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The Hidden Ceramics Town of Marubashira

  • Once covered in ancient times by the larger basin of nearby Lake Biwa, the land around Marubashira is rich in high-quality clay which has served them well over many centuries. The soil produces some of Japan’s most flavorful rice, but is also the source of material for Iga-yaki, a style of ceramics that is well known throughout Japan, but also has its closely kept secrets. The first kiln in the area was built way back in the 700s, but the style and purpose of the work has evolved over time.

    The Hidden Ceramics Town of Marubashira

    The Hidden Ceramics Town of Marubashira

    There are still dozens of ceramics producers in Marubashira, all with a fairly wide range of creative talent. Though the town is small and picturesque, it’s truly a place of production, not tourism, which makes it the perfect place to visit since its exudes authenticity and tradition. Just 15 minutes north of Iga-Ueno, it’s a great side trip after you’ve seen the famous Ueno Castle and had your fill of ninja history. That being said, unless you’re really a ceramics expert you’ll have a tough time spending a full day in Marubashira. Rather, it’s a perfect side-stop for a few hours to be able to see a true production town for ceramics in action, and since it’s only an hour away from the center of Kyoto, it’s not too far out of the way either.

    The Hidden Ceramics Town of Marubashira

    The Hidden Ceramics Town of Marubashira

    Any stop in Marubashira requires going to Nagatani-en, the largest producer in the town, and famous for their donabe pots, one of Japan’s oldest ways of cooking food and a staple of most households. A visit to Nagatani-en’s shop isn’t just to see their products, but their entire grounds which include an incredible thatched-roof house which is over 300 years old, their Edo Period climbing kilns, and a Taisho Period resting place, to have a coffee and see lots of their antiques from that time.

    The Hidden Ceramics Town of Marubashira

    The Hidden Ceramics Town of Marubashira

    You can also spend plenty of time walking or driving between the small studios and shops, though they’re open at unusual hours. For a full design experience, Gallery Yamahon has rotating exhibits and a very well-curated selection of products from all over the region, not just limited to ceramics. There’s also an attached coffee shop in a renovated warehouse that’s great for taking a break.

    http://www.gallery-yamahon.com/

    The Hidden Ceramics Town of Marubashira

    The Hidden Ceramics Town of Marubashira

    Of course, one of the best times to visit Marubashira is during their annual ceramics festivals, the first occurs during the Golden Week holiday in May with over 20,000 visitors, and the second slightly smaller one is held at the end of September. People come from all over Japan to see ceramics from Marubashira and other production towns, so this is a great way to take in a lot of the craft and culture from this area all at once.

    The Hidden Ceramics Town of Marubashira

    The Hidden Ceramics Town of Marubashira

    Regardless of when you stop by, there’s always going to be something for you to see in this little town. It’s small and quiet, but with so much history in both production and artistry that you can easily spend half a day going from place to place and just taking it easy. Combined with the picturesque terraced rice fields in the spring and summer months, it’s an easygoing place that isn’t the least bit touristy, yet very open to visitors.

    Igaueno
    Address
    Mie Pref. Igashi Mita
    Phone
    Iga Ueno Castle
    Address
    Mie Pref. Igashi Uenomarunouchi 106
    Phone
    0595213148
    Iga Ware Pottery Nagatanien
    Address
    Mie Pref. Igashi Marubashira 569
    Phone
    0595441511
    cafe noka
    Address
    Mie Pref. Igashi Marubashira 1650
    Phone
    0595441911
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