- Gaby Doman
Japan’s Best Kept Secrets: Arita
Visit the charming home of Japanese porcelain
This is the first in a series of blogs where we dive deeper into a fascinating and little-known aspect of Japanese culture and draw you closer to it with our Luxurique insider knowledge.
Arita porcelain (also known as Imari ware), from the small town of Arita in Saga Prefecture in Kyushu, has a reputation for being amongst the world’s most exquisite. It gained recognition in the mid-17th century when it was exported to Europe by The Dutch East India Company. It quickly caught the attention of ceramic connoisseurs and is known to have inspired the world-renowned Meissen, Europe’s oldest ceramics manufacturer.
Arita porcelain’s quality can be credited to the exceptionally pure porcelain ore from the local quarry and the generations of craftspeople who transformed the town into an industrious porcelain town, where innovation has flowered from its strong roots of tradition. Today, Arita is home to artisans who push the envelope, experimenting with 3D printing, collaborating with designers and crafting exclusive signature designs for Michelin-starred restaurants and brands to maintain the town’s crown as the home of Japanese porcelain.
Arita’s fortunes were changed some 400 years ago when a Korean artisan, Ri Sanpei, first discovered porcelain stone in the town. Traditionally, these family secrets were closely guarded and throughout the town you can see high tombei walls that potters throughout the town built to keep their secrets hidden from rival potters. However, Luxurique guests have exclusive access to learn the techniques Ri Sanpei passed down, which are now taught by his 14th-generation descendant. Guests can have a private pottery masterclass with this highly skilled artisan, creating their own piece of Aritaware that will be shipped to them after it’s been fired.
“Traditionally, these family secrets were closely guarded and throughout the town you can see high tombei walls that potters throughout the town built to keep their secrets hidden from rival potters.”
A Town Built Around Craftsmanship
Stepping off the typical tourist trail and diving deeper into a fascinating subculture of Japan is one of the more rewarding ways to discover Japanese culture. A visit to Arita with Luxurique also provides access to Arita’s most famous kiln, Kakiemon, and its beautiful gardens.
Kakiemon Kiln is where Kakiemon style porcelain, with overglaze decoration on milky white porcelain (called nigoshide), first emerged in the 1670s. During a visit, Luxurique’s guests can explore the kilns with a knowledgeable, English-speaking guide. They’ll show you the artisans at work, show you inside this not-open-to-the-public kiln, where so many collector’s pieces have been fired and provide you with plenty of opportunities to ask questions.
Explore the more modern side of Arita’s creativity at RISO Porcelain, which utilizes 3D printing technology to craft customised designs for high-profile clients, including world-famous restaurants.
Luxurique’s guests will be granted access to Izumiyama Quarry, which is closed to the public. This historic spot is where porcelain ore was discovered 400 years ago, changing the fortunes of this tiny town forever.
Other highlights of Arita include the Kyushu Ceramic Museum and the stunning Arita Sueyama Jinja shrine. Its Arita porcelain torii gate and lion dog statues make it one of the most unusual and striking shrines in Japan.
Guests can round out their visit by eating Saga beef served on Arita porcelain in local restaurants and staying in a beautifully preserved traditional Japanese property.
Luxurique creates highly tailored itineraries and events to suit your interests so you can discover Japan on your terms, without compromise. Get in touch with us to start planning your trip.