American Guide #61 Ueda Pottery factory. Takahama Japan


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Tripping through beautiful Amakusa、so very far from the hustle and bustle of big city Japan, the country side is so very… pleasant. Along for the ride is my sister Yuka, her husband and young son. We soon rolled up to the famed ceramic & pottery factory and museum of the Ueda clan. As we piled out of the G ride (a Honda family wagon. Oh the joys of becoming a soccer mom and dad!) and began roaming the expansive,beautiful and ancient grounds, Yuka says, “Hora hebi da.” “Look a snake.” As poisonous viper gives us a grand good morning greeting. The staff at the factory are very nice and give our small party a tour of the factory as well as the grounds, which is just fabulous. One can imagine the Edo period artisans practicing their craft which was imported and revived from the Chinese dynasties.

The Amakusa clay is very unique to the the craft and it lends to the beautiful, transparent, shining white china when completely fired. Both the quality and quantity of local porcelain stone make Amakusa one of the main sources of such ore in all of Japan. 80% of Japanese ceramics manufacturers, including the renowned Arita-Yaki and Seto-Yaki, use Amakusa porcelain stone. During the Edo period, the famous inventor Hiraga Gennai praised Amakusa’s porcelain stone and hailed it to be “the best quality porcelain stone with no comparison anywhere else!”.The production of ceramics started in Amakusa in 1762 when Ueda Dengouemon, a landlord in Takahama village, established “Takahama-Yaki”.Local inhabitants call the mountains where porcelain stone is quarried “Stone Mountains”. Many are in fact directly involved in the industry.
Currently, there are numerous pottery studios in Amakusa, including “Takahama-Yaki”, “Maruo-Yaki”, “Gozanki-Kama” and many others; each of these feature distinct designs in their wares. In 2003, the local porcelain industry was designated as a National Traditional Craft, giving national recognition to Amakusa’s pottery.

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