Hizen, the Birthplace of Japanese Porcelain Ware
― A Journey through pottery’s origins ―
List of Japan Heritage Cultural Properties

01 Site of Kakiemon Kiln

柿右衛門窯跡

01 Site of Kakiemon Kiln

Site of a multi-chambered climbing kiln that began producing porcelain in the second half of the 17th century at Shimonangawarayama in Arita. It produced exceptional works primarily in the Kakiemon style together with the Nangawarakamanotsuji Kiln.

02 Arita-uchiyama Traditional Building Preservation District

有田内山伝統的建造物群保存地区

02 Arita-uchiyama Traditional Building Preservation District

A district in the eastern part of the town of Arita that is home to numerous buildings dating from the late Edo period to the Showa period, including traditional machiya-style houses faced with white plaster as well as Western-style buildings. A flourishing ceramic industry fostered the culture of prosperous artisans in Arita, with many pottery and ceramic shops lining the streets of the Uchiyama district, the center of porcelain production. The district was rebuilt after a fire reduced the area to ruins in 1928, and western-style buildings were added in modern times.

03 Tombstone of the First-generation Kanegae Sanbe, Torii Gate at Tozan-jinja Shrine and Monument to Arita Ware Founder Li Sanpei

Torii Gate at Tozan-jinja Shrine

03 Tombstone of the First-generation Kanegae Sanbe, Torii Gate at Tozan-jinja Shrine and Monument to Arita Ware Founder Li Sanpei

The tombstone of Sanbei Kanagae (Yi Sam-pyeong), who is regarded as the founder of Arita ware, can be found in a cemetery in Arita. The porcelain torii gate (dedicated in 1888) at Tozan-jinja Shrine dedicated to the founder of porcelain is decorated with an elaborate, cobalt-blue karakusa pattern. A monument to the father of porcelain, Yi Sam-pyeong, was erected in 1918 at a site on the hillside of a mountain behind the shrine offering a panoramic view of Arita to commemorate the 300th anniversary of Arita ware.

04 Arita Porcelain (from the collection of Akihiko and Yuko Shibata)


04 Arita Porcelain (from the collection of Akihiko and Yuko Shibata)

This comprehensive and structured collection of Arita porcelain was donated to the Kyushu Ceramic Museum by Akihiko and Yuko Shibata and is on permanent display in the museum. The collection includes 10,311 pieces that chart the historical changes in Arita porcelain over time from the early Edo period when porcelain production began to the last days of the Tokugawa shogunate.

05 Kanbara Collection

05 Kanbara Collection

This collection of Arita ware mainly includes gorgeous, gold-painted works exported to Europe during the Edo period. Collected by Hakaru Kanbara from Arita across Europe, these pieces were donated to the town. The 101-piece collection is on permanent display at the Kyushu Ceramic Museum.

06 Large Lobed Dish with Underglaze Cobalt-blue Design of Landscape

06 Large Lobed Dish with Underglaze Cobalt-blue Design of Landscape

A superb example of the blue and white porcelain that was produced during the 1640s and 1650s at Yanbeta Kiln in Arita. The piece typifies the technical innovation that came to characterize Arita ware. (In the collection of the Kyushu Ceramic Museum)

07 Tripod Dish with Underglaze Cobalt-blue Design of White Herons

07 Tripod Dish with Underglaze Cobalt-blue Design of White Herons

This masterpiece of Nabeshima ware (with Nabeshima dye) was produced between the 1690s and 1710s at the domain kiln in the former Saga Domain located in Mt. Okawachi in Imari. It is part of the collection at the Kyushu Ceramic Museum.

08 Kakiemon (Nigoshide)

08 Kakiemon (Nigoshide)

Around 1647, the first-generation Kakiemon from the illustrious Sakaida family of Japanese potters in Arita succeeded in firing overglaze enamels on porcelain. Kakiemon style which came to be known as Nigoshide was established during the second half of the 17th century, features overglazing of asymmetric designs set against a milk-white background and makes effective use of white space.

09 Polychrome Nabeshima ware

09 Polychrome Nabeshima ware

The best possible materials and technologies came together at the domain kiln in the former Saga Domain located in Mt. Okawachi in Imari, which produced high-quality pieces known as Nabeshima ware. Typical of the style is polychrome Nabeshima ware, which incorporates red, green, and yellow overglaze on a cobalt blue sometsuke background.

10 Site of the Okawachi Nabeshima Kiln

10 Site of the Okawachi Nabeshima Kiln

Site of the domain-operated official kiln, which was founded by the former Saga Domain at Mt. Okawachi in Imari around the 1660s to consolidate technology for producing Hizen ware. Apart from the kiln, there are also other remains and terrain matching old illustrations evocative of the former activity here, such as monohara or site of place for forming ceramics, site of domain residences, and sites of pottery compounds. The porcelain produced here (Nabeshima ware) is said to be of the finest quality and was used as tributes to shogun families and as gifts to various daimyo (feudal lords), which could not be found on the general market.

11 Mt. Okawachi

11 Mt. Okawachi

Today, 30 kilns stand side-by-side in the Mt. Okawachi area of Imari, where a kiln directly managed by the Nabeshima domain was built around the 1660s. The mystical landscape of kiln-brick walls, brick chimneys, and potteries lining the narrow valley surrounded by precipitous mountains with Mt. Seira towering off in the distance creates a distinctive atmosphere of the area as the “Village of the Secret Kilns”.

12 Former Residence of the Inutsuka Family and Imaritsu

12 Former Residence of the Inutsuka Family and Imaritsu

A reconstruction of a former pottery merchant residence that was built in Imaritsu in 1825. Imaritsu prospered as port for shipping ceramics and was home to dozozukuri-style merchant residences with thick, white walls seemingly numbering in the thousands. Today, this building is used as the Imari City Ceramic Merchant’s Museum, serving as a reminder of the once bustling streets and commercial trade of Imaritsu.

13 Garden Lanterns and Stone Washbasins at the Former Totoshimajinja Shrine (Current Imari Shrine)

Garden Lanterns at the Former Totoshimajinja Shrine (Current Imari Shrine)

13 Garden Lanterns and Stone Washbasins at the Former Totoshimajinja Shrine (Current Imari Shrine)

These garden lanterns and stone washbasins were dedicated in 1814 to Totoshimajinja Shrine in Imaritsu, which prospered as a shipping port for ceramics, to secure safe passage at sea. The stone lanterns from merchants in Chikuzen and stone washbasins from merchants in Kishu indicate that merchants from all over the country were deeply involved in the distribution of ceramics. Totoshimajinja Shrine is now enshrined in Imari Shrine.

14 Group of Ceramic Kiln Sites in Ureshino

14 Group of Ceramic Kiln Sites in Ureshino

A group of sites of ceramic kilns that once operated throughout the city of Ureshino in districts such as Yoshida and Shida, and Mt. Fudo starting in the 17th century. They all were multi-chambered climbing kilns. The kilns of Yoshida wares, which had been in operation since the 17th century, produced porcelains decorated with polychrome overglaze that resembled the gosuakae pottery in China, with some being exported to southeast Asia. Shida ware, which began around 1700, saw mass numbers of blue and white dishes produced in five multi-chambered climbing kilns at the end of the Tokugawa period. Remains of at least five kilns on Mt. Fudo have been identified, with blue and white-dyed dishes and celadon products fired in the latter half of the 17th century.

15 Shida-yaki Pottery Factory Museum (formerly a factory operated by the Shida Porcelain Co.)

15 Shida-yaki Pottery Factory Museum (formerly a factory operated by the Shida Porcelain Co.)

This museum is located in the former factory of the Shida Thojiki Co. Ltd., which operated from the Taisho period through the late 1970s, where all the pottery-making processes from the production of porcelain clay to firing was carried out on a large scale. Similar to Hasami, Shida is an area that mass produces and supplies ceramics for the populace, the largest coal-fired kiln in the country remains here. Today, you can see for yourself the pottery-making process of that time at the Shida-yaki Pottery Factory Museum, from the preparation of materials to the firing.

16 Hiryu Kiln

16 Hiryu Kiln

The world’s largest multi-chambered climbing kiln by volume. Hiryu Kiln was built as the pottery base for Takeo in the Kuromuta district of the city of Takeo, the largest production center for ceramics (Karatsu ware). At the Takekoba Kiln Forest Park, where Hiryu Kiln is located, ceramics classes are in session at the working climbing kiln where you can gain hands-on experience with spinning lathe and hand-molded earthenware. The TAKEO-Hiryuugama Lantern Festival is held every year in February, where thousands of lanterns light up the night sky.

17 Group of Mikawachi Porcelain Kiln Sites

17 Group of Mikawachi Porcelain Kiln Sites

With the discovery of a quarry in Hariojima (Sasebo City) in 1633, porcelain started to be produced for the first time at the Nagahayama kiln in the Hirado domain. In 1650, the potters of Nakano kiln were moved to Mikawachi-sarayama to reinforce the system of the domain’s kilns. The multi-chambered climbing kilns of Mikawachi-higashi and Mikawachi-nishi started operating in the latter half of the 17th century, continuing to run until the Showa period. Porcelain was also produced in the privately-run kilns of Enaga-sarayama and Kihara-sarayama, of which traces still remain.

18 Three Pottery-producing Districts of Mikawachi

18 Three Pottery-producing Districts of Mikawachi

Three pottery-producing districts—Mikawachi-sarayama, Enaga-sarayama, and Kihara-sarayama—where Mikawachi ware was produced. Potters continue to produce ceramics today in the area, where you can find the sites of former kilns, kiln-brick walls, brick smokestacks, rows of antiquated houses, and old-fashioned roads. In addition to the sites of the Higashi and Nishi kilns that were the official kilns of the Hirado domain, the site of the Mikawachi Ceramics Design Training School which opened in the Meiji period to pass down these exceptional techniques and the Imayoshi pottery ruins that was in operation in the Showa period can still be found in Mikawachi-sarayama, which forms the heart of this area.

19 Toso-jinja Shrine / Kamayama-jinja Shrine

Toso-jinja Shrine

19 Toso-jinja Shrine / Kamayama-jinja Shrine

Two shrines dedicated to the artisans of the past who contributed to the development of Mikawachi ware. The second-generation Yajibei Imamura (Joen), who operated the official kiln of the former Hirado Domain, is enshrined at Toso-jinja Shrine, while Korai Baba (Ei Nakazato), one of the founders of ceramic production in Mikawachi who is said to have moved potters from Imari, is enshrined at Kamayama-jinja Shrine.

20 Porcelain Production Technology in Mikawachi

Porcelain Production Technology in Mikawachi (Openwork)

20 Porcelain Production Technology in Mikawachi

This technique was developed to create high-quality, luxury porcelain at the official kiln of the former Hirado domain in Mikawachi. This technique has been passed down to potters in Mikawachi and is used in the production of various pieces today. This technique is representative of Mikawachi and involves using a bamboo spatula in openwork to create detailed designs, such as cut-out lattices and petal patterns, and a technique known as “Hakutai”, which involves shaving away material to create translucent surfaces as thin as eggshells.
Mikawachi ware also features various intricate techniques, such as chrysanthemum motif decorations, twisted patterns, and relief work, Uchiyama watercoloring techniques in which delicate landscapes are painted inside a piece, and delicate sometsuke-styles of arranged designs of peonies on pine trees and coquettish boys and girls dressed in ancient Chinese clothes.

21 Site of the Hizen Hasami Ceramic Kiln

Site of the Hizen Hasami Ceramic Kiln (Site of Hatanohara Kiln)

21 Site of the Hizen Hasami Ceramic Kiln

Site of a series of kilns at Hasami that operated from the end of the 16th century into modern times. All were multi-chambered climbing kilns. To date a total of 36 kilns have been identified. One of the major features of Hasami ware kilns is that they are the world’s largest climbing kilns that made mass production possible. Simple porcelain called “Kurawankade” spread throughout Japan mainly in the late Edo period, greatly contributing to the daily use of porcelain. The ceiling of the Chieji kiln, which opened during the Meiji period and continued to operate until after World War II with improvements and repairs, remains at this site and is a valuable reminder of the structure of a traditional climbing kiln.

22 Site of the Chieji Kiln

22 Site of the Chieji Kiln

Site of a series of kilns at Hasami that operated from the end of the 16th century into modern times. All were multi-chambered climbing kilns. To date a total of 36 kilns have been identified. One of the major features of Hasami ware kilns is that they are the world’s largest climbing kilns that made mass production possible. Simple porcelain called “Kurawankade” spread throughout Japan mainly in the late Edo period, greatly contributing to the daily use of porcelain. The ceiling of the Chieji kiln, which opened during the Meiji period and continued to operate until after World War II with improvements and repairs, remains at this site and is a valuable reminder of the structure of a traditional climbing kiln.

23 Nakaoyama Ceramic Village

23 Nakaoyama Ceramic Village

A settlement of potters that has produced Hasami ware since the early Edo period. In addition to one of the world’s largest climbing kilns and the Nakaoyama Akaikura shop that was once a residence of a ceramic wholesaler dating from the Meiji period, the village is home to a number of scenic features such as brick smokestacks and kiln-brick walls, and potters continue to operate even today.

24 Main Building from the Fukushige Residence and Former Fukko Ceramic Factory

Main Building from the Fukushige Residence

24 Main Building from the Fukushige Residence and Former Fukko Ceramic Factory

The former Fukko Ceramic Factory which produced porcelain at Hasami and a group of buildings owned by the Fukushige family who managed the pottery were both built in the early years of the Showa period. The group of buildings comprising main building from the Fukushige residence, the former Fukko Ceramic Factory office, workshop, and painting studio illustrates the aspects of a typical ceramic factory for Hasami ware. Today, the group of buildings of the former Fukko Ceramic Factory is used as a cafe and general store.

25 Technology for Forming Hasami Greenware

25 Technology for Forming Hasami Greenware

Technology for forming greenware (unfired ceramic pieces) in Hasami that will become utensils intended for daily use. During the Edo period in Hasami, techniques for forming greenware on kicking potter’s wheels was improved, making mass production of porcelain possible. Based on these techniques, new technologies have been introduced in modern times, including casting and jiggers, developing as the core of greenware production in Hizen. Even today, Hasami continues to supply greenware to the Hizen area and plays a role working behind-the-scenes in the production of the porcelain of Hizen.

26 Cold Miso Soup

26 Cold Miso Soup

A traditional local dish in Hasami of a miso-flavored soup with summer vegetables, such as cucumbers, poured over rice. This dish was enjoyed by ceramic artisans who tended and adjusted the heat in kilns during the hot summer months.

27 Site of Hizen Ware Kilns

27 Site of Hizen Ware Kilns

A group of kilns that produced ceramics (Karatsu ware) starting at the end of the 16th century. The history of Hizen’s ceramic industry begins with (Karatsu ware) ceramic kilns, which introduced the techniques from the Korean Peninsula around the 1580s, that were built around Kishitake Castle (Kitahata, Karatsu City). Soon after, this production area expanded to different parts of Hizen as potters dispersed into the neighboring regions with the confiscation of the estate of the warlord Hata of Kishitake Castle during the Japanese invasions of Korea (1592–1598) and the return of feudal lords with potters from the Korean Peninsula. These split bamboo and multi-chambered climbing kilns were all derived from technologies introduced from the Korean Peninsula. While the production of ceramics (Karatsu ware) in the Hizen has been passed down ever since the Edo period, the firing of ceramics marked the first step in this region toward developing technology for producing porcelain.

28 Site of the Kayanotani No. 1 Kiln

28 Site of the Kayanotani No. 1 Kiln

A group of kilns that produced ceramics (Karatsu ware) starting at the end of the 16th century. The history of Hizen’s ceramic industry begins with (Karatsu ware) ceramic kilns, which introduced the techniques from the Korean Peninsula around the 1580s, that were built around Kishitake Castle (Kitahata, Karatsu City). Soon after, this production area expanded to different parts of Hizen as potters dispersed into the neighboring regions with the confiscation of the estate of the warlord Hata of Kishitake Castle during the Japanese invasions of Korea (1592–1598) and the return of feudal lords with potters from the Korean Peninsula. These split bamboo and multi-chambered climbing kilns were all derived from technologies introduced from the Korean Peninsula. While the production of ceramics (Karatsu ware) in the Hizen has been passed down ever since the Edo period, the firing of ceramics marked the first step in this region toward developing technology for producing porcelain.

29 Site of the Tenjinmori Kiln

29 Site of the Tenjinmori Kiln

A group of kilns that produced ceramics (Karatsu ware) starting at the end of the 16th century. The history of Hizen’s ceramic industry begins with (Karatsu ware) ceramic kilns, which introduced the techniques from the Korean Peninsula around the 1580s, that were built around Kishitake Castle (Kitahata, Karatsu City). Soon after, this production area expanded to different parts of Hizen as potters dispersed into the neighboring regions with the confiscation of the estate of the warlord Hata of Kishitake Castle during the Japanese invasions of Korea (1592–1598) and the return of feudal lords with potters from the Korean Peninsula. These split bamboo and multi-chambered climbing kilns were all derived from technologies introduced from the Korean Peninsula. While the production of ceramics (Karatsu ware) in the Hizen has been passed down ever since the Edo period, the firing of ceramics marked the first step in this region toward developing technology for producing porcelain.

30 Site of the Yoshinomoto Kiln

30 Site of the Yoshinomoto Kiln

A group of kilns that produced ceramics (Karatsu ware) starting at the end of the 16th century. The history of Hizen’s ceramic industry begins with (Karatsu ware) ceramic kilns, which introduced the techniques from the Korean Peninsula around the 1580s, that were built around Kishitake Castle (Kitahata, Karatsu City). Soon after, this production area expanded to different parts of Hizen as potters dispersed into the neighboring regions with the confiscation of the estate of the warlord Hata of Kishitake Castle during the Japanese invasions of Korea (1592–1598) and the return of feudal lords with potters from the Korean Peninsula. These split bamboo and multi-chambered climbing kilns were all derived from technologies introduced from the Korean Peninsula. While the production of ceramics (Karatsu ware) in the Hizen has been passed down ever since the Edo period, the firing of ceramics marked the first step in this region toward developing technology for producing porcelain.

31 Site of the Nakano Kiln

31 Site of the Nakano Kiln

A group of kilns that produced ceramics (Karatsu ware) starting at the end of the 16th century. The history of Hizen’s ceramic industry begins with (Karatsu ware) ceramic kilns, which introduced the techniques from the Korean Peninsula around the 1580s, that were built around Kishitake Castle (Kitahata, Karatsu City). Soon after, this production area expanded to different parts of Hizen as potters dispersed into the neighboring regions with the confiscation of the estate of the warlord Hata of Kishitake Castle during the Japanese invasions of Korea (1592–1598) and the return of feudal lords with potters from the Korean Peninsula. These split bamboo and multi-chambered climbing kilns were all derived from technologies introduced from the Korean Peninsula. While the production of ceramics (Karatsu ware) in the Hizen has been passed down ever since the Edo period, the firing of ceramics marked the first step in this region toward developing technology for producing porcelain.

32 Site of a Hizen Ware Kiln

Site of a Hizen Ware Kiln (former Izumiyama porcelain clay quarry)

32 Site of a Hizen Ware Kiln

A group of kiln sites that operated during the initial period of ceramic production during the first half of the 17th century along with the former Izumiyama porcelain clay quarry. All the ruins at this site are of multi-chambered climbing kilns. Originally, porcelains were fired together with pottery in a pottery kiln, but the former Saga Domain abolished numerous pottery kilns that were operating across Arita in 1637 in order to organize and consolidate them into a dedicated production area. Because of this, Arita decided to shift to a production area specializing in porcelains.

33 Ceramic Founders’ Festival / Muento Festival

Ceramic Founders’ Festival (Hasami Town)

33 Ceramic Founders’ Festival / Muento Festival

A Ceramic Founders’ Festival celebrating each of the founders of the craft is held every year in May in Arita, Hasami, and Mikawachi. The Muento Festival has been held at Mt. Okawachi in Imari every April since the Edo period with a memorial tower that enshrines the artisans who founded ceramic production in the area and celebrates the accomplishments of all the artisans who have come before.

34 Memorial Service for Potters’ Tools

Memorial Service for Potters’ Tools (Hamazen Memorial Service)

34 Memorial Service for Potters’ Tools

A memorial service for the disc-shaped, disposable stand used when firing ceramics is held every May in Mikawachi, and a service for the brushes used to paint ceramics is held every November in Imari.

35 Pottery Markets

Pottery Market (Arita Ceramic Market)

35 Pottery Markets

Visitors crowd the streets of the pottery markets held in each of Hizen’s ceramic production areas every year. The week-long Arita Ceramic Market held in Arita Town from April 29 to May 5 each year has a history of over 100 years that started with the first Arita Ceramics Fair held in 1896. The style of today’s special low-priced ceramics market has been added since the Taisho period.

Arita Town: Arita Ceramic Market (April, May), Fall Arita Ceramic Festival, Arita Cup and Bowl Festival (November)
Imari City: Spring Pottery Market (April, May), Nabeshima Domain Kiln Fall Festival (November)
Ureshino City: Yoshida Oyamasan Ceramic Festival (April), Yoshida Ware Festival and Pottery Market (November)
Karatsu City: Karatsu Pottery Festival (April, May), Karatsu Ware Fall Pottery Tourism Event (November)
Takeo City: Takeo Fall Foliage and Pottery Tour (October, November)
Sasebo City: Hamazen Festival (May), Mikawachi Ceramic Market (October)
Hasami Town: Hasami Ceramic Festival (April, May), Oto Festival (April)

What is Japan Heritage?

“Japan Heritage” refers to cultures and traditions recognized by the Agency for Cultural Affairs for the stories they tell about the unique regional histories and features of Japan.
Through these fascinating narratives, Japan’s tangible and intangible cultural properties are comprehensively preserved and utilized on a regional level to be shared strategically, both in Japan and abroad, to revitalize regional economies.