A common geographic characteristic of Japan’s minimal land space is that cities are formed extremely close together, creating large metropolitan areas with a lot of diversity. The Chukyo Metropolitan Area, anchored by Aichi Prefecture’s capital Nagoya in the Chubu region, is no exception, being the third largest metropolis after Kanto’s Greater Tokyo and Kansai’s Keihanshin Metropolitan Area (anchored by Osaka). While Nagoya and Toyota often receive the most attention, nestled on the Chita Peninsula is Tokoname, an ancient pottery town decorated with ceramic-lined pathways and a fortune cat (Manekineko) trail.
Pottery has been the main industry in Tokoname since as early as the Heian period, which has shaped Tokoname’s ceramic identity, where it extends deep into the roots of its cityscape. The city has been known to produce high-grade ceramic bonsai pots and incense burners, which have been used by members of the Imperial family. During this time, ceramic Manekineko fortune cats were also produced, where a dedicated trail and permanent art installation is located in the town’s main thoroughfare. Each cat represents a different greeting in Japanese, modeled after a different artistic style.
While this town maybe seen as a traditional town (Tokoname is one of Six Ancient Ceramic Kilns of Japan), Tokoname has continued to remodel itself for younger generations. The Nagoya University of the Arts partnered with the city to develop a satellite campus on the ancient pottery path, the region’s main international airport is also in Tokoname, and small contemporary studios and cafes have popped up in the area like Tokoname Store, an all-in-one workshop, ceramics boutique, and a café.
Tokoname is also home to washroom conglomerate LIXIL, where it pays homage to the history of the town’s production of clay pipes and toilets throughout the industrialization of Japan. The INAX Museum complex is a park area which houses six different museums and interactive attractions, from a Tile Museum to an in-house ceramics laboratory. Pottery enthusiasts would be able to spend an entire day here, where visitors can relax at the different dining options and do some shopping as well. Permanent and temporary art installations also make appearances at this complex, featuring local and international artists using clay as their main medium.
In terms of the local delicacies, Tokoname is known for its Manekineko cakes, which are Taiyaki-like pies filled with your choice of red bean, custard, or seasonal spreads. Suntory’s Chita Whisky is distilled in the nearby city of Chita, which is also popular for locals in Tokoname.
Other attractions in the area include a large shopping area by Aeon and Rinku, a Boat Race complex, as well as Tokai region’s international gateway, the Chubu Centrair International Airport.
For 600 yen, it takes 37 minutes from Kanayama Station in Nagoya to Tokoname Station via the Meitetsu Tokoname line.