In the very west of Saga Prefecture lies Arita, an old town whose pottery is ubiquitous throughout its quaint streets. As the first producer of porcelain in Japan following the discovery of kaolin clay in the region in the 17th century, this small town is now world-renowned for its Arita ware, a style of porcelain that is finished off with intricate, colorful designs. With its heart in the old town, Arita is best admired by wandering through the aesthetically designed Tonbai Wall alleys and the local Sueyama Shrine. The town is also home to the Kyushu Ceramic Museum and the fascinating ceramic theme park, Porcelain Park. Local potters also host pottery workshops and the annual Arita Ceramic Fair takes place every year during Golden Week, which runs from the end of April to the beginning of May.
Yoshinogari Historical Park, Yoshinogari Ruins
The Yoshinogari Historical Park is a site of ancient ruins dating back to the Yayoi period. While the dry moat-encircled settlement was only discovered in the 1980s, the site quickly proved to be a monumental discovery. The park houses a number of restored buildings based on remains found around the area, including dwelling sites, tombs, watch towers and artifacts that reveal how advanced this significant ancient civilization was. Just 40 minutes from Saga City, Yoshinogari Historical Park gives guests the chance to visit the reconstructed site and step inside to see reenactments of scenes from this fascinating era.
While there are a number of coastal towns in Saga Prefecture, the one place not to miss is Karatsu. Famed for its less precise style of pottery than the delicate pieces of Arita and Imari, Karatsu also offers a number of sights and activities. One of its main points of attraction is Karatsu Castle which towers over the sea atop its own mini island offering beautiful views over Saga’s northern coastline. Head north of the castle to the harbour for the Yobuko Morning Market to discover why the gastronomy of the city revolves around seafood.
In spite of the size of this small, rural town, Imari is a name that has made it big in the west thanks to the trading of Imari porcelain which began over 300 years ago. The fine pieces of porcelain, originally created in Arita, were exported across the seas to Europe via Imari Port, lending it the name Imari porcelain. The nearby pretty village of Okawachiyama also holds a number of stories of the hidden trading of pottery in this picturesque setting. Today the town is still popular due to it’s pottery shops as well as for its delectable Imari wagyu steak, a high quality marbled beef reared in the surrounding hills.
On the Higashi Matsuura peninsula to the west of Karatsu, the luscious town of Genkai overlooks the beautiful, warm Genkai Sea from its winding coastal roads. The town has earned itself national park status thanks to its bountiful nature, as well as a reputation for its seafood, with the plenitude of fish caught from the surrounding waters; notably red sea bream, yellowtail, squid and blowfish. Back up the hills off the coast lie the Hamanoura Rice Terraces, a staircase of around 300 steps for growing rice. Filled with water from mid-April until May, the submerged terraces are an incredible sight if caught at sunset.