Arita and Imari
Arita and Imari are small towns that are located in Saga Prefecture. They have been known as towns of pottery for about 400 years.
History of Arita and Imari Porcelain
Arita was the first place that succeeded to make porcelain in Japan. Japan has a long history of pottery, but their products used to be earthenwares. After the war against Korea in the late 16th century, Nabeshima, a feudal lord of Hizen (the former name of the area including Arita) brought an artisan from Korea. With this artisan’s help, they found kaolin, which is the main ingredient of porcelain in the area, and they finally succeeded to make porcelain in the early 17th century.
Arita porcelain is known by different names. For example, it is called Imari ware because the products were exported to Europe from the port of Imari close to Arita. It is also called Nabeshima because of the name of the feudal lord who brought the aforementioned artisan. This name can, however, not always be used as we only use this name for porcelain that was made by the official producers of the Hizen domain which is usually of superior quality.
The difference between porcelain and earthenware, in short, is that porcelain is made of stone and earthenware is made of clay. This means that porcelain is normally white, while earthenware is brown. On the white surface of porcelain many colors are used; red, blue, green, and often gold, which makes it much more colorful than earthenware.
The Towns of Arita and Imari
There are still many kilns in the area, and some of these kilns welcome tourists for a visit. The Gen-emon Kiln is one of the most famous ones in Arita, and it has a 260-year history. You can see their workshop and learn how they make shapes using a potter’s wheel and how they paint the surface.
Okawachiyama is one of the porcelain towns of Imari. The area located on the hill, separated from the town so they can keep how they make the highest quality porcelain products a secret. They mainly made the products that were used as a gift for the Emperor and VIPs. There are still many kilns and shops in this town and it is very interesting to walk these streets because many of the street arts are made of porcelain.
Access to Arita (有田): 40 minutes from Saga Station by express train
Access to Imari (伊万里): 25 minutes from Arita Station by train