The term “Hasami ware” refers to porcelain made in the town of Hasami in Nagasaki Prefecture, and despite having a history of over 400 years, the designs are considered modern and stylish, and they can often be found in chic cafes and restaurants.
Hasami is only a 90-minute drive, or two hours by train or expressway bus, from Fukuoka. Packed full of things to see and do, the town is a popular spot for day-trippers from both Fukuoka and Nagasaki.
Nishinohara is the former site of a porcelain works that was in operation since the Edo era. The old building, which was refurbished and opened in 2003, is now a popular spot with young transplants. The building is now home to a Hasami ware gallery, a range of shops offering high-quality goods, and a cafe called Monné Legui Mooks. Every time you visit Hasami, you’ll notice something new, and Nishinohara serves to showcase all the great things the town has to offer in one spot.
What is Hasami ware?
One feature of Hasami ware is that instead of being made by a single artisan, pieces are made by multiple artisans each responsible for one step of the process. The mold makers make the molds for the clay, the claymakers make the clay to be fired and the potters decorate and fire the porcelain. The entire process is a town-wide effort.
Hasami ware dates back to about 400 years ago when the techniques for making porcelain were brought to the province of Bizen (now Saga and Nagasaki Prefectures) from the Korean peninsula. Until around 2002, porcelain made throughout this region was sold under the name of Arita ware, but regulations to ensure stricter provenance labeling led to the use of the Hasami ware brand name instead. This not only invigorated the porcelain industry in Hasami, it also helped energize the town as a whole.
In just under 20 years, Hasami ware has made a name for itself throughout Japan and around the world. This is a testament to the dedication of the many professionals involved in porcelain making in Hasami.
Mitsunomata: A hidden gem since Hasami’s heyday
The first pottery in Hasami Town was fired in a kiln in the Hiekobago district, after which three climbing kilns were built in the Muragigo district. These first pieces were made from clay, but the mining of porcelain stone began in Mitsunomata after that, and by 1630, the industry had switched primarily to the production of porcelain. In Mitsunomata you can see the ruins if the Sarayama Yakusho, a government office established to manage porcelain production, the remains of the Mitsunomata Greenware Kiln (one of Japan’s leading producers of greenware from the 1630s to the 1650s), which is an integral part in the history of Hasami Town, and the towering mountains of the Mitsunomata Toishigawa Quarry, a porcelain stone quarry that was active for over three centuries.
Mitsunomata Toishigawa Quarry (National Historic Site)
This quarry was the source of the porcelain stone used in Hasami Town. It operated for around 350 years from the early 1600s until it closed in 1965, so the mountain is now hollowed out and the rock face is exposed.
The bottom of the river that runs through the quarry has a distinct color that derives from the porcelain stone found here.
At the top of Mitsunomata, you will find Shizuan, a workshop where you can try your hand at potting. The owner is Junichiro Hayashi, a former salaryman who returned to his hometown of Hasami to open up the workshop. He provides friendly, easy-to-understand explanations, so even beginners are sure to enjoy making pottery. The pieces you make in the workshop will be sent to you in about two weeks, after they’ve been fired in the kiln.
Hayashi is a master of the pedal operated potter’s wheel. According to him, the secret to potting is rhythm. You must shape the clay with your hands while keeping the wheel moving with your foot at just the right pace.
830 Mitsumatago, Hasami-cho, Higashisonogi, Nagasaki
Potting experience ¥2,500
A can’t-miss spot for history buffs
Near where Hasami Town Hall now stands used to be the old lodging district. There you will find Imazato Shuzo, a sake brewery founded in 1772. The brewery comprises more than a dozen buildings (some of which are registered as national tangible cultural properties) that have been expanded over the company’s long history.
Hasami Town Tourism Exchange Center
On the first floor of Kurawankan, ceramics from 34 potters, traders, and traditional artisans based in Hasami are on display and available for purchase. You can also sign up for workshops and try your hand at decorating pottery or making pottery with a potter’s wheel or by hand (reservations required). The museum space on the second floor traces the 400-year history of Hasami ware with displays of documents and ceramic pieces.
Ceramics Park, located next door, is home to World Kiln Square, which features reproductions of 12 types of kilns from around the world that were used from ancient times to the early modern period.
2255-2 Isekigo, Hasami-cho, Higashisonogi, Nagasaki
0956-85-2290 (Hasami Town Tourism ExchangeCenter)