Visiting Tokoname (2017)

Travel logs and questions
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pedant
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Sat Nov 04, 2017 7:16 am

Tokoname

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going to tokoname was a real highlight of my trip to japan, and i decided to make a separate thread for it.

tokoname, one of the 6 ancient kiln towns [Nihon Rokkoyo: Shigaraki (Shiga Prefecture), Tanba (Hyogo Prefecture), Echizen (Fukui Prefecture), Bizen (Okayama Prefecture), Tokoname (Aichi Prefecture), and Seto (Aichi Prefecture)], is located in aichi prefecture just south of nagoya.

if you're going to japan, you owe it to yourself to visit here. you will find a few nice tokoname kyusu here and there in higher end galleries throughout japan, but there is honestly no substitute for going to tokoname itself. if you are a lover of tokoname-yaki and don't come here, you're seriously out of your mind.

getting there is easy: i took the shinkansen (high-speed train) to nagoya and then took the meitetsu line from there to tokoname station (about 40 min).

when you arrive at the station, go to the information office and grab an english map of the pottery footpath. it's free.

stepping off the train, i knew i came to the right place:
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i would recommend giving yourself at least 1.5 days there if you can. one day to do the pottery footpath and hit the shops and galleries, and the next morning (or day) to see galleries you may have missed your first day and return to make your final purchases after you've looked at everything (if buying pottery is your thing). why?
  • so you have time to think and make peace with your TAD overnight :oops:
  • a lot of galleries and shops have limited hours (many of them only 11am-4pm), and this really restricts how many of them you can check out in a single day
Pottery Footpath

the main pottery footpath is a ~1km loop that takes you through historic sights in the heart of town. it's filled with kilns, shops, galleries, and narrow, scenic paths. there are numbered signposts at every turn that reference the map you picked up in the info office, so it's dead simple to make your way around.
the map suggests that this can be done in an hour, but count on it taking several if you want to soak it in, take pictures, look in the shops, have some food, etc.
there is also a larger 4km loop (which extends the main loop), but sadly i didn't have time to check it out.

it begins at maneki-neko street.
this street is super cute and is lined with lots of good luck cat sculptures promoting various hopes, joys, and virtues.
i had some time to kill in the morning before shops opened, so i took a pic of every one of them.
there is a giant maneki neko (beckoning cat) overlooking the street from above.
also, at one end, there is a large tile mosaic of billowing tokoname kilns.
i've heard that more maneki nekos have been made in tokoname than anywhere else in japan.



the footpath is very picturesque and filled with old buildings and kilns. many walkways and walls are made using old ceramics for decorative purposes:


there are large jars here and there filled with water, aquatic plants, and sometimes goldfish:


i passed a suspicious looking jar with a flashlight tethered to it. have a peek inside:

:D

historically, ceramics produced in tokoname and elsewhere have been used extensively in the construction, chemical, and pharmaceutical industries. i read on the map that a lot of the wall jars held sulfuric acid at one time.
ceramics were used at times as foundation support for building construction:
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i think that in this particular case, it was not merely a decorative thing.

btw, if you get hungry on your walk, i recommend stopping at Fu-Sha (風舎) bakery. they have really good curry buns and melonpan.

if you look around from higher ground, you will see kiln chimneys everywhere:
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some of them are still in use, but a lot of them are converted into workshops, galleries, and museums.

here's a large climbing kiln built into a hillside:

it was used for about 90 years (1887-1974).

here's a kiln that a shop and small museum was built around:

as it says, this was a 6-burner kiln (3 burners on each side). air entered the burners, flowed into the main chamber, and then went underground to the chimney outside (shown in first image).

here's another one that's been converted into a workshop:


here's yet another that's now a shop (notice the vitreous deposits on the walls):


it's also probably worth checking out the INAX museums, but i didn't have time.
Wikipedia wrote:INAX is a Japanese toilet manufacturer based in Tokoname, Aichi. It belongs to the Lixil Group.
It operates a number of ceramic museums in Tokoname that showcase the history of ceramics production in the region and of the company.
Galleries

there are many very nice galleries and shops both on and off the pottery footpath.

here's a list of ones i encountered with a good selection of high end kyusu:

ISOBE Ceramall Gallery (セラモール 磯部商店) (my favorite gallery)
located 10 minutes driving north of the footpath
https://www.facebook.com/tokonameyaki.isobe/
https://goo.gl/maps/tiGvDaKdKX72
a shot of the inside featuring the lovely owner, Mrs. Asako Isobe:
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SPACE とこなべ
located on the footpath
http://www.toko.or.jp/space/
https://goo.gl/maps/XSi1Qnq5nPE2

Tokoname Ceramics Hall (常滑市陶磁器会館)
located on the footpath
http://www.tokoname-kankou.net/contents/miru01-09.html
https://goo.gl/maps/QGtNPGPVmso

TOKOHAN Tokoname Kyusu House (常滑焼急須館)
located just off the footpath
https://goo.gl/maps/6CHueKbo5aP2

Marufuku (まるふく)
located 10 minutes walking from the footpath
note that they keep the nice stuff in a smaller building right off the main one.
http://www.e-marufuku.net/
https://goo.gl/maps/gf9fMDHKFS22



i hope you enjoyed reading
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tealifehk
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Sat Nov 04, 2017 10:02 am

Wow! Thank you for this incredibly informative thread! Can't wait to see what you picked up! :)
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Victoria
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Sat Nov 04, 2017 4:33 pm

Yeah wow, great write up on Tokoname. A very good guide, I will refer to this one for sure. Plus you shared shopkeeper locations, excellente. Those ceramic cats are hilarious, there is one for everyone and every situation; prosperity, family, business, stop smoking, stop drinking... with cat paws all over the place, adorable really. Interesting that they used big pots as foundations, love that idea. In Babylonia, 3,000BC cups and bowls were piled up as offerings into small hills for the dead. Of course, they also invented red bricks used for construction, so the leap from brick to pottery used as building materials isn't so crazy. Plus Babylonian, Asyrian and Persian buildings were decorated with glazed tile reliefs. If I get the chance I'll appropriate this 'vessel as foundation' idea for a project.

p.s. that Kiln Workshop, is killer cool building. Love old brick buildings. Plus, the footpath use of semi-circular tiles embedded in the ground is a really nice textural and design feature.
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pedant
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Sat Nov 04, 2017 5:35 pm

yes, super cool place
Victoria wrote:
Sat Nov 04, 2017 4:33 pm
Plus, the footpath use of semi-circular tiles embedded in the ground is a really nice textural and design feature.
fyi i think those things are old scraps of stilts/supports/props once used to support large ceramics during firing.
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debunix
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Sat Nov 18, 2017 12:12 pm

Next trip, Tokoname for sure! That's a great travelog, very inspiring for future travel. Did you also get to Hagi?
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debunix
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Sat Nov 18, 2017 12:18 pm

Hmmmm.....
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pedant
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Tue Nov 21, 2017 3:40 am

never been to Hagi.

also, great map of the kiln towns. i never looked up where most of them are before. you really have to go all over the country to see them all, huh.

don't forget to get your JR rail pass ahead of time before you go...
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debunix
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Wed Nov 22, 2017 7:44 pm

Definitely a JR Rail kind of trip!
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pedant
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Wed Dec 06, 2017 4:04 am

to clarify, i was talking about the jr rail pass you can get that gives you unlimited (?) travel for a set period of time.
you should buy it before you enter japan, and you need to allow adequate time to receive it in the mail.
it's possible to get it if you're already in japan, but it's more expensive.
also, it's a deal only available to foreigners.

i found a nice video by Shizuka Maitani (Green Tea Newbies) about visiting Tokoname:
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Fuut
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Wed Oct 17, 2018 10:50 am

Great thread! Thanks for sharing everything. The owner of the store you photographed looks real kind.
Janice
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Sun Oct 21, 2018 11:09 am

I remember reading this thread at the time but today I watched the video. Time to start planning a trip to Japan - maybe i can visit in 2020.
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