Hasami is a small town of around 14,800 people nestled in the mountains. With hills full of porcelain stone, timber and mountain streams providing fresh water, the town has thrived as a center of ceramic-making since olden times. The first porcelain is said to have been made around 1610, and production has continued uninterrupted for more than 400 years.
5 minutes from the Hasami-Arita IC on the Nagasaki Expressway / Nishi-Kyushu Expressway
10 minutes from JR Arita Station
Hasami Town Share Taxi
Ride-share taxi service between Arita Station and Nakaoyama, Hasami Town. Eight daily round-trips coinciding with express train arrivals at JR Arita Station. Get on and off at any stop. Reserve at least one hour in advance. Why not book when you leave JR Hakata Station?
• Route: JR Arita Station ⇄ Hasami-Arita IC ⇄ Hasami Town Hall ⇄ Museum of Ceramic Art Nakaoyama ⇄ Koryukan
• Fee: All-day pass ¥1,000 (ES students: ¥500)
• To reserve: 0956-85-2290 (Hasami Tourist Association)
Discover Hasami Ware
Northwestern Kyushu is well-known as the birthplace of ceramics in Japan, and porcelains such as Hasami ware, Arita ware, and Karatsu ware have come to be known worldwide. The techniques for making ceramics were introduced from Korea, but the ceramics produced in each region were unique. Hasami is known for its celadons (greenware) featuring various kinds of engravings and decorations, while Arita ware is typified by bright patterns made with dyes and coloring. Starting around the end of the 17th century, the kilns of Hasami began focusing on the mass production of low-cost everyday dishes for the Japanese market.
In the Edo era, the kurawanka bowl spread throughout Japan, gaining popularity for its durability and reasonable price and marking a shift in porcelain ware as a common-use item instead of just art (1680s ~ 1860s).
Hasami ware is produced in a town-wide effort. The kataya (mold maker) make the molds for the clay, the kijiya (claymaker) make the clay to be fired, and the kamamoto (potters) decorate and fire the porcelain.
Hasami is also home to one of the world’s largest climbing kilns, which was used by everyone in the community for the mass production of Hasami ware.
Hasami ware is now known for its simple designs and functionality, and has become popular even among young people and creatives.
G-type soy sauce dispenser
The pinnacle of user-friendly design. Great for everyday use.
A ceramic bowl for the masses first produced in the Edo era. It is thick with a low center of gravity, so it can be easily handled even on a rocking boat. “Kurawan ka” means “Won’t you eat?”
Kurawankan: Museum of Ceramic Art
This museum features displays of ceramics from 35 potters, traders, and traditional artisans based in Hasami as well as a gift shop of local specialty goods. The second floor exhibit elaborates upon the history of Hasami ware.
• 2255-2 Isekigo, Hasami-cho, Higashisonogi, Nagasaki
• Open: 9:00~17:00
• Closed: 12/31, 1/1, 1/2
The neighborhood of Nakaoyama is home to around 20 kilns and ceramic stores as well as galleries and gift shops. It is also where the ruins of one of the world’s largest climbing kilns is located, which was the source of mass produced ceramics in the Edo era. Enjoy a stroll along the narrow streets and see how people still live among the kiln chimneys in this historic neighborhood.
This is the site of a Hasami ware ceramic works that operated for 10 generations from the Edo era until its closure in 2005. The entire process from claymaking to painting to glazing could be be handled here, and works were fired in a climbing kiln. The expansive site is now home to a modern cafe, gift shop, gallery and bouldering wall.
• 2187-4 Isekigo, Hasami-cho, Higashisonogi, Nagasaki
• Closed: Differs for each shop (usually Wed.)
Oniki Rice Terraces
These terraced rice paddies are said to have been completed in the middle of the Edo era. The scenery changes with the seasons making for a beautiful landscape that hearkens back to an older time. You can get the best views from the observation platform and stop by the Oniki Kako Center where you can buy local produce, rice, miso and more.
• Onikigo, Hasami-cho, Higashisonogi, Nagasaki
Hasami Ware History and Production Tour
Join a guided tour of Nakaoyama and observe potters and clay makers as they work. A certified traditional artisan provides expert commentary, and you can also try your hand at potting. (You can have your finished products mailed to you after they’ve been fired.)
Choose from three guided tours of Hasami ware production sites. All tours start and end at Kurawankan and include a walk through the popular Nishinohara area.
Hasami ware production sites: 4-hour tour (11:00~15:00)
Visit a mold maker, claymaker, and potter to observe the collaborative effort that goes into making Hasami ware. Includes lunch at Shikisha, a restaurant housed in a repurposed ceramic production facility in Nakaoyama.
Learn from the pros: 5-hour tour (11:00~16:00)
Includes lunch in Nakaoyama, a walking tour of the historic ceramic districts, and live demonstrations of Hasami ware production. Also try your hand at ceramic making at a claymaker’s workshop! You can have your finished products mailed to you after they’ve been fired.
Hasami ware fine dining: 3-hour tour (11:00~14:00)
Enjoy a meal made by a real chef and served in simple, modern Hasami ware at the Nishinohara Kitchen Studio.
Learn more and book a tour here: https://ps-q.jp/tourism/hasami-town/en/
Originally published in Fukuoka Now Magazine (fn252, Dec. 2019)