Karatsu, Imari and Arita
A Trip to Discover Saga Ceramics
Saga Prefecture is renowned since ancient times for the production of ceramics. Take a trip through the villages of Karatsu, Imari and Arita to discover the different styles and the places associated to them.
Located about a 1-hour train ride from Saga Station, Karatsu is a lively city by the sea. After a visit to Karatsu Castle, take a stroll along the roads around the train station and you'll find many galleries showcasing Karatsu ware goods.
South of the station is an old climbing kiln that was used for the ceramics. After exploring the city, stop at a tea house and enjoy a cup of matcha served in simple Karatsu ware.
The city of Karatsu comes to life in November with Karatsu Kunchi, a colorful festival where huge floats are paraded around town.
Karatsu feels like a modern town, while its streets are still imbued with culture and tradition. Exploring the city while looking for Karatsu ware is a great way to experience the town's unique atmosphere.
From Karatsu Station, another 1-hour train ride will take you to Imari. Here, hidden up the mountain is the Okawachiyama village. This is where the personal kiln of the Nabeshima domain was located, away from people who would steal their advanced ceramic technology.
The village is home to a series of old buildings and the streets are lined with cute galleries and ceramics shops. The ornate bridge made with porcelain tiles is one of the landmarks of Okawachiyama.
The village is very compact and perfect for a stroll. Going up and down its slopes you'll be able to shop for ceramics and enjoy the pretty landscape. Off the main street you will see many kilns and ceramics workshops, along as some old climbing kilns.
Okawachiyama is a village out of a fairytale. There is something magic in its cobblestone streets and old kilns that will leave a sense of wonder and discovery inside you.
A 40-minute train ride from Imari Station is Kami-Arita Station. On the north side of the station, the main street is lined with old houses, shops and galleries exhibiting the colorful Arita pottery.
Off the main road you will find the Tonbai Wall alleys. These cobblestone streets still feature walls that were built around the potters' houses using fireproof bricks.
One of the most interesting sites of Arita is the Tozan Shrine. Located on the southern side of the train tracks, it is very unique. Many of its features, including the torii gate and komainu guardian statues are made of porcelain.
Arita really emphasizes the deep connection between people and pottery in this area. The majestic Tozan shrine alone is worth the visit, while the old alleys and shops will make you think back at generations and generations of potters.
Karatsu, Imari and Arita ceramics are widely used in Saga Prefecture. Many restaurants serve food on this beautiful ware while statues and decorations can be seen on streets and buildings. If you visit Saga, exploring these three historic towns is an enriching experience you shouldn't miss. They are reminiscent of a time when the West started discovering Japanese crafts and was deeply fascinated by them. Each town has its own atmosphere, and each will charm you in a different and wonderful way.