We began the tour with a pre-departure coffee inside the elegant Grand Etude on the first floor of Nishitetsu Grand Hotel for the GRANDAYS bus trip to two pottery havens, Arita in Saga Prefecture and Hasami in Nagasaki Prefecture.
GRANDAYS is a new luxury bus tour brand that Nishi-Nippon Railroad launched last fall. You can relax in comfort in the elegantly appointed bus, which is designed to feel like a hotel, and enjoy tours that uncover the authentic offerings of nearby destinations with a small group of just 12 passengers.
After the concierge guides you onto the bus, you can recline your seat to 160 cm (1.8 times the pitch of a regular tour bus) and ride in comfort. The domestic wood interior was designed by Fukuoka’s own Okawa Kagu, and the authentic leather seats were imported from Germany. Each passenger has his or her own private space to relax in. There’s also amenities such as slippers, coat hanger, fragrance and more.
To ensure your safety and peace of mind, each seat comes equipped with alcohol spray and disinfectant wipes. The buses also feature a system that provides automatic ventilation at regular intervals, and the hybrid catalyst Lafuado is used to protect the interior from bacteria and viruses. These precautions, combined with the super spacious seating and limited capacity make traveling with GRANDAYS especially attractive these days.
If the view of the city from the large windows seems somehow different, that’s because the seats are positioned higher than in a regular bus. Not only do you ride higher in a GRANDAYS bus, the overall atmosphere is uplifting, and this sense of excitement will accompany you as you make your way to the first stop, the Izumiyama Quarry in Arita. Staff from the Arita Tourism Association provide a guided tour of the quarry, where you learn about the history of Arita, a town that flourished as Japan’s first ceramic production site.
Next, you stroll along the back streets of Arita with its characteristic tonbai walls made from firebricks used in the ceramic kilns, and take a break in a cafe directly managed by the kiln, which naturally serves drinks in Arita ware.
You can choose your favorite color from among a selection of elegant modern cups created by Arita Porcelain Lab, a long-standing kiln that is striving to re-interpret the 400-year history of Arita ware.
The next stop is the renowned Kakiemon Kiln. Although the gallery and shop at Kakiemon Kiln is open to the public, participants on the GRANDAYS tour can get special access to areas of the kiln that are normally off limits, complete with an explanation from kiln staff.
You will feel as if you stepped back in time as you watch the artisans working silently and see the rows of vessels before they are fired in the kiln, and the combined effect will make you realize once again just how special this tour is.
With the morning portion over, it is time for lunch in Hasami, which has been firing tableware for 400 years. Simple modern designs have grown in popularity recently, so you will often see Hasami ware plates and cups in chic cafes and restaurants. Located next to the Oyane shop and gallery, whose trademark roof you can’t miss, Coyane serves a special lunch course made with local ingredients from Hasami, and naturally the tableware is all Hasami ware. You can also shop for some pieces to take home. The standard souvenir is the Hasami ware soy sauce dispenser, but you can also choose from other pieces with newer designs.
Both Arita ware, which is renowned for its intricate hand-painted designs, and Hasami ware, whose main product is tableware for everyday use, came into being around the same time when potters from Korea arrived in the area (Yi Sam-pyeong in Arita and Li Youqing in Hasami).
In Nakaoyama, the entire community still revolves around ceramic-making. It is home to the ruins of the world’s largest climbing kiln, around 20 active kilns, galleries and other shops. Staff from the Hasami Tourism Association guide you on a walking tour of this small mountain village, which includes a kiln tour and pottery painting experience.
Afterwards, the bus heads to Nishinohara, one of the most popular spots in Hasami. Here you will find cafes, restaurants and shops located inside a repurposed ceramic production facility that has been designated as a tangible cultural property.
You can try your hand at making your own mobile phone strap from Hasami Ware beads, or just enjoy walking around the site.
With a GRANDAYS tour, you’ll learn about history and experience the beautiful landscapes of nearby towns while you relax in style. Keep your eye out for information on tours to places like the pottery town of Koishiwara, or scenic Aso and locations in Oita. It’s the most comfortable way to see Kyushu’s deeper sites in comfort and a very small group.
Fresh Green Arita & Hasami Story: A tour that encompasses both the highest quality pottery and the finest chefs.
ITINERARY (This tour has ended, others available online)
• 8:30 AM meet up at Nishitetsu Grand Hotel 1st floor “Gran Etude” → departure
• Izumiyama Quarry
• Tombai Wall Alleys (guided walking tour)
• Kakiemon Kiln (tour of a famous workshop)
• Lunch (at a restaurant in Hasami)
• Nakaoyama Pottery Village (guided walking tour)
• 18:20 Arrive at Nishitetsu Tenjin Expressway Bus Terminal
• Capacity: Limited to 10 people
• Tour price: ¥38,800 per person (tax incl.)
Planning and sales: Nishitetsu Travel
In cooperation with: Idea Partners