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Tsuboya Pottery District
Tsuboya Pottery District Review
More than 300 years of ceramic tradition are celebrated in this area behind Kokusai-dori's main drag. In more than 20 workshops around these hills Master Craftsman and Living Cultural Asset plaques hang on the walls between various examples of Okinawa's distinctive pottery, on sale ranging from cheap souvenirs to specials pieces for wealthy collectors. The famous Japanese potter Shoji Hamada came here in the 1920s and '30s and left with the inspiration for his notable works, but you may be more inspired by what you find in the nearby pottery museum than what you see on sale—some of the dishes and shisa statues can be kitschy, although the bits of broken pottery whimsically accenting walls and doorways in Gaudí-esque embellishment are a lot of fun. Some workshops are open to visitors, but you'll have a better view of it all one-hour's drive north of Naha at the pottery collective Yachimun no Sato.
Kiyomasa Toki was begun by a mandate from the old Shuri Emperor to a distant forbear of the kiln's current master, Takashi Kobashikawa, himself a government-designated Master of Traditional Crafts. "The pots shapes change generation to generation with the hands of the individual potters," says Takashi, but the freewheeling geometrics and whimsical fish pattern in a unique red-and-blue glaze were perfected generations ago and are lovingly celebrated in new pieces with every firing. Bearing left out of the Heiwa-dori arcade, go 200 meters until a small incline leads you up to the red-and-black sign. Mugs and tankards are around ¥4,000, cup and saucer sets from around ¥5,000; larger bowls and platters scale from affordable to astronomical. Wrapping and shipping services are available. Tsuboya 1-16-7, 902-0065. 098/862-3654. Daily 10-7.
The small but heartfelt Tsuboya Pottery Museum has exhibits illustrating the history of the region's earthenware production, including representative pieces from all periods, and a reproduction of a traditional Okinawan house, showing Tsubo-yaki tableware and kitchen utensils. Next to the museum is an intact 19th-century climbing kiln, called a nobori-gama. Recent attention to providing more-detailed English explanations has made the experience more exciting and informative. To get to the pottery district, walk through Heiwa-dori, the left-hand arcade, until it empties out into Yachimun-dori. 1-9-32 Tsuboya, 902-0065. 098/862-3761. www.edu.city.naha.okinawa.jp/tsuboya. Daily 10-6.
- Location: Naha
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