When drinking green tea, Japanese people traditionally use Yunomi ceramic tea cups, tall cups with no handle. Yunomi is very unique because it has a way of displaying Japan’s artistic culture. There is a wide variety of ceramic art throughout Japan, and Shitoro-yaki, which can be found near Shimada City, Shizuoka, is one of the most authentic ceramic arts of all.
Shitoro-yaki pottery workshops use only pot clay found under the local tea plantations, with the glaze being made from wood sourced in the nearby woodlands. In true hyper-local fashion, they limit themselves to using only local materials to maintain the tradition. If one were to use materials from outside the local area, no matter how wonderful those materials might be, it doesn't qualify as Shitoro-yaki. The requirement is to keep the traditional doctrine of "local materials only".
One such workshop is the Hikoji-gama Pottery Art Studio, located in the mountains of Shimada City and surrounded by tea plantations. As you might have realized, I'm kinda a green tea fanatic, and what better way to enjoy the green tea than to drink it from a handmade cup made in the style of a local tradition? The texture of clay, somehow reminiscent of old days but also fresh at the same time, forced me to empty my mind of everything apart from the creativity of my own art. The master showed us how to form, and we imagined what we would make. The forming of the clay didn't actually take much time, because we needed to work fast so the clay wouldn't dry out and crack. In only about 30 minutes, we could see our wonderful art come to fruition.
However, this is not the end of the process. The master adds the finishing touches and detail to each creation the following day, and then everything is left to rest for about a month or so until they have finished the drying process. Afterwards, the pottery is heated up to 800 degrees Celsius for 12 hours, covered with glaze and heated again for 20 hours in the kiln at 1200 degrees Celsius. It typically takes 2-3 months for the entire process to be complete, but we can’t wait to see our tea cups, and enjoy Shizuoka tea from authentic Shizuoka teacups!
If you want to try this yourselves, I recommend getting in touch with the Local Network Service, who can arrange the visit on your behalf!
Train: the studio is a 15 minute walk from Kadode Station on the Oigawa Railway Line.
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