Okawachiyama Village 大川内山
Okawachiyama—a hidden village where Japan's imperial kilns were kept
Okawachiyama is located in Imari , Saga Prefecture , and is known as the "Village of Secret Kilns." From 1675 to 1871, it was the official kiln of the Nabeshima family of the Saga Domain, and was a representative production center of porcelain, producing high quality pottery for the Imperial Court, the shogunate and various lords.
- Scenery that resembles a landscape painting, befitting of moniker "Village of Secret Kilns."
- Impressive stands of brick chimneys and kilns
- Nabeshima Hanyo Park, located amid nature with an impressive history
How to Get There
Okawachiyama is located around six kilometers from Imari Station and takes around 15 minutes to reach by car. There is a direct bus from Imari station to Okawachiyama every 2 hours.
The Nabeshima clan of the Saga Domain moved their kiln from Arita to the steep terrain of Okawachiyama to preserve their secretive techniques, setting up a guard post at the entrance to strictly control the kiln
Pottery made at Okawachiyama was mainly produced for the Imperial Court, shoguns, and feudal lords
These gifts became known as Nabeshima-yaki
Strict control of production techniques
The Nabeshima clan ruled Saga from the 17th to 19th centuries, and therefore pottery produced at Okawachiyama was called Nabeshima-yaki.
The Nabeshima family of the Saga domain moved their kiln from Arita to the steep terrain of Okawachiyama to prevent the leakage of their secretive production techniques. They set up a guard post at the village entrance to strictly control the kiln. Here, highly skilled potters produced high-quality Nabeshima-yaki as custom ordered offerings without concerning themselves about profitability.
Potters with samurai status
The Nabeshima clan paid the potters who worked at Okawachiyama and allowed them to use their family names, just like the samurai. Although the artisans were taken care of by the clan, their work was managed by a government office with strict rules in place, including restrictions on entering and exiting the village. A pyramid-shaped monument and 880 unmarked graves is dedicated to the Korean potters and other craftsmen who worked here.
A walk through Okawachiyama
At Okawachiyama, visitors can learn about the history of Nabeshima ware, which is considered to be at the pinnacle of modern pottery in Japan. The village's present-day kilns have inherited the advanced techniques cultivated in the old kilns, introduced new techniques, bringing over 350 years of Nabeshima-yaki heritage into the present day.
Surrounded by mountains on three sides, the area is full of unexplored beauty. Nabeshima Hanyo Park, with its oddly shaped rocks, like a landscape painting, and the smoke from the kilns, create a unique atmosphere of a hidden kiln village throughout the four seasons. The village and park are a great places to stroll, where you can see and enjoy ceramic pieces embedded everywhere, including on bridges and signboards.
Ceramic art experiences
At the present-day kiln, you can not only purchase Nabeshima-yaki porcelain but also try your hand at the pottery wheel and paint your own ceramics. Make unforgettable memories of your trip by creating original tableware, including cups and plates. Special events are held in each of the four seasons.
In addition to the kilns, there are numerous other historical sites, including traditional pottery houses and the potters' unmarked grave site.
* The information on this page may be subject to change due to COVID-19.