Experience: Porcelain Painting in Arita

We’re into August now and still our furniture has yet to arrive. The promised transit time of two weeks seemed feasible, if a little “too good to be true”, but four weeks? From Kumamoto? Come on now. I can’t take eating my meals on the tile kitchen floor any longer.

It’s been entirely too hot here in Tokyo to actually leave the air-conditioned apartment, which makes it even more difficult since there’s not much enticing us to stay in the house aside from the livable temperatures. I’d love to get out and really dive into city living again but when my feet feel like they’re about to burst into flame on the walk to the metro alone, exploration just has to wait.

Our first stop on the way to Tokyo was the town of Arita, one of my favorite destinations in Kyushu. You don’t even half to be a porcelain lover to enjoy a trip around this town (though it helps). The tourism office is so helpful and the brochures and information around town SO thorough, you can’t help but come up with excuses to stay.

One fun experience you shouldn’t miss out on is crafting or painting your own piece of pottery. As we were traveling with my daughter, we decided not to invest time or money in the potter’s wheel experience. We did, however, track down an open porcelain studio (the typhoon-like conditions that Sunday meant many smaller places had closed) in the China on the Park complex just outside town.

The showroom at China on the Park
The showroom at China on the Park

The painting experience was extremely straightforward. The assistant spoke very capable English and had us begin by choosing our flatware. I picked out a coffee mug while my daughter picked out a dinner plate. We could have also gone with a small tea cup or a smaller plate.

The choice of pottery to paint
The choice of pottery to paint

The assistant explained the painting process and offered us a book of illustrations as a guide. We had five colors to choose from and there was no mixing them as it wouldn’t show up on the glaze properly. We had to be careful not to cake the paint on too thickly either, a fact that was hard to emphasize to my enthusiastic four-year-old. Lest you think this is not the activity for a young child, if we made a mistake while painting, it was very easy to wipe away the error with a cloth and start fresh.

The paint choices
The paint choices

The plates are fired and mailed to you (at least to an address within Japan) in about 7 days. Our pieces actually arrived in Tokyo before we did and we were already on our third notice from the post office! I can’t say that they’re the most valuable pieces we own, but we’ll treasure them forever. 🙂

My masterpiece :)
My masterpiece 🙂

China on the Park’s website doesn’t really mention the porcelain painting but the main brochure for Arita town has additional information.

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