The Pottery Path - A Walk Through the Pottery Town
Bullet point numbers correspond to map
- Here is a big jar at the entrance of the Path, it was made
for pharmaceutical products in the 1940s. The big bowls along
the Path are called "Suiren-bachi", "bowls for
water lilies" which are filled with water and placed in the
corner of a yard. People enjoy seeing water lilies, water grasses,
goldfish and things like that in them. Image.
- Kilns at that time needed to be built on inclines, so it was
advantageous to build them on the hillsides. The Path is therefore
hilly. This ceramic mural is made by elementary students. Image.
- Ceramic pipes are used to support the banks. This style is seen
in many places in Tokoname. This is recycling of inferior pipes.
Ceramic pipes are made for water service and sewerage. They are
resistant to the sudden changes of temperatures and heat and very
durable as well.
There are many kinds of ceramic pipes such as round, square, and
with branches or sockets. Pipes with four, six, or nine holes
are used for electric cables. Once a traffic accident occurred
in a tunnel on the Tomei expressway and caused a big fire in it.
But the electric cables covered with ceramic pipes remained unburnt
and safe. This is a good example to show their resistance to heat.
- One of the famous views in Tokoname is the brick chimneys. The
tallest one is 25 meters and the shortest is about 13 meters.
This chimney was shortened to prevent collapse from earthquakes
and typhoons. Chimney size is related to kiln size. Burning efficiency
was taken into account when they were built.
Symbolic to the scenery of Tokoname, over 300 to 400 brick chimneys
existed in the 1950s which was then at the peak industrial period.
During that time clouds of pure black smoke belched from the many
chimneys every day. The sun light was greatly reduced.
This type of chimney scenery is associated with the production
of pottery in Tokoname. The city produced relatively large ceramics
like pipes, jars and bowls. They needed big kilns and this gave
rise to these kinds of chimneys. This scenery is reminiscent of
that of Staffordshire (Ed.
Fuels have been changed from coal to heavy oil and finally to
gas. Once kilns had been converted to gas, chimneys lost their
important roles and became useless. Old chimneys that are in danger
of collapse have been demolished one after another. Today 90 still
exist but only 50 to 60 of them remain in perfect condition. Image.
- Large water jars, frog-shaped big jars and pots are displayed
here. They are made by a method called "Himozukuri"
or coil-building. Thick clay coils are formed first, then the
coils are gradually piled up one by one. A potter begins by placing
one coil on another and waits until they get dry, and he repeats
this process many times. Making a big jar by this method requires
about one week. Image.
- You see big jars on both sides, which are for making pickles.
- There is a big old building on your right side below. It was
built around the 1850s and used for a shipping agency. No one
has lived in it for about 30 years, Tokoname City is planning
to make good use of this house as a gathering place for people.
There is close relation between shipping and ceramics. Ceramics
had been carried by ship to all over Japan since the old days.
In the 12th century, many shipping routes were developed. Nowadays
most ceramics are transported overland.
On that narrow slope, clay rings once used for firing ceramic
pipes are buried to prevent slipping. Image.
- Here is a"Dokanzaka", and one of the highlights of
the Pottery Path. It has been selected as one of "the 30
famous Japanese hills". Please enjoy the beautiful ceramic
pipes and humorous looks of the sake bottles. Clay rings are also
The ceramic information board explains the various stages in the
production of Tokoname-ware. Image.
- This is "Noborigama Hiroba", Climbing Kiln Square,
which was opened in 1995. There were a lot of pottery factories
one time before in this area especially centering on the hilly
sides. In that exhibition pavilion, a square down-draft kiln with
two fire mouths built in 1910s is well preserved. A pottery class
providing pot making experience for you is held on the second
floor. Reservation is necessary for that.
The monument placed in the center of the square is about six meters
high and titled "Jikuu" which means passing over time.
It expresses "Present", "Past", "Future".
It's made by a potter named Masaaki Shibata.
A bow-shaped large mural is named "Glitter". 25,000
pieces of a pyramid-formed blocks five centimeters square are
used in it. Their colors change as you walk along the mural. Junpei
Sugie built this, who is a potter as well as a professor at a
college of art.
This is a "Suikinkutsu",
an echo chamber, near the bower. "Suikinkutsu" was invented
as a technology of Japanese gardening in the period from the 1810s
to the 1830s. It was usually built close to a room for a tea ceremony.
People enjoyed the beautiful and clear trickling sounds of the
water that echo in the pot. It is a pot with a hole at the bottom
buried upside down in the ground. Some water is stored at the
lower part of the pot. Water drops come from above through the
hole to the surface of the stored water. You can hear the music
of the echoes as water falls into the pot. Image.
- This Climbing Kiln is designated as an important cultural asset
of the nation. It was built in about 1887 and operated till about
1973. It is the largest in Japan. Coal and wood were used to fire
it. The firing took eight days and nights. Products made here
were mostly flower pots, teapots, charcoal braziers, vases and
Climbing kilns are not used today except by a few potters. This
kind of kiln used wood and coal for fuel. They were structurally
inefficient, in addition to causing air pollution. It was heavy
labor to fire them. Nowadays gas, electricity and kerosene are
major fuels. Why some potters are particularly interested in climbing
kilns is that they enjoy the varying textures and colors that
this kind of kiln produces. Many pottery lovers are fond of the
unexpected finishes produced by a climbing kiln.
There are ten chimneys behind the kiln, feel free to take a look
around the kiln. There are still potters living on the Sanpomichi
that remember firing this kiln. Image.
- Here is a foot bridge crossing two factories above the Path,
which was used to increase the efficiency of the factories. Removal
and demolition of past bridges make this one quite rare.
- The wall on the left side has been repaired recently. Old ceramic
pipes were thoughtfully buried in the wall so as to suit the landscape
of the Pottery Path. This kind of consideration maintains the
landscape of the Pottery Path. Image.
- This is the studio of a craftsman who still uses a traditional
technique. He makes large works with the technique of coiling
building. We may find him working, if our timing is right.
- This is a bridge called "Ichikibashi". There were
more chimneys and factories operating in this area thirty years
ago. Factories which opted for modern producing systems and mass
production have moved to the suburbs. As you understand after
walking the area, the roads for cars are limited and also very
narrow. Some factories are stopping production because of the
difficulties to find the successors. The scenery will gradually
change. But we'd like to carefully maintain this exclusive scenery
of Tokoname. Image.
- Here we are back at the starting point, Ceramic Hall. Thank
you for being with us. If you are in town, the Pottery Path also
has a B course. Institutions such as The Ceramic Art Institute,
The Ceramic History Museum, INAX Tile Museum and The Kiln Museum
Gallery are found there. If you have time, please visit them,
too. Moreover, there are pottery galleries and a wholesale pottery
market in Tokoname. You can enjoy shopping for Tokoname-ware there
as well. Image.
Next > More on Tokoname Ceramics