“Arita Ware” is one of Japan’s most famous types of porcelain. These durable white porcelain containers are ornamented with brilliant strokes of indigo blue, red, yellow and gold.
Did you know that you can search for Arita Ware at a “Treasure-Hunting” exhibition being held at a potter in Shiga Prefecture? At “Kouraku Kiln Tokuei Ceramics and Porcelain, Ltd.”, an Arita Ware spot visited by many foreigners, we experienced the fun and charm of Arita Ware treasure-hunting, and came across the story of its creation.
What is “Arita Ware Treasure-Hunting?”
Among hundreds of Arita Ware, find your favorite through “Treasure-Hunting”.
”Treasure-Hunting” is an activity that takes place at “Kouraku Kiln Tokuei Ceramics and Porcelain, Ltd.”, an Arita Ware potter with over 150 years of history. In this program, treasure-hunters search among the endless pieces of Arita Ware in the warehouse, and place their favorite creations in a box for purchase at the end of their journey.
Kouraku Kiln Tokuei Ceramics and Porcelain, Ltd.” in Aritamachi, Shiga Prefecture, where the treasure-hunting magic takes place.
There are two courses: a “5,000 Yen” course, and a “10,000 Yen” course.
The 5,000 Yen course allows treasure-hunters to pick out Arita Ware adorned with indigo blue, while the 10,000 Yen course also allows for the selection of Arita Ware ornamented with red, yellow, gold, and other brilliant colors.
The treasure-seeking thrills found in searching for your favorite Arita Ware has the “Treasure-Hunting” program winning over not just Japanese citizens, but foreign sight-seers as well. The program also will ship your box full of Arita Ware overseas.
Invented By A Brazilian Artist
Before diving into the history behind “Treasure-Hunting”, let’s first take a look at the creation process behind Arita-Ware.
The Manufacturing of Arita Ware
The beautifully indigo Arita Ware
The shape of Arita Ware is created via the molding of the main raw material of pottery and ceramics, “doudo”, or potter’s clay. When the cast has set and dried out, it is fired at a low temperature of approximately 900 °C to create a “bisque”.
After the bisque is made, gosu porcelain, a paint that provides a rough-sketch, or “shita-e”, of indigo-blue coloring, is applied. This is followed by the application of enamel to give the porcelain a glassy quality.
In the main pottery firing, known as “hon-shousei”, the piece is fired once more at a high temperature of 1,300℃, resulting in the final blue-white porcelain.
After the firing of the pottery has completed, colors outside of indigo-blue, such as red, green, yellow, gold, and others, are painted onto the piece, a process known as “uwa-e”. Arita Ware gains its brilliant coloring through this final process.
The series of processes behind the traditional manufacturing of Arita Ware is divided between multiple different potteries.
In other words, a simple piece of Arita Ware adorned with only indigo-blue porcelain can be finished via the “hon-shousei” firing process. To create a more colorful Arita Ware, the use of the “uwa-e” painting process is also necessary.
The idea of “Treasure-Hunting” came from a Brazilian artist working at Kouraku Kiln. This idea came to the artist after they had finished the “hon-shousei” firing of their pottery and were looking to sell their piece.
Finding the Beauty In A “Work-In-Process’
Mr. Pimenta, who came for a program for “artists-in-residence”
”Treasure-Hunting” came about as the creation of Brazilian artist Sebastião Pimenta. Mr. Pimenta came to Japan via a long-term “artist-in-residence” program that allows artists the opportunity to create works at many different potters.
On this day, another artist from England had been using Kouraku Kiln’s artist in residence program to reside and create works for a month. In this program, artists produce new art while staying at the on-premise lodging, “HAPPY LUCKY GUEST HOUSE”.
An English artist who makes original work, some stay for over a couple months
At the same time, Mr. Pimenta, who had been visiting from Brazil, had been searching for a place to create new pieces at Kouraku Kiln. He eventually found a warehouse containing a large quantity of ready-to-be-painted Arita Ware. Although no coloring had been applied to these piles of Arita Ware, Pimenta found the pieces “to be quite modern looking” and spoke directly with the Kouraku Kiln President about selling these works-in-process.
”unfinished” Arita Ware
At first, the conversation did not go very well, with the President rejecting the idea by stating that “these are unfinished works”. Pimenta then took pictures of the works-in-progress and uploaded them to the Internet, where they received a positive response from foreigners. After showing this response to the President, plans began to be made to sell these works.
Mr. Pimenta also recommended that the pieces should be left in the piled up boxes, rather than lining them up on tables or shelves to sell, stating that “Being able to search through all of the Arita Ware to find your favorite work will be a lot of fun”.
In January 2014, “Treasure-Hunting”, the sale of these unpainted works-in-progress finally began.
Visitors from All Corners of Japan and Overseas
Afterwards, in response to information spread by Pimenta, foreigners from countries such as Brazil, America, Australia, Argentina that were residing in Kyushu came little by little to experience “Treasure-Hunting”. As a result, Arita Ware has gained popularity and a reputation as “modern and beautiful”. The number of people visiting to experience “Treasure-Hunting” is also increasing.
A popular program amongst a variety of tourists
“Treasure-Hunting” has been picked up by travel sites, blogs, and on social media in Japan. Nowadays, not only Japanese, but Korean, Taiwanese, and other Asian nationals are coming to visit in droves. On the weekend over 100 visitors a day come to experience the fun of “Treasure-Hunting”.
The Fun and Thrill of “Treasure-Hunting”
We were given a special tour by Mr. Pimenta and shown the best way to experience “Treasure-Hunting”.
Treasure-Hunting Inventor Pimenta Shows Us Around
”Treasure-Hunting” reception hours run from 10:00 to 15:00. Once your “Treasure-Hunting” begins, you have 90 minutes to pick your favorite Arita Ware and place it in your basket. If the amount of Arita Ware you have chosen exceeds the height of your basket, you can pay an additional charge and take it all home with you.
As mentioned before, there are two courses you can choose from. You can take a walk through the warehouse before making a decision on which course to pick.
“Toro Boxes” Full of Arita Ware
Upon entering the “treasure-hunting area”, you will see “toro boxes” - used in the past by the fishing industry to ship products - piled on top of one another. These toro boxes are full of Arita Ware.
Piles of Toro Boxes
Shipments for Arita Ware fits perfectly in seafood boxes, so the boxes were taken in second-hand, dehydrated, and used for shipping Arita ware. In present day, the seafood boxes are no longer utilized, however, you can feel the history of these boxes in the factories.
The Grand Appeal of Discovering Your Own Arita Ware
You Can Pick Up Your Favorite Arita Ware Here
The best part of “Treasure-Hunting” is discovering works that match your aesthetic from countless different pieces of Arita Ware. Mr. Pimenta also found himself enthralled by a piece, stating that “you can use this container to bring certain kinds of moods” while guiding us through the course.
Imagining How To Use The Containers
Usually, guests walk freely throughout the course. However, if Mr. Pimenta appears to be free, consult with him about any of the pieces you are holding. He will be sure to give you ideas about ways to use the different containers. Of course, you can also continue searching for work throughout the “toro-boxes”. Your destined meeting with a piece of Arita Ware awaits you!
Wrapping up Arita Ware While Listening to Mr. Pimenta
After you have finished your purchase, you will receive a lecture from Mr. Pimenta while having each piece wrapped in newspaper, finally placing each piece in a box. You can take the box home with you, or have it shipped to your home.
Find Arita Ware From Other Potters in the 10,000 Yen Course
Search For Colorful Arita Ware From Various Potters at the 10,000 Yen Course
We also had a chance to see the 10,000 Yen course area. As mentioned previously, this area is full of richly colored Arita Ware. When receiving Arita Ware production orders from commercial companies, Kouraku Kiln produces more works than requested in order to prevent any issues with defective products. In the 10,000 yen course, one can go hunting for these surplus top-class Arita Ware.
By the way, this area was not originally used for “Treasure-Hunting”. However, other Arita Ware potters probed if it would be possible to sell colored tableware via “Treasure-Hunting”, which lead to the create of this new course. Mr. Pimenta mentioned that “As there are many different techniques for creating Arita Ware, you will be able to find different kinds of containers and vessels that are different from what’s available from Kouraku Kiln.”
What Do Visitors Think?
On this day, a family from Yamaguchi prefecture was having fun treasure-hunting. They came to find containers to use in their new house.
Family Visits to Search For Tableware For Their New House
Regarding their treasure-hunt, the smiling couple said, ”We really came to find things for our new house, but the more you search, the more you find great new pieces. It’s really fun to find new pieces that you enjoy”. It seems that they were able to fully enjoy the 90-minute course and find Arita Ware to match their lifestyle.
Outlet Arita Ware Also For Sale at Kouraku Kiln
Outlet Arita Ware Are Also For Sale
In addition to “Treasure-Hunting”, there is a corner for regular Arita Ware goods made at Kouraku Kiln. There is also an “Outlet Corner” for goods that, while having no issue for normal use,have a slightly off-color, design, or are slightly scratched. You may be able to purchase these luxury Arita Ware products as a special price.
Experience Arita Ware Through “Treasure-Hunting”!
Arita Ware, a traditional porcelain that has a history of over 400 years, has a reputation of being treated as a luxury goods, but is also perfect for daily tableware use. Give “Treasure-Hunting” a try at Kouraku Kiln - you may find a piece of porcelain made just for you.
“Treasure-Hunting” reservations can be made here.