Arita (有田) is a small town in western Saga Prefecture on Kyushu that is famous throughout Japan for its pottery, known as Arita-yaki. All of the town's attractions are somehow related to pottery, including kilns, multiple museums, archaeological sites, shops and even the local shrine.

The history of Arita-yaki dates back about 400 years, when Toyotomi Hideyoshi attempted to invade Korea and brought back several highly skilled Korean craftsmen to Japan. In 1616, one of these craftsmen discovered kaolin - the mineral required to make porcelain - at the site which later became the Izumiyama Quarry. Consequently, Arita became the first place in Japan to produce porcelain.

Several large scale kilns were subsequently built around Arita, resulting in great prosperity for the town. Arita's pottery was not only made for the domestic market, but also became popular in China and Europe. Arita-yaki pottery that traveled out of the nearby Imari Port would also be labeled as Imari-yaki.

Most of Arita's attractions and shops are found in the old town around Kami-Arita Station, except for the Kyushu Ceramic Museum - the best museum on local Arita pottery - which is near Arita Station. Additionally, there is a porcelain related theme park located on the outskirts of town.

Around Kami-Arita Station

Tozan Shrine

Hours: Always open
Admission: Free
The shrine was built in the mid 1600s and is dedicated to one of the most influential of the Korean potters who introduced porcelain making to Arita. The shrine is unique for having both a torii gate and statues of komainu guardian dogs made out of porcelain.

Tonbai Wall Alleys

While the merchants of Arita sold pottery along the town's main street, the potters themselves lived in the back alleys and built high walls to conceal their techniques from competitors. These walls, which can still be seen today, were made out of old bricks from the kilns and fragments of discarded pottery and porcelain.

Ceramic Museum

Hours: 9:00 to 16:30
Admission: 120 yen
Closed: Mondays (except during Golden Week), December 29 to January 3
This small museum displays a collection of Arita pottery in a two story stone building that was formerly a storehouse. One of the most interesting pieces is a large dish with illustrations of the local methods of porcelain production.

Izumiyama Quarry

Hours: Always open
Admission: Free
It was due to the discovery of kaolin stone at this site that Arita developed into a prosperous center of porcelain production. In the meantime, there is no longer any active mining at the quarry, and visitors can view the exposed rocks from a nearby observation area.

Folk and History Museum

Hours: 9:00 to 16:30
Admission: 120 yen
Closed: December 29 to January 3
Located just beside Izumiyama Quarry, this small museum covers the history of Arita with displays about porcelain production and daily life, including documents of the porcelain business and local currencies.

Tengudani Kiln Site

The Tengudani Kiln was one of the first kilns in Arita built along a slope. The 50 meter long and five meter wide kiln no longer stands, but its location is marked. A reproduction of the kiln can be seen in the Arita Porcelain Park.

Around Arita Station

The Kyushu Ceramic Museum

Hours: 9:00 to 17:00
Admission: Free (except for special exhibitions)
Closed: Mondays (except on national holidays), December 29-31
This is the best museum in Arita, providing a wealth of displays and information. Unfortunately, information in English is quite limited. The museum covers the history of ceramics on all of Kyushu, not just Arita.

Arita Porcelain Park

Located outside of the town center, the Arita Porcelain Park is a somewhat bizarre porcelain related theme park with a large reconstruction of the Zwinger Palace of Dresden. Although the park has seen better days, some of its attractions are well done. Admission to the park grounds is free.

Zwinger Palace

Museum Hours: 10:00 to 16:00 (until 17:00 on weekends/holidays)
Museum Admission: 600 yen
Closed: No closing days
The main attraction of the Arita Porcelain Park is a reconstruction of the Zwinger Palace of Dresden, Germany. There is a paid porcelain museum in its right wing. Like Arita, Dresden is famous for its local porcelain, Meissen Porcelain, produced not far from the city.

Tengudani Kiln Reproduction

In one of the park's corners stands a reconstruction of the Tengudani Kiln, whose original location can be visited in Arita's old town. At a nearby workshop, visitors can participate in hands-on pottery lessons and create their own cups or bowls for between 800 and 4000 yen.

Ratings:    best of the best    best of Japan    outstanding

Getting there and around

How to get to Arita

Read our separate page on how to get to Arita.

How to get around Arita

Most of Arita's attractions are within a kilometer of Kami-Arita Station (served by local trains only) and can be accessed on foot. However, one of the city's most interesting attractions, the Kyushu Ceramic Museum, is closer to Arita Station (served by local and limited express trains), a three minute, 170 yen ride to the west by hourly trains. Walking between the two stations takes about 40 minutes.

The Arita Porcelain Park is located on the outskirts of town, about four kilometers southeast of Arita Station, without access by public transportation. A taxi ride from Arita Station to the park takes about ten minutes and costs around 1500 yen.

How to get to and around Arita and Imari