Five Kutani-yaki Spots in Kanazawa and Kaga
【Kaga City】Circulo Tōgei Taiken Kōbō
【Kanazawa City】Hyon Noki Pottery Studio
### 【Kanazawa City】Atelier&Gallery Creava
【Kanazawa City】Toan@Kanazawa
【Kanazawa City】Yaoyoroz Honpo
More on Kutani-yaki for the Pottery Lovers

There are popular, new spots popping up all over the Kanazawa area in Ishikawa prefecture. Now, tourists come from all over Japan and the world. One of the attractions of Kanazawa are the local foods that have been passed down for centuries. Furthermore, it is possible to experience many aspects of traditional Japanese culture.
Here is an introduction to five highly recommended spots in Ishikawa where the popular Kutani-Yaki porcelain ware can be experienced.

Five Kutani-yaki Spots in Kanazawa and Kaga

Kutani-yaki sake cup

These five spots in Kanazawa city and Kaga city have been carefully selected. Each offers hands-on Kutani-yaki experiences along with relaxing shops and cafes that allow you to soak in the beauty of Ishikawa.
Every spot here is sure to make a great addition to any Ishikawa trip, so be sure to check out this list.

【Kaga City】Circulo Tōgei Taiken Kōbō

Circulo Ceramics Experience Workshop in the Yamanaka Onsen area

The Circulo Tōgei Taiken Kōbō(Circulo Ceramics Experience Workshop) is located in the Yamanaka Onsen area of Kaga City, Ishikawa Prefecture.
Today, Kutani-yaki is mainly produced in Kanazawa city, but the original production was in Kutani town in the Yamanaka Onsen area. The Kutani-yaki that was once made here is called Ko-Kutani, or Old Kutani, and the designs and colors are different from those normally seen in Kutani-yaki.

There are four types of hands-on activities offered at the Circulo Ceramics Experience Workshop: the pottery wheel, ceramic painting experience, Kutani-yaki sticker pasting, and Yukatabe-san figure painting.

Yukatabe-san figures

In the Yukatabe-san figure painting course, participants can choose a figure from several different colors and paint it however they like.
Yukatabe-san refers to the girls, usually around 16 years old, who worked at the Yamanaka onsen in the Edo period. They would show the guests to the public baths from their rooms, hold onto the guests’ yukatas(light kimonos also used as bathrobes), then return the yukatas to the guests, this work led to them being called Yukata Girls, or Yukatabe. Today, the Yukatabe-san figures are popular as good luck charms for love, improvement in the arts, and thriving businesses.

Yukatabe-san figure painting workshop

The Yukatabe-san figures at the workshop also come with a wish card stamped by a temple. The finished figure will be delivered with the card about a month after the workshop. A wish can be written on the card and then placed in the figure for good luck.
”This painting experience is great for people of all ages. During the workshop, I will be right there at your side to teach you so there’s no need to worry,” says the instructor, Aoyama-san.

The great hands-on experiences are not the only thing the Circulo Ceramics Experience Workshop has to offer. There is also the ”Kinuya” shop on the first floor where visitors can purchase original pieces and works by artists. Yukatabe-san figures are also available in the shop.

About a two-minute walk from the workshop is the café/restaurant ”Higashiyama Bonheur”, which is also known as ”The café in the woods.” It is run by the workshop manager, Nakamura-san. A popular lunch menu item is the beef stew. Be sure to grab a bite here and relax after working up an appetite at the workshop.

◆Yukatabe-san figure painting experience
・Fee:3,000 yen per person
・Length:40〜50 minutes
*The figure will be shipped within a month after painting.

◆Hear more from…:Nakamura-san(Shop Manager)
“I want people to experience the traditional Kutani-yaki craft in a fun way. At the shop, I hope to have more hand-made, one-of-a-kind original pieces. Please come and stop by.”

【Kanazawa City】Hyon Noki Pottery Studio

The hyon(witch hazel) tree on the studio grounds

Hyon Noki Pottery Studio is located in the Korinbo area of Kanazawa city. The Kanazawa castle ruins and the Kenroku-en garden are located nearby. Sightseeing spots like the old samurai residences and the Chaya district are also in walking distance, making this studio very convenient.

The name of the studio comes from the 200-year-old hyon tree (witch hazel family) standing in the yard. The studio itself is inside a 150-year-old samurai residence. The residence rooms and mud walls are registered Tangible Cultural Properties of Japan.

Mug cups that can be made in the ceramic painting experience

Here, visitors can get an authentic ceramic painting experience using the Kutani-gosai. Workshop participants use paints specialized for Kutani-yaki to create their own designs on blank porcelain wares. During the workshop session, participants are free to make as many designs as desired.

The owner of the studio, Ide-san, has over 10 years of experience and has passed the national examination to become an officially recognized Kutani-yaki craftsman. Aside from ceramic painting, he also offers classes on watercolors and kintsugi(repairing pottery with gold lacquer). Asking questions and getting involved is highly recommended.

A rented out samurai residence room

Three of the rooms of the samurai residence can be rented by the hour. Renters are allowed to bring their own food and drink, so it’s possible to eat and have tea in a tatami room before going off to the ceramic painting experience.
According to Ide-san, ”Sometimes there are unusual hyonppenings going on here.” That happens to be part of the studio’s charm. In addition to haiku readings and tea ceremonies, there are even ocarina and bandoneon performances held here irregularly. Stop by the Hyon Noki Pottery Studio any time to see the hyonppening of the day.

◆Ceramic painting experience
・Fee:2,000 yen per person+ blank porcelain ware cost
・Length:2 hours

◆Hear more from…:Ide Sachiko-san(Owner/Craftswoman)
“Come experience Kutani-yaki ceramic painting in the tranquility of the samurai residence. You’ll understand so much more about Kutani-yaki by painting it yourself than when you only looked at it. I hope you’ll come and experience it for yourself.”

【Kanazawa City】Atelier&Gallery Creava

A stylish, Western style exterior

Atelier&Gallery Creava is a complex facility in Kanazawa city where visitors can experience Kanazawa’s art by sight and touch.
Besides the atelier, there is also a gallery showcasing works by local artists and a shop where the works can be purchased.

Kanazawa city is blessed with many young artists. The owner of this facility, who is also an art collector, created it to support the young local artists of his hometown using his childhood home.

The Kutani-yaki semi-order made accessory making experience

There are many workshops offered here including the pottery wheel, underglaze painting, gosai ceramic painting, and accessory making experiences. The accessory making course ”Kutani-yaki semi-order made accessory” has just begun recently and participants can create their own original accessory with elegant subdued tones.

The process is simple. First participants choose an accessory type: earrings, piercings, hat pins, hairpins, cuffs, etc. Then they choose a design. There are many possible combinations, so every piece is sure to be unique. The finished accessory can be taken home that day, making this a low-hassle Kutani-yaki experience.

Here are two women doing the underglaze painting experience workshop.

A mother and daughter pair at the underglaze painting workshop

The mother and daughter seemed quite close as they gave each other advice and laughed with each other.
“We both like cooking and tableware, so I applied thinking it might be a nice way to leave some memories with my mom.”
”I’m so glad my daughter brought me here. This has been a great experience.” The were filled with smiles.

◆ Kutani-yaki semi-order made accessory
・Fee:2,000 yen each
・Length:30 minutes

◆Hear more from…:Fujimaru-san(Manager)
“Kutani-yaki is a fascinating porcelain ware with so many different techniques and colors. It would be a pleasure if you came and tried it for yourself.”

【Kanazawa City】Toan@Kanazawa

Toan@Kanazawa exterior

Toan@Kanazawa is a workshop located in Kanazawa city that offers an authentic porcelain making experience to beginners and advanced learners. On the first floor is the workshop, and on the second floor is a gallery space.

The workshop representative, Yoshioka-san opened the workshop by renovating a storage shed 15 years ago after studying porcelain making in Kanazawa. Students who participated in the first classes are now as skilled as actual craftsmen.

Pottery made in the hand-shaping workshop

Here, visitors can use clay from Kutani and choose from a pottery wheel experience, hand-shaping experience, ceramic painting experience, and kintsugi experience. The pottery wheel experience is the most popular with over 90% of visitors selecting it. Pottery wheel challengers can choose to make a bowl, cup, or plate.
Yoshioka-san gives lessons on how to use the pottery and on Kutani-yaki, so even pottery beginners can make superb works of art. More advanced challengers can use the 60 minutes to freely focus on making a Kutani-yaki piece how they like.

Using a pottery wheel to shape a bowl

On the second floor, there are various works of art like pottery, paintings, photos, lacquerware, and dyed silks displayed in the gallery. The works displayed are changed about four times a year. Yoshioka-san says, ”If I only display pottery, our world becomes limited to that. I want to make this a place where the people who use this space to create can get inspiration from all kinds of sources.”
There is also a café where visitors can enjoy coffee, tea, or lotus tea. A conversation with Yoshioka-san on Kutani-yaki with a coffee in hand is another great experience.

◆Pottery wheel experience
・Fee:3,500 yen per person
・Length:60 minutes

◆Hear more from…:Yoshioka-san(Representative/Potter)
“I want people to be able to experience the culture of Kanazawa and feel closer to it. Please tell me if you have any requests like a kind of pottery you would like to make or a kind of clay you would like to use.”

【Kanazawa City】Yaoyoroz Honpo

Yaoyoroz Honpo is a renovated machiya

Yaoyoroz Honpo is located in Owaricho, Kanazawa city and serves to protect the tradition of Kutani-yaki while also offering a modern, casual take on Kutani-yaki with the KUTANI SEAL experience.
The designs of Kutani-yaki porcelain are normally painted on with brushes, but at KUTANI SEAL, the designs can be transferred onto the porcelain using stickers. This brand is a driving force behind the new wave of Kutani-yaki.

KUTANI SEAL workshop

Once a reservation is made, anyone can have participate in the KUTANI SEAL workshop at Yaoyoroz Honpo. There is a wide variety of stickers that can be arranged and placed on the base porcelain. Though simple and casual steps, the finished Kutani-yaki piece will have great, fun designs with vivid Kutani colors. After the stickers are pasted on, all that’s left is to fire it in a kiln. The finished work is shipped out about a month after the workshop experience, but please note that there is no overseas shipping available.

Yaoyoroz Honpo is made up of six tenants

"Yaoyoroz Honpo is a public concept shop that opened in 2015 as a place where local creators and curious tourists could gather and meet. The six shops housed here are the café & select shop, “titi", the tableware and artwork shop, “Secca", a shop that specializes in preserved foods, “stoock", a shop featuring notable works from the Noto Peninsula, “Noto Style Store”, a shop featuring local mascot character goods, “Hyakumansan no Ie”, and finally “KUTANI SEAL.” Besides the workshops, there is also a shop where KUTANI SEAL products are sold.

◆KUTANI SEAL workshop
Fee:1,944 yen~3,240 yen(varies by base porcelain type)
Length:About 90 minutes

◆Hear more from…:Kamide Keigo-san(Representative)
“I created KUTANI SEAL because I wanted the younger generations to be able to use Kutani-yaki without reserve and wanted people to see what the transferring and hand painting methods are really like.”

More on Kutani-yaki for the Pottery Lovers

Kutani-yaki chopstick holders

Its appeal is in its vivid colors

Japan is a country that cherishes its traditions which have been passed down for many generations. Many traditional crafts are continued today in the Kanazawa area. Kutani-yaki, which was born 350 years ago in the southern Kaga region, is well-regarded by pottery fans in Japan and around the world.

A Ko-Kutani plate

Kutani-yaki is known for its gorgeous, colorful designs with a Chinese-style bird, flower, people motifs and the gosai colors(red, yellow, green, purple, and dark blue) with plenty of gold leaf added in. The brilliant style attracted attention at world fairs and Kutani-yaki began to be known as “Japanese Kutani” and loved across the world.

Tools used in ceramic painting

Kutani-yaki mainly uses clay that is made by crushing porcelain stone into powder. When baked, the clay gets a translucent quality and clangs with a high tone when tapped with a nail.
However, the most striking aspect of Kutani-yaki is its vivid coloring. First, a black paint called gosu, used to draft the design, turns into an indigo color when baked. Then, a glaze including glass components is applied and baked fired to complete the gosu underglaze. The vivid colors are painted on top of the underglaze sketch in the ceramic painting process.

When the painted porcelain is baked for the last time, the glass components in the paint melt and make the surface shine. The painted areas are slightly raised, creating an interesting texture as well.

The new wave of Kutani-yaki!

KUTANI SEAL example (left is before firing, right is after)

As Japanese homes are increasingly Westernized, new designs are popping up that go well with Western-style furniture and interiors. A new kind of Kutani-yaki that caters to contemporary lifestyles is emerging.
For example, there are now cute flower and animal designs with softer colors that go well with the white base and simpleness of the popular Nordic style. The designs can also be enjoyed by children, such as designs that incorporate Moomin, Hello Kitty, and Gundam characters. These truly belong to a new generation of Kutani-yaki.

As the times change, the traditional crafts slowly change with them. Kutani-yaki, too, is trying to be accepted in our modern world while still treasuring the techniques have been passed down and protected by the craftsmen for centuries.

Find the Right Kutani-yaki Experience for You

Many traditional crafts call the Kanazawa area their home. The hands-on experiences offered here will make a great addition to any Kanazawa trip. The spots introduced here have cafés, shops, and galleries as well as the hands-on workshops so visitors can really learn about this traditional craft. Come to Kanazawa and find the right Kutani-yaki experience for you.