karatsu P11-P24 [en]

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A Dream within a Dream

“All that Remain of Warriors’ dreams”. Hizen Nagoya Castle Ruins is a vast site with only stone walls remaining. Famous military commanders from all over the country gathered in Nagoya, and at its peak, as many as 200,000 people lived there. The purpose was to invade Korea and then the Ming Dynasty. The golden tea room was once built here by Sen no Rikyu, who mastered the tea ceremony, and was commissioned by Taiko Toyotomi Hideyoshi to astonish even envoys from the continent.

The potters brought here from the land of unfulfilled dreams passed on their superior pottery techniques and laid the foundation for Karatsu Ware. “A Dream within a dream” is a line from Hideyoshi’s death poem.

Karatsu Scenery

Karatsu Kunchi (festival)
Karatsu Kunchi is the annual autumn festival of Karatsu Shrine, held from November 2nd to 4th every year. On the occasion of Otabisho Shinko on the 3rd, the sight of 14 gorgeous floats pulled into the white sand and pulled out with the sea and pine forest in the background is a sight to behold. It is a moment that condenses the “Beauty of Karatsu”.

Niji no Matsubara (pine forest)
The pine tree is also an impressive design in Ekaratsu. About 400 years ago, the pine forest was planted by Hirotaka Terasawa, the lord of the Karatsu domain, to protect it from sea breezes and blowing sand. The pine forest stretches for 2 ri (about 8km,but currently 4.5km)and is famous as the largest pine forest in Japan. It is called Rainbow Matsubara because of its length and the way it curves along Karatsu Bay. This is truly the beauty of white sand and green pine trees.

Visiting the Lives of Potters in Karatsu

Text・8 and 2 Editing room

If you leave the south exit of Karatsu Station and walk for about 10 minutes, you will find the pottery. The Nakazato Taroemon Tobo, which created today’s Karatsu Ware, stands quietly in the center of Karatsu town. There are also ruins of a climbing kiln nearby, and you can see the history of the tradition of pottery in this area since ancient times.

Another pottery is located on a hill overlooking Niji no Matsubara and sea from Mt. Kagamiyama. A certain pottery is located near the sea. A certain pottery is quietly located in a residential area. Then another pottery manufacturer built a kiln in a place surrounded by deep greenery deep in the countryside.

Many pottery production areas have clusters of potteries, such as Arita and Imari, but Karatsu’s approximately 70 potteries are scattered throughout the vast city. There are various reasons for this, such as ancestral land or arriving in search of soil, but Karatsu Ware artist choose the best place to make pottery and create a place to express themselves. Furthermore, rather than division of labor, there is a culture where a single pottery carries out the entire process from kneading the clay to firing and, in some cases, finding the soil, digging, and preparing the soil with his own hands, which is why the individuality of the artist is so evident in Karatsu Ware.

However, rather than being an artist who creates perfect things with his own hands, he is generous in leaving the final product in the hands of others, as exemplified by the philosophy of Karatsu Ware, which is “80% on the makers, 20% on the users”. This is the artist’s looseness in a good sense, and their richness as human beings is also reflected in the vessels they create.

Karatsu’s artists enjoy food and drinks by preparing fresh local ingredients from Karatsu, and serving them on dishes they have made themselves. In other words, they are experts in living in Karatsu.


It is coated with a cloudy glaze mixed with ashes from straw, etc. It is given the name Madarakaratsu because blue and black speckles on its milky white surface. Also known as Shirokaratsu, it has a simple yet deep expression, and many matcha bowls and choko(sake) cups are also made from it.


It is a representative example of Karatsu Ware, which is said to be the first in Japan to be decorated. The pictures are drawn using Oniita (an iron solution), then covered with a transparent glaze and fired. The subjects are plants, flowers, birds, geometric patterns, etc. that are familiar to the creator, and while they are simple and delicate, they also have a powerful expression that makes them attractive.


It is fired using a black glaze that contains a lot of iron. Depending on the amount of iron contained in the soil and rocks used and the degree of oxidation, the color can vary from amber to brown to deep black. Even if you say it’s black, it produces a wide range of colors and is collectively called Kurokaratsu.


It is an inherited technique from Richo Mishima in Korea. Production began in Karatsu during the Edo period, but similar types can be found in production areas through Japan. Patterns such as seals and line carvings are applied to a semi-dry base, then covered with clay, glazed, and fired.

(Plain color)

It is baked with a wood ash glaze. Due to chemical changes in the iron contained in the fuel ash and fabric, the oxidizing flame produces a light yellowish brown color, which is called “Yellowkaratsu”. When exposed to reduction flame, it develops a blue color and is called “Aokaratsu”. The glaze that flows easily and collects on the inside of the vessel is also one of the highlights.

(Korean style)

By using two types of glazes, iron glaze and ash glaze, and firing them at high temperatures, the glazes naturally blend together, creating a picture that can be enjoyed. It is characterized by delicate colors and a variety of expressions, such as blue, purple, and yellow, which are created at the boundaries between glazes. You can often see a black colored iron glaze on the bottom and a milky white gray glaze on top.

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karatsu P1-P10 [en]

Kara no tsu

The northernmost point of Kyushu. As the name suggests, Karatsu is a port (Tsu) town heading towards China (Kara). Karatsu is close to the Korean Peninsula and has developed by being one of the first to accept people, goods, and culture from mainland China.

It has a long history, and many ruins remain, including Japan’s oldest rice paddies from the late Jomon period (about 4,000 – 3,500 years ago). In the Chinese history book “Gishiwajinden”, it was written as Matsurokoku, and it is also the origin of the word Matsuura, which refers to this region. It also appears in the “Manyoshu” and “The Tale of Genji” and has been the subject of numerous poems.

Karatsu’s pottery culture is said to have begun in the Muromachi period (1336 – 1573) due to interaction with the continent. It is said that during the Sengoku period(about 1467 – about1615), Toyotomi Hideyoshi sent troops to Korea, which led to a major evolution and the creation of Karatsu Ware.

It prospered as a coal shipping port from the late Edo period to the Showa period(about 1818 – about 1969), and while it retains the atmosphere of a castle town, it has a harmonious mix of modern the Meiji and Taisho (1868 – 1926) architecture and the retro Showa (1926 – 1989) shopping street.

Karatsu is not only s seaside town with rich food and scenic beauty, but also a culturally rich town blessed with castles, Karatsu Kunchi (festival), Niji no Matsubara (pine forest), Karatsu Ware, and other resources that have been preserved over many eras.

Freediver Jacques Mayol, known for his role in the movie “Grand Blue” was also fascinated by Karatsu and visited Karatsu many times.

Karatsu is connected to the rest of the world and has flourished in a variety of cultures, with layers of strata overlapping each era, and new discoveries and encounters await each time you visit.

Old Karatsu Ware

It was during the Momoyama period (1568 – 1600) that technological innovations occurred in the simple pottery that was baked near Mt. KishidaKe (the south of Karatsu). When Japan invaded Korea, the Korean potters they brought back with them passed on the cotinent’s latest technology. Karatsu Ware, which has become rich in style and variety, is loved by many tea masters and cultural people, and the word “Ichiido, Niraku, Sankaratsu” in the ranking of matcha bowls (Ido Ware is the best, Raku Ware is the second best and Karatsu Ware is the third best).

Karatsu Ware declined for a while, but due to the revival of old Karatsu techniques by Muan Nakazato, there are now 70 potteries working together to support the tradition and innovation of Karatsu Ware.

80% on the makers , 20% on the users

As you use it, cracks in the glaze start to emerge like patterns (penetration). It also proves that the completion of the work is entrusted to the creator and the user.

There is a saying in Karatsu Ware that says, “80% on the makers, 20% on the users”. The philosophy of Karatsu Ware is that the maker leaves a 20% blank space, and that the piece is truly completed when it is used. As you grow it over time, the soil color changes beautifully. Because it is purposefully not made into a finished product, the user will create your own complete Karatsu Ware, which becomes a one-of-a-kind vessel and reflects your individuality.

Beauty of Use

Simple lines in calm colors, Karatsu Ware may seem like an unassuming pottery at first glance. However, its true value is complete only after, the food is served, and the flowers are arranged. Overflowing with the warmth of the earth, its simple and strong texture blends seamlessly into your daily life, naturally complementing your food, and the food itself complements the tableware.

A vessel that becomes complete with use. It’s very modern. Karatsu Ware, which has continued to evolve with the user in mind, is both traditional and cutting-edge.

Life and Vessels

Text ・ Hisako Namekata

When you look at something at first glance, it may appear to shine brightly, as if it has life, even though it is just an object. Perhaps love at first sight is a moment like this. On the other hands, there are times when I suddenly fall in love with the things around me that seem to be in a rut, and I think that today they look even more beautiful than usual. Then, even though it was always a normal thing, by having warm feelings similar to love, I feel like they are also showing me that it is something special. Happy mutual love. It may be just my imagination, but in any case, having at least one thing around you in your daily life that you feel is special will increase the amount of time, you feel satisfied.

I think it’s also a blessing to be able to find a beautiful way to remove something “HAZUSHI” in your life, or find a good gap “SUKIMA” in your life. I have always felt that people with good taste are those who can control the width of their choices. You can only do this because you know the correct answer, and once you have decided and armed yourself with it, there is no more space left. The most beautiful thing may not be something extravagant, made by a famous artist, or made with advanced technology, but what you need. I feel that things that can be used freely, and freely are more useful in daily life. Even if you can’t put it into words, it’s okay if you feel. Whether it’s with person or with others, writing down a comfortable relationship with the person you’re dealing with will beautifully cultivate your days and your heart.

The origins of life are all found in nature, and nature is present in everything that humans create, even if the expressions and techniques are different. Vessels are indispensable for the most important act of human life, which is eating. We make vessels using soil and stones dug from the earth, and place the blessings of life we receive from nature on them. Vessels created with hands and hearts, connect humans and nature. Furthermore, vessels can bloom new flowers through cultural exchange. Vessels create relationships between people and allow people and nature to circulate. When you think about this, the role of pottery in your daily life becomes even more important.

In particular unlike Karatsu Ware, which is still mass-produced even today, the artist himself goes into the mountains to dig the soil and make the clay. The glaze is also often made from natural materials such as wood and straw, making it similar to plant dyeing. One of the characteristics of this work is that many artists carry out the entire process themselves, from making the clay to delivering it to the customer. Perhaps because everything is born from the earth and is made with the full blessings of nature, it seems like you can see the scenery of nature in the vessels themselves. One of the charms of these works is that they combine dignity of being made from rough clay, but I feel that the characteristics of each artist is often clearly expressed in the form of “HAZUSHI”. The more you know about it, the deeper it gets, and the gaps “SUKIMA” are like a swamp that you can’t easily escape from, so I hope you’ll get involved with it wholeheartedly.

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1022 [雲仙市] [神代] 切通、島原街道 [英]

Kiridoshi; Shimabara Road


This area was called ‘Kiridoshi’ and was so named as a road was cut through the hill here. Kiridoshi Castle, which once guarded the eastern side of Tsurukame Castle, was located at what is now Kojiro Primary School.

Shimabara Road

Shimabara Road was a major road that circled the Shimabara Peninsula during the Edo Period (1603-1868). The road from Shimabara Castle to Aino (North Road), which runs half-circularly along the Ariake Sea on the northern side of the Shimabara Peninsula to Aino, is still called the ‘Lord’s Road’ because it joined the Nagasaki Road at Isahaya on the way to Edo (present-day Tokyo) during the pilgrimage of the daimyo (feudal lord) to Shimabara. Heading west from Kiridoshi, the road passes through the mountain side of Sato Clinic to Nagahama and connects to the Isahaya direction. Heading east, it connects to the Shimabara area via Fuda-no-moto and other places.

Heading straight west, the Kojirokuji area has been selected as an Important Preservation District for Groups of Traditional Buildings and was a samurai town of the Kojiro Domain of the Saga Clan. The area still retains its Edo Period layout, with samurai residences and other buildings preserved.


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1021 [雲仙市] [神代] 淡島神社 [英]

Awashima Shinto Shrine

The shrine was constructed in 1812 during the reign of Nabeshima Shigeyasu, the 10th Lord of Kojiro Nabeshima. When it was first built the original kanji characters used for ‘Awashima’ meant ‘millet island.’ Although the shrine name retains the same pronunciation ‘Awashima,’ the kanji has now changed to mean ‘faint’ or ‘pale’ island.

The current shrine building was rebuilt in March 1992. Like other Awashima shrines around the country, it is believed to be beneficial for ‘matchmaking’ and ‘easy childbirth,’ and is particularly revered as a guardian deity for women.

It is also known for its cherry blossoms, and usually attracts large crowds in April, when a flower festival is held and performances are dedicated. On the occasion of the festival’s anniversary, folk performing arts such as ‘Furyu’ and ‘Gishi Odori‘ are also performed.


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1020 [雲仙市] [神代] 大門橋、薬師堂 [英]

Daimon Bridge; Yakushido

Daimon Bridge

Daimon Bridge, about 40m east of Yakushido, is a bridge over the Kojiro River, the boundary between the Shimabara Clan and the Kojiro Nabeshima territory. A stone bridge without railings used to be located 30m uptown from the present site, in a key shape against the entrance to the Kojiro territory. The bridge was destroyed in a major flood in 1957 and replaced in its present location.


The Yakushido enshrines the Yakushi Nyorai (Bhaisajyaguru), Jizo Bosatsu (Ksitigarbha) and the Hattengu. Yakushi Nyorai is a Buddha who helps people suffering from illness. Jizo Bosatsu is a bodhisattva who is said to have saved sentient beings from the death of Sakyamuni until the appearance of Maitreya Bodhisattva, and was built in 1723 and 1757. Hattengu, a god of fire prevention, was re-enshrined from Tanakayama in Shimokoga in 1960 due to a series of fires in the Daimon area.


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1019 [雲仙市] [神代] 伊東家 [英]

The Ito Family

The Ito Family has been a family of doctors from the Edo Period (1603-1868) to the present day. Although the residence does not remain, large trees over 200 years old, such as a magnolia tree, remain. The Ito Family was founded by Shinzaemon, the 1st generation of the Family. The 3rd generation was taken on by the Christian feudal lord Arima Harunobu as a doctor and married a daughter of the Christian warlord Yuki Yaheiji

The Ito Family moved to Hijikuro village in 1668 in their 4th generation and opened ‘Hiundo‘, where they provided medical treatment. During the Shimabara Earthquake of 1792, records show that the 7th generation of the Ito Family treated the injured and others who were forced to evacuate due to tsunami damage and other problems.

Yuki Yaheiji was from Mino (Gifu Prefecture), and served as lord of Yabe Castle when Konishi Yukinaga entered Uto Castle in Higo (Kumamoto Prefecture).

After the Battle of Sekigahara (1600), he was welcomed by Arima Harunobu as lord of Kanayama Castle. Kanayama Castle was locally known as Yuki Castle and the ruins of the castle remain.


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1018 [雲仙市] [神代] 札の元、番所跡 [英]

Fuda-no-moto; Guard Station Ruins


This crossroads used to have an official governmental bulletin board defining local laws and was called Fuda-no-moto. When the lord used the port of Hijikuro to travel to and from Edo (present-day Tokyo), he used to pass through these crossroads. In one corner of the intersection, a signpost erected in 1890 still remains, inscribed East (Shimabara), West (Nagasaki), South (Unzen) and North (Prefectural Road), respectively, indicating that this was a major crossroads in the past.

Guard Station Ruins

A guard station was established in the Edo Period (1603-1868). Guard stations were set up at important traffic points to keep an eye on passers-by, inspect shipments and collect taxes. A stone wall with a key-shaped entrance used to stand here, but was demolished when the road was widened.


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1017 [雲仙市] [神代] かなくそ原 [英]

Kanakuso Field

‘Kanakuso’ refers to the slag produced during iron-making from iron sand. Any digging in this area, whether on roads or in the fields, produced a lot of slag, hence the name Kanakuso Field. The nearby slope is called Kanakuso Slope. Iron manufacturing seems to have been actively carried out in this area since ancient times.

Iron sand, a raw material for iron-making, is believed to have been extracted from the Hijikuro River, which is also known as the Iron River (Kurogane River).


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1016 [雲仙市] [神代] エノキの木 [英]

Hackberry Trees (Enoki Trees)

Hackberry trees were planted along the Shimabara Road, and some of these trees still retain their original appearance.

It is said that in the early Edo Period (1603-1868), when all the main roads in the country were being developed and trees were to be planted about every 4km as landmarks, the shogun’s words “Yo-no-ki (other trees) are better” were misheard by his vassals, and enoki trees were planted.


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1015 [雲仙市] [神代] 種屋跡、蚕場(かいこば) [英]

Ruins of Seed Store; Silkworm Farm

Near the current Baba Settlement Centre in the Taira area, there used to be a building where silkworm larvae were raised for distribution to silkworm farmers. It is said that farmers’ daughters worked there under supervision. East of here, there was a seed store that handled silkworm eggs, and sericulture instructors were stationed there to provide guidance.

In addition, 400m to the west, along the banks of the Hijikuro River, Matsumoto Nobuteru, a native of Hijikuro, set up a silkworm-raising facility and was engaged in sericulture research. Matsumoto succeeded in the storage of silkworms by using the cold air of the wind caves in Mount Unzen. He is regarded as the person who laid the foundations of sericulture in the Shimabara Peninsula.


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