery still takes up a large proportion of the town’s net GDP. Funnily enough, they are also the country’s leader in Maneko cats, as seen in the previous picture. They are extremely well known around the world for their red pottery, also known as Tokoname-ware. The pottery path that I am introducing today is suggested to be a 60 minute walk (and it probably is if you just walk), but I took the time to explore and it took me about three hours. Taking pictures probalby had something to do with that too though. The path is well anotated, so finding your way along the path or from the station is not difficult. The path is split into A and B courses, but I’ll only be introducing the A course as it is the more exciting of the two. A course takes you around a small area of the town, with about population 300, that is largely preserved as it was many years ago.
As the area specializes in pottery, it is not entirely surprising that there are also a lot of pottery stores around. Most of these shops are place right in front of their respective factories, but as most of the ares are handmade, each one is unique, and all the stores offer different pottery for sale.
One pretty cool feature that some of these shops offer is a やきもの体験 or Yakimono Experience. What it really means is that for approximately 2,000 yen (the price varies depending on store), you get to participate and go through the whole process of crafting a piece of pottery or glassware with the store master’s professional instruction. Unfortunately, I travel alone. The locals were also quite nervous handling such an expensive camera, when I tried to ask them to take a picture of me. So instead, I got permission to take a picture of other people doing it. The man with the cellphone is some sort of adminstrator, the man in the blue work cltohes facing away from us is the store master, teaching the row of those four people on the fine art of making pottery. O and before I forget, none of the staff speak any English. They are willing to speak slower to deal with someone who is not fully Japanese literate, but if you are completely unable to communicate in Japanese, I suggest you skip it as it will prove to be somewhat painful.
Unfortunately, it’s also unmistakable that the region is in decline, with dozens of shops closing or closed. A lot have already closed and look like this:
Another spot that you MUST visit while walking along this path is the Takita Family Shipping dealer home. This house is a musem, which costs 300 yen to get in. However, the house is perfectly stored house of a shipping family late in the 1800’s. They were a specialized Japanese family that shipped pottery from Tokoname, Seto, and the other 4 special pottery zones to Edo (modern day Tokyo). Unfortunately, they were driven out of business in the early 1900’s but the Meiji Modernization, but their house still stands to tell their tale. The house is home to a number of rare exhibits and texts. It also features a rest area with vending machines, if you need to sit down and have some drinks.
Alright, moving on to Noborigama (the Climbing Kiln). Before they built this gigantic mamoth of a kiln, every ran their own seperate kiln and paid for their own coal expenses for the heating of pottery. Then, someone in the town decided, what if we put 10 of these things together, benefit from economies of scale, gain a competitive advantage, and benefit from specialization! And thus, the climbing klin was built! Ok, maybe they didn’t think things through that far, the probably just realized putting it together would save fuel.
Wow this post has balooned to far too many pictures. O well, two more until the end! On interesting aspect to this region is that most of these buildlings are built on ceramic foundations. Why? I don’t know, but this building was built upon tons and tons of ceramic bottles. Other buildings in the region are built on pipes, ceramic bricks, and other odd things.
Last thing I want to show everyone, are these murals. They are littered all over the walls of the pottery path, and are created by the elementary school children of the town. I think they are kind of interesting to look at it, I definitely couldn’t have done something like this when I was a kid. My school never had anything this interesting.
O sorry I lied, I forgot this picture. My otakuism seems to pop up everywhere. Normally, no one would care about a Trueno AE86 sprinter, if not for a certain anime/manga series. However, this one is also spcial among sprinters, it’s got BUCKET SEATS. I wonder if the owner uses it to drift? 😀
Well then…. until next time! さよなら、また後でね