Tokoname, a city on the Chita Peninsula south of Nagoya, is nowadays only known as the home of Central Japan International Airport. But it actually has a rich history and used to be an important manufacturer of pottery.
With only half a day to spare on a sunny Sunday in January, I decided to explore Tokoname’s Pottery Path.
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How to Get to Tokoname
I decided to drive to Tokoname by car. The drive takes around 45 minutes from central Nagoya.
But you don’t really need a car to explore Tokoname. Using public transport to Tokoname and then exploring the town on foot is actually even better. The Meitetsu line connecting Nagoya with the airport passes by Tokoname Station. The one-way train ride takes only around 30 minutes and costs 680 yen on a non-reserved seat.
If you want to visit Tokoname from the airport take the Meitetsu line to Tokoname Station. It’s a 5-minute ride that costs 310 yen. Tokoname is actually an excellent place to visit if you have a long layover at Central Japan International Airport.
Things to Do in Tokoname
To be honest, Tokoname doesn’t have too many attractions of interest to foreign visitors. Most of what Tokoname has to offer is related to pottery, and conveniently located in one area within walking distance of Tokoname Station.
The Pottery Path
For this reason, the tourism association of Tokoname came up with two walking paths leading through Tokoname. The A Course is a 1.5-kilometer-long course leading past old buildings with a lot of character, pottery shops, cafes, and restaurants, as well as pottery workshops.
The B Course is longer and less visited. It includes the Tokoname Ceramic Art Institute, Tokoname City Folk Museum and the INAX museum complex which consists of a Tile Museum, Kiln Plaza, Clay Works, Tiling Labo, and Workshop.
I was short on time and so decided to walk the A Course. I parked my car at the station, went to the tourist information located at the station and got a map of the walking course. This map is available in English as well as Japanese.
Maneki Neko Street
From the station walk along the main street, the so-called Maneki Neko Street. It is called that way because it is lined with ceramic sculptures of beckoning cats or lucky cats. Each one is very different and they are all amazing works of art.
My favorite was this one:
By the way, Tokoname is even today the biggest producer of ceramic beckoning cats in Japan. But I suppose most cats you seen in Chinese restaurants all over the world are Made in China.
Lunch at Madoyama
Madoyama is the perfect restaurant if you are looking for a delicious lunch spot or an afternoon dessert. It is housed in an old wooden building but has been renovated with great care.
The first floor is a little shop selling ceramics but also other decorative items.
The second floor is the restaurant space. With a long counter by the window and small tables in the rest of the space.
Madoyama is specialized in curries that are served with rice and a fresh green salad. Make it a lunch set and choose between hot and cold coffee or tea and one of their delicious desserts. The seasonal strawberry parfait was delicious.
Opening Hours: 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Address: 3-111 Sakaemachi, Tokoname, Aichi 479-0836
Pottery Class at Seiko
After lunch, it was time for my pottery class at Seiko one of the kilns in town. I had made a reservation in advance but they do accept walk-ins as well.
My class was said to take 40 minutes and cost 3300 yen.
When I arrived I put on an apron and was given 1 kilogram of clay. You can decide what you want to make from your block of clay. I wanted to make a plate and cup set.
Following the instructions of the teacher was easy enough and I had my plate and cup ready in no time. Since it was my first time they didn’t turn out perfectly but I was happy with my slightly misshaped cup and plate.
The last step is choosing a color form a wide selection. Because the clay needs to be fired before it can be glazed you cannot do this step yourself. Someone will do it for you and then send the finished product to your address in Japan. Alternatively, you can also pick it up again once it is finished.
Unfortunately, it takes around one month until your items are finished. If you don’t have that long in Japan there is a special course available to foreigners. Instead of taking home your own creation you can take home an item made by somebody else. I know it’s not the same but it is a nice option if you don’t have the time to wait for your item to be finished.
Shop for Pottery
The winding narrow streets of the Pottery Path are charming, as are the multiple little shops selling ceramics along the way. You can find a wide variety of plates, cups, bowls, teapots and more. Each shop has its unique character.
I especially like a shop called Tomo no Sekai or Tomo’s World. The owner makes beautiful tableware. Asymmetrical and with a mat finish these stylish items would give every home a modern touch and make any food look like a high-end meal.
TOMO NO SEKAI
Address: 6 Chome Sakaemachi, Tokoname, Aichi 479-0836
Probably the most photographed spot in Tokoname is Dokanzaka the Clay Pipe Hill, a short and steep path lined with old clay pipes on one side and big pots to store Sake on the other. Even the ground is plastered with broken pieces of clay.
The last place on my agenda in Tokoname was the Climbing Kiln an old kiln used to make pottery. Even though it is not used anymore, mainly because of the environmental impact and the hard labor that goes into firing up this kiln, there are still people living in Tokoname who remember using it in the past.
The climbing kiln was especially popular because it creates unexpected finishes on the pottery, with varying colors and textures produced.
Final Thoughts on my Tokoname Day Trip
From the Climbing Kiln, I walked back to the station along the main street, but if you have the time I recommend exploring more of the narrow and winding streets of the Pottery Path. All in all, I spent around 4 hours in Tokoname. I learn a lot about Tokoname and about Japanese pottery in the process.
If you are thinking about a half-day trip from Nagoya or have a short layover at Nagoya Airport take the time and explore Tokoname.
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In love with Japan and its amazing food, Lena wants to share her passion with the world. That’s why she started Nagoya Foodie. To teach about Nagoya, her adoptive home online through blog posts and offline through unique food tours.