Translated by MATCHA-PR
The Nabeshima Porcelain Of Ōkawachiyama - Innovating Tradition
Written by Ramona Taranu
This article features Ōkawachiyama in Saga prefecture, a place known as the "village of the secret kiln", where precious Imari Nabeshima porcelain ware has been created since the Edo Period.
Ōkawachiyama in Imari city is a place with beautiful nature, famous for the production of precious porcelain ware. Among the porcelain ware created in Arita and Imari in Saga prefecture, the type produced here in Ōkawachiyama is called Nabeshima-yaki.
During the Edo Period porcelain ware used to be given as gifts to the shōgun or the Imperial family. For this reason, the Nabeshima province (nowaday Saga prefecture), the first to have mastered the production the porcelain, built kilns in the mountains and created there a community of talented craftsmen. These craftsmen lived in a secluded village, in order to prevent that the technique of making porcelain should be known by outsiders. That village is none other than Ōkawachiyama.
Because of this background, Ōkawachiyama became known as “the village of the secret kilns”. The tradition of Nabeshima porcelain developed in this area has been transmitted from generation to generation and is alive today in this village.
Read also: Japanese Encyclopedia: Edo Period
The Nabeshima Porcelain Kiln Park in Ōkawachiyama is a place where the houses and kilns of the Edo Period craftsmen have been reconstructed. In this park there are many stores where you can buy Nabeshima porcelain. Surrounded on three sides by mountains, this village has a unique charm.
The Nabeshima porcelain, appraised both in Japan and internationally, is created using clay from this mountain. For this reason, porcelain craftsmen have been living here until nowadays, with their daily lives being deeply connected to the surrounding nature.
In order to find out more about the art of Nabeshima porcelain, which was handed down since the Edo period, we visited Hataman Tōen, one of the porcelain stores in Ōkawachiyama.
Aiming New Horizons in Craftmanship, Guided by Tradition
Hataman Tōen was established in 1926. It is a workshop that proudly represents the art of Nabeshima porcelain, which has been developed over the span of 350 years.
By adding new techniques to the traditional ones, as well as widening the range of production - from table ware for Japanese cuisine to Western table ware and even decorative items such as dolls, Hataman has been putting much effort in the creation of original items. Though keeping its roots into tradition, this workshop has been aiming to create products that are in pace with the contemporary world.
This cup is one example. The beautiful style of Nabeshima porcelain has been adapted to the features of an object that is used on a daily basis. By inheriting the tradition of the past and adapting it creatively to the present day needs, the porcelain ware of Hataman has been gathering much attention in Japan and abroad.
Visit the Workshop and Witness the Skills of the Craftsmen
The Hataman workshop can be visited for free.
They keep their workshop open to visitors, in order to anyone see the process of creating porcelain ware and know the tradition of Nabeshima porcelain through direct experience.
The making of porcelain ware starts from shaping the object. Once the object has come into shape, it is baked once in the kiln.
After painting the guiding lines of the design, lacquer is applied in order to make the object waterproof, and then it is baked once more at high temperatures. The last stage is that of painting the object with a fine design.
The visitors of the Hataman Tōen workshop can experience painting their own porcelain ware. (The fee starts from 1000 yen). It is a unique opportunity to create your own porcelain ware. Reservation is needed, so please inquire in advance at the workshop.
The Gallery – a Guide through the History of the Workshop
At Hataman, in addition to the workshop you can visit the gallery of the company, a space where all the original objects created by Hataman along the years are on display.
Among the unique items exhibited here there is the series of precious perfume bottles, created in collaboration with French designers. These bottles are a charming sight, due to their fine design and vivid colors.
This is Mr. Hataishi Shinji, the director of Hataman Tōen, who kindly showed us the workshop while sharing with us the fascinating history of Nabeshima porcelain.
The only place in Ōkawachiyama where the workshop, the store and the gallery showroom can be visited all in one place is Hataman Tōen. When coming to Ōkawachiyama, be sure to stop by Hataman, a unique store that gives the visitors the opportunity to get closer to the essence of Imari Nabeshima porcelain.
Ōkawachiyama is a unique place where you can witness the craftsmanship of the porcelain makers who live here surrounded by beautiful nature.
When visiting Saga prefecture, we would like you to experience the charm of Ōkawachiyama. The delicate beauty of Nabeshima porcelain will leave a deep impression that will last for a lifetime.
Address: Saga, Imari, Ōkawachi-machi (otsu) 1820
Hours: 9:00 - 17:30
Closed: on the first day of the year
Nearest station: Imari Station (Sasebo Line, Chikuhi Line)
Access: by bus from Imari Station to Ōkawachiyama (a 15 – 20 minute ride), by taxi (10 – 15 minutes)
Price range: the workshop visit is for free. Experience porcelain painting for the fee of 1000 yen.
Telephone: +81 - 0955‐23‐2784
Website: Hataman Tōen (Japanese)