One of the key reasons why Ms Buddha and I tend to plan trips on our own instead of going on tours is because it allows us to see things that less tourists may have experienced, and frankly, being an strong introvert, I tend to like places that tends to be a little more quiet than trying to plow through hundreds of loud tourists.
A little gem in Kyushu is Arita, which is a town known for producing Arita Porcelain, which is one of the older traditions in Japan, the town also hosts the largest ceramic fair in Western Japan during late April and early May of every year.
If you’re up for walking, which is what Ms Buddha and I love to do (because it creates quota for food later!); the best thing to do is to park your car at the information center and then make your way along the main road towards the shrine.
Once you’re at the information center, you can stop by to get a map, their English options are pretty limited, but a map is a map and the friendly staff will be more than happy to draw your path for you.
Given the drive from Nagasaki was about 1.5hrs, I dropped by the public bathrooms and found that the porcelain theme was already strong!
The town itself was relatively quiet, which was wonderful, and most of the shops here were not specifically manned in that when you enter, the store owner don’t normally just sit there, instead, they come out from their homes to greet you and offer their service.
About 300m from the information center, you’ll start noticing that a lot of the signs were made from porcelain as well – with one major one outlining the how the town has evolved (has English).
Quite typically, most of the stores along the road sold porcelain, with some being slightly more modern than others, each had their own distinct styles though.
If you’re planning to buy something, I suggest that you do it at the end on your way back because that way you’ll know you’ve seen most of the options available. Most of the prices are roughly the same – with some being expensive because of the maker.
One of the highlights was that one store manned by 3 old ladies offered us soup while we shopped, a great sales tactic on a cold day and we couldn’t let ourselves not buy anything.
As we finished our shopping (we didn’t have hindsight!) – we walked further to the Tōzan Shrine which was a dedication to the emperor and also celebrated the over 300 years history of Arita’s porcelain.
Before climbing the stairs, you’re greeted with a tori gate and also some works.
Once up the top however (it’s not that high, but steep) – you’ll be rewarded with more impressive porcelain features that decorate the shrine.