Monday, March 19, 2007

Tokoname Pottery Path

Tokoname is one of the six historic pottery towns of Japan.Already well established in the 12th century, the town is still producing shudei (red clay) and yakishime (high fired and unglazed stoneware) for which the area is known for world wide.

Tokoname is a 45 minute train trip from Nagoya on the Meitetsu Line from Shin Nagoya Station to Tokoname Station.650 yen for an adult fare.
A yakimono sanpomichi or walking tour round the old traditional houses,workshops,kilns and buildings of the pottery industry has been established for visitors to the area.
I suggest once at Tokoname Station you head for the Information Centre inside and pick up an English language guide and map.Following the map turn right from the Station and walk towards the black Tokoname Ceramic Hall on the main road where the two walking tours begin.Course A is 1.5km 60 minutes and the longer Course B 4km and 2.5 hours.The times are only estimates and can be comfortably done in those times.

The paths wind between narrow streets,kilns and retaining walls studded with sake bottles.Some buildings now serve as businesses and pottery galleries.I was greeted on three occassions with hot cups of green tea and friendly smiles upon entering some of the galleries.
During the area's history various types of kilns were built.The earliest kilns were "anagama kilns".These are tunnel-like hole kilns dug into the small hillsides that dot the area.Another sort of kiln constructed were the "noborigama kilns" or climbing kilns.These were constructed along a hill slope with long chimneys at both ends and short ones in the middle to allow for better heat circulation.Examples of anagama and noborigama kilns can be seen on the paths. Below is a photo of a noborigama kiln.

Other types of kilns also on the paths you can see include old coal fired ones with their towering brick chimneys that used to belch out thick black smoke if the photos on display are to be believed. Most have now been replaced by more efficient cleaner gas and electric fired models.

Near the paths are several museums,halls and institutes associated with the local ceramic industry.These too can be visited and can be found on the map.
Although there was a keen wind blowing off the sea and it was a cool mid Friday afternoon I passed several couples and groups on the walks enjoying the sights and the chance to stretch their legs.
In summary then Tokoname makes an interesting half day trip from Nagoya or longer if you are interested in ceramics or the many photo opportunities that are available.

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