Pottery Experience at Gassho Mura Village – Having Fun Getting Your Hands Dirty

I never thought I would enjoy getting my hands dirty in Japan this much.  Let me share with you the famous pottery art in Japan and my experience with it.

Japanese pottery has gain popularity in the world with its beauty and elegance in shapes and colors.  Modern Japanese potters used techniques from China and Korea but perpetuated native traditions in combination with a European influence. 

Photo by ayako on Flickr.

Japanese ceramics are a great illustration of Japanese brilliance, refined aesthetics and feeling of nature and the concept of Wabi (quiet taste), Sabi (elegant simplicity) and Shibui (austerity).  It is simple, refined and contemplative.

Japanese people have a high level of appreciation for this art.  The integral part that pottery plays in the tea ceremony encourages competition among potters to produce the finest quality bowls and tea utensils. 

Pottery from Japan, dating back to 10,000 BC, is the oldest known in the world.  Pottery is made by cooking soft clay at a high temperature until it hardens. Pots are first shaped in potter’s wheel.  The pot is dried naturally and fired without glazing.  Pictures are sometimes drawn directly on the pot and finally fired at a temperature suitable for its glaze. 

Pottery making as art began in the 13th century with the introduction of Chinese and Korean ceramic techniques and the founding of kiln in 1242 at Seto, Aichi by an artisan named Toshihiro. The Japanese word for pottery and porcelain, “setomono” means “things from Seto”.

The reason why the demand for pottery goods in Japan has remained so high and become such an integral part of the culture is largely due to the tea ceremonies. I have a separate article about matcha that describes the tea ceremony.

Pottery Experience at Gassho Mura Village

Gassho Mura Village is situated in Gero, Gifu, where it is also known as one of the best three onsen towns in Japan (the rests are Kusatsu and Arima).  It is an outdoor museum that contains ten traditional Gassho-zukuri (thatched-roof houses) transferred from places such as Shirakawa-go. It offers an insight into what rural life in Gifu was like centuries ago.  One of the thatched houses is the Hida workshop where they offer pottery making, ceramic painting, commemorative tiles, and paper-making. 

It was a great sunny morning and my husband made a reservation for the pottery class before we headed to Gassho Mura which is just a few minutes away from the hotel by car.  We were six aspiring potters in the class and I was the only English speaker.  Luckily, my sensei (teacher) was an English major and he fell in love with pottery making having done it for more than 25 years.   Before we started getting our hands dirty, he explained to us about his famous works which have been recognized not only in Japan but also internationally. One of his works was displayed in a museum in Guatemala.  After that, he asked us what we wanted to create.  So for myself, since I am a fan of Matcha, I chose to create a tea bowl while my husband chose to create a cup.

He showed us first the basic techniques then he let us do our own masterpieces.  With guidance, we are able to complete our first tea bowl and cup.  It was a fun experience to create something from clay.  Our creation would still have to be dried naturally and put in the kiln after the session. The finished product would be delivered home in one and a half months.

After more than a month of waiting, our finished product had finally arrived.  I was so excited to open the box and found our products became smaller compared to the size after we molded it. We realized that it is soft clay and there is water on it so it has evaporated after being dried and put into the fire to harden it.  So the next time, we will make it much bigger.

The fee is only 2800 yen per person + postage fee.  It will be delivered in one and a half to two months.  For more information, please check here.

If you come to Gero or anywhere in Japan, don’t miss out on this fun cultural pottery experience.  I am glad I did it and I will do it much longer the next time.

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