As many people already know, there are many places to see and things to do in Kyushu running the gamut from delicious food and crafts to hot springs, the mountains and the sea.
For example, if you want to buy food, you can go to a farm stand instead of the supermarket. And if you want to buy some cups, you can go to a kiln instead of a department store. So, why not visit a nearby ceramics town and turn your ordinary shopping into something special?
For this report, we took a two-day trip next door to Saga prefecture to spruce up our everyday lives.
We visited Ureshino Onsen, known as one of Japan’s Top Three Hot Springs for Beautiful Skin, and Arita, one of the country’s most well-known ceramic production centers.
Fukuoka—Ureshino Onsen: 60 minutes by car / Ureshino—Arita Station: 25 minutes by car / Arita—Fukuoka: 1 hour and 20 minutes by car
Enjoy a luxurious time as you satisfy both your stomach and your curiosity and soothe your body in the hot springs. The long-standing inn in Ureshino Onsen, which has prospered as a hot spring resort since ancient times, has a collection of Arita Ware, considered the pinnacle of Japanese porcelain, and many of the pieces are exhibited throughout the facility. Here you can also enjoy the inn’s trademark special dishes served in authentic Arita Ware.
After a refreshing first night, we headed to Arita, the birthplace of Japanese porcelain, about 30 minutes away by car.
Arita Ware, which has been in production for 400 years, is still known as one of Japan’s leading traditional crafts, and there are many kilns scattered throughout the region. Once a year, a porcelain market is held, and galleries and cafes line up along the main drag between Arita Station and Kami-Arita Station.
If you are particularly interested in Arita Ware, we recommend joining a private guided tour. Several tours are available including a tour where you can try your hand at making porcelain, a tour of the major Arita Ware spots in town, a tour of the workshop at Imaemon Kiln, which is not typically open to the public, and a tour of the Kakiemon Kiln, which is perfect for porcelain buffs. You can choose the tour that is right for you and enjoy interacting and learning from the artisans.
Why not make your weekend outing special?
Wataya Besso Suimeiso
Wataya Besso is a long-standing inn situated alongside the Ureshino River whose grounds cover an expansive 66,000 m2. There are various Japanese and Western-style rooms available, including a tower building design by renowned architect Kisho Kurokawa and rooms equipped with open-air baths. There is also Suimeiso, a separate guest house built in the sukiya (traditional tea house) style whose luxurious rooms are all equipped with their own cypress baths.
Wataya Besso Suimeiso
738 Shimojukuotsu, Ureshino-machi, Ureshino City, Saga
Tel : 0954-42-0210
You can enjoy Ureshino green tea in the dedicated lounge and take a relaxing soak in the communal bath, which features an open-air bath and sauna as well as tubs made from cypress and granite (the men’s and women’s baths are switched daily). Over 90% of the hot springs in Ureshino Onsen are mildly alkaline salt baths with a pH of 7.9, and they are renowned for leaving your skins soft and smooth.
Another great feature of Suimeiso are the meals served in your room. The exquisite dishes are served on Arita Ware produced by living legends Sakaida Kakiemon, Imaizumi Imaemon and Nakasato Taroemon.
The original course features a fusion of Japanese and Western cuisine made using seasonal seafood from the Ariake and Genkai Seas and local brand ingredients such as Saga beef, Wakakusu pork and Arita chicken.
After doing morning yoga or calisthenics on the spacious deck, the breakfast of fresh local ingredients is a great way to start your day. Enjoy a natural pick me up from Ureshino’s famed yudofu (hot tofu) made from soybeans grown in Saga as well as rice from local terraced paddies.
The yudofu, cooked in the onsen water melts away, just as you will do if you stay in the bath long enough!
Taishoya is a storied inn that was founded in 1925. Designed by renowned architect Junzo Yoshimura, the atmosphere is calm and the attention to detail is evident.
Enjoy a dip in Takinoyu, a large bath where the waterfalls and greenery of the garden blend seamlessly with the tubs. It is also counted among Japan’s Top Three Hot Springs for Beautiful Skin.
The matsu kaiseki is the highest-ranking course you can order at Taishoya. The carefully selected ingredients include Saga beef, seafood from the Ariake Sea and seasonal produce. They are carefully prepared by Japanese chefs and served on beautiful porcelain made right here in Saga.
Taking advantage of the town’s location just 30 minutes from the Genkai and Ariake Seas, delectable assortments of sea bream, tuna, squid and sea urchin sashimi are served on authentic Arita Ware that the inn has been collecting since its founding.
Wagyu beef connoisseurs will enjoy grilling the carefully selected Saga beef on their own iron plate.
The best part of staying at a hot spring inn is, after all, a morning bath and breakfast. At Taishoya, you will enjoy a Japanese set meal whose centerpiece is Ureshino’s specialty, yudofu.
Instead of regular rice, you can also opt for a rice porridge made with Ureshino green tea.
Private Arita Ware Tours
These special tours were designed by a travel professional who knows Kyushu. Accompanied by a guide with a detailed knowledge of Arita Ware and the town, you will visit kilns, meet the artisans and learn how Arita Ware is made. These tours are perfect regardless of whether you just want to spend a relaxing time, brush up on your knowledge of Arita Ware or entertain guests from overseas.
▶︎Private Arita Ware Tours
Join a guide on a private tour of an Arita Ware gallery. You will visit the Imaemon Kiln, which is not typically open to the public, and gain a deep knowledge of Arita Ware from the descendants of Yi Sam-pyeong, the father of Arita ware. You will also visit important heritage sites related to Arita Ware, like the Izumiyama Quarry and Tozan Shrine. (About 6 hours)
Details, reservation: Private Arita Ware Tour and Lesson from a Master Potter
Enjoy lunch at the Yasuna, a Japanese restaurant run by an antique collector. A kaiseki lunch will be served on various pieces of Arita Ware porcelain spanning the ages from the Edo period all the way to the modern day. You will also visit the Gen-emon kiln, where the restaurant’s Arita Ware is made, and watch the artisans engage in their craft. (About 4 hours)
Details, reservation: Arita Ware Kaiseki Lunch
On this tour you can get up close and personal with the pieces handcrafted by the artisans of Shin, Gen-emon and Kouraku Kilns. On the treasure hunt, which is popular with foreign visitors, you can find the perfect piece of porcelain to take home with you. (About 3 hours)
Details, reservation: Arita Ware Private Tour and Treasure Hunt
Visit the world-renowned Kakiemon Kiln for which the style of porcelain made in and around Arita is named. Accompanied by a guide with a detailed knowledge of Arita Ware and the town, you will visit the Kakiemon Kiln, meet the artisans and learn how Arita Ware is made. (About 3 hours)
Details, reservation: Private Tour of Kakiemon Kiln
This activity is a fun introduction to Arita Ware. Visit the world-renowned Kouraku Kiln and have your very own design imprinted onto an Arita Ware coffee mug (About 3 hours)
Details, reservation: Make Your Very Own Arita Ware Coffee Mug