For centuries, the artisans of the Gojo district have produced Kiyomizuyaki pottery, some of the finest stoneware that Kyoto has to offer. In 1962, the Kiyomizuyaki Pottery Complex was established. Even though the potters' kilns no longer burn here, many of the company and artisans' shops remain, holding treasures that have yet to be discovered.
Kiyomizuyaki pottery is a kind of stoneware; because of its fine appearance, it's often mistaken for porcelain
The colors in Kiyomizuyaki pottery's glaze are vivid and contain a high percentage of glass which is fired at a low temperature, making the pigments in the glass appear nearly transparent
Historically, Kiyomizuyaki pottery was made by unnamed artisans and created for export, while 17th century Kyo-yaki, another kind of Kiyomizuyaki ware, was signed by artisans and produced for domestic use
You can get to Kiyomizuyaki Pottery Complex by taking a train to Kyoto Station. From Kyoto Station, take the Tokaido-Sanyo Line to Yamashina Station. Take a bus from Yamashina Station and get off at Kiyomizuyaki-danchi bus stop.
The Kiyomizuyaki Pottery Complex is home to nearly 70 shops and companies involved in the sale of Kiyomizuyaki pottery, now known as Kiyomizu ware. Four hundred years ago, this pottery was created at the base of the nearby Kiyomizudera temple. Nowadays, Kiyomizu ware is the name that is used to describe all pottery made in Kyoto.
With the tea ceremony's rise in popularity in the 16th century, local artisans began producing cups and tools for use during the ceremony. Those with wealth and power -tea ceremony masters, noblemen, and Buddhist monks- began using Kiyomizu ware while entertaining their weatlhy visitors, making Kiyomizu ware sought after.
The artisans who first produced Kiyomizu ware learned their skills from Chinese and Korean potters. When Kiyomizu ware was brough to Japan, it was adapted to meet the sophisticated tastes of those who used it. Kiyomizu pottery is characterized by its meticulous details and sophisticated designs.
Modern day artisans who produce Kiyomizu ware continue to hand paint individual pieces with ornate designs in the same way as was done hundreds of years ago. As a result, the demand for these pieces is high, making them difficult to find.
This area has so much to offer; there is a seemingly endless amount of pottery to look at. If pottery shopping isn't your thing, you can visit workshops and learn how artisans produce their wares. If you want a more hands-on experience, you can participate in a pottery class and give throwing a pot a whirl on a pottery wheel.
If you only have a few days in Kyoto and you want to buy pottery, the Kiyomizuyaki no Sato Matsuri pottery festival is a must see. It's held on the third Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of October.
If you're after a bargain, this festival won't disappoint; ceramics are on sale at steep discounts. In addition to shopping, you can watch pottery demonstrations and indulge in local delicacies. Don't worry about the crowds; extra buses run from JR Kyoto Station to the festival.
For the ultimate in pottery shopping, check out the Gojozaka Pottery Fair held annualy on August 7th to 10th. It's the largest pottery fair in Japan and it features nearly 500 small shops spanning five city blocks.