tourism

Make Ryumonji Ware with a Local Craftsperson

Craft Pottery from the Clay and Glaze of Kagoshima (1.5hrs)

Choose your favorite glaze from blue trailed black, sansai three-color, or caramel
Certified Contemporary Master Craftsperson, Shiro Kawahara
Stir the raw soil with water to remove excess
Make vessels using the same tools used by craftspeople
Ryumonji ware can be purchased at the gallery shop

With a history dating back more than 300 years, Ryumonji ware is a representative type of the Kuro Satsuma (black-bodied ceramic) folk craft, which along with Shiro (white) Satusma, constitute the two types of Satsuma ware. This Ryumonji ware kiln, built in 1688, lies in the mountains overlooking the Sakurajima volcano. Ryumonji ware is distinct to Kagoshima and can only be produced in the region. All the ingredients for the clay and glaze are collected from nearby mountains, and are then refined and mixed locally. In this program, observe craft techniques such as clay and glaze-making, pottery shaping, kiln firing, and more. Afterwards, a craftsperson will teach you how to create your very own Ryumonji ware piece with a potter’s wheel.

  • Experience pottery at a kiln where clay and glaze are still collected and refined locally, a rare sight in today’s world
  • Observe rarely seen artisan techniques, such as clay making
  • Create an original bowl or cup with the guidance of an expert craftsperson
  • Enjoy a tea break with Ryumonji ware and sample a local specialty sweet, kajiki manju
  • A craftsperson will glaze, fire, and ship your original pottery by mail
  • Shop at a gallery filled with an assortment of Ryumonji ware
Ryumonjiyaki Pottery Union
A descendent of the Kochosa ware tradition, Ryumonji ware was founded in 1598 by a potter from the Korean Peninsula. Originally a kiln cooperative, the Ryumonji ware kiln was transformed after the Second World War into a pottery union. These days, Shiro Kawahara, a certified Contemporary Master Craftsperson, looks after the kiln along with his son Ryuhei and other relatives.
Destination Info

Aira, Kagoshima Prefecture: Living History of the Meiji Restoration

Not far from the Kirishima Hot Springs lies Aira, a land where the history of the 19th century Meiji Restoration is so entrenched that it is said to be a “sacred place for historical TV dramas.” Mossy cobblestones create a mysterious atmosphere at Tatsumonjizaka, a road that the famous samurai Saigo Takamori took on his journey southwest. Verdant Kagoshima greenery glistens behind the nearby Kinzan Bridge’s exquisite archway, built by the Shimazu family around 1890 as part of a mining business. In a land with such a rich history, the Ryumonji ware craft tradition has been around since long before the Meiji Restoration.

Tatsumonjizaka
Kinzan Bridge

Pottery Unique to Its Land

The Satsuma wares of Kagoshima can be divided into two categories: White Satsuma that uses light-colored clay, and Black Satsuma, which is made from the dark shirasu soil from volcanic regions. Ryumonji ware specializes in Black Satsuma pieces that can incorporated into everyday life. All the ingredients for its clay and glaze are harvested from local mountains and refined in the workshop. Few makers still collect raw materials in such a way. A variety of glazes make the natural beauty of Kagoshima come to life: from the brightly colored sansai (three-color) and gracefully beautiful “blue trailed black,” to the powerful presence of the dakatsu (lit. serpent) and samehada (lit. shark’s skin) glazes.

Glazes made from local materials
The bowls are lighter than they look
Program Contents

From Earth to Art: Make Ryumonji Ware with a Craftsperson

First learn about the history and unique characteristics of Ryumonji ware before observing pottery-making techniques directly from a craftsperson themselves. What you’ll see will depend on what step of the production process the workshop is completing that day, but the main contents of the tour include seeing the raw materials that go into clay and glaze, suihi elutriation (the process of refining clay), shaping vessels with a potter’s wheel, along with carving and glazing. After this, head to the doma earthen-floored workshop, a rarity in Japan, to try your hand at creating a rice bowl or teacup with a potter’s wheel. These vessels will then be glazed by a craftsperson, fired to completion, and then delivered to you at a later date. Finally, take a break with tea served in Ryumonji ware cup along with kajiki manju, a local sweet. Ryumonji ware is also available for purchase in the annex shop.

A clay refining process known as suihi elutriation
Try your hand at the potter’s wheel!
Tour Code GGAR01
Dates Monday to Saturday 10:00~ by request
※The tour will not be held on dates marked with (-) on the reservation form.
Duration About 1.5 hours
Schedule
10:00

Gather at Ryumonjiyaki Pottery Union, reception.

10:10

After a lecture by staff on the history and unique characters of Ryumonji ware, tour the workshop and learn about the producton process.

11:00

Make a small bowl or cup with a potter’s wheel. Afterwards, enjoy a break with tea brewed in Ryumonji ware and kajiki manju sweets.

11:30

Program conclusion.

Languages JapaneseSupplementary explanations in English via translation device or lecture board can be provided upon request. Please make a note in the message box during registration to request this service.※An English interpreter can also be arranged for an additional fee. Please contact UNA Laboratories for more details.
Participants Minimum 2 / Maximum 6
Meeting Place
Ryumonjiyaki Pottery Union
5940 Koyamada Kajikicho, Aira, Kagoshima
Reservation Deadline 3 days before the start of the tour (for example, please apply by October 7th for a tour that starts on October 10th)
Payment Method Advance payment at the time of reservation (VISA, Mastercard, Amex, JCB)
Attire Please wear clothes that you wouldn’t mind getting dirty
Tour Conductor None
Note about Tour Conductors There will be no tour conductor from UNA Laboratories accompanying this program. Customers are responsible for managing their own itineraries.
Please Note
  • The tour will be held even in the event of rain, barring cases of inclement weather such as heavy rain or a typhoon.
  • All photos displayed on the website are for illustrative purposes only. As the workshop is not a tourist attraction, please note that the degree to which guests may enter the workshop may differ from day to day.
  • Guests who are under elementary school age may attend the tour accompanied by a parent or guardian. However, UNA Laboratories and Ryumonjiyaki Pottery Union shall not assume any responsibility for accidents/injuries that occur in the parking lot and/or during the tour. Especially during the workshop visit, please keep an eye on younger guests as to not touch the equipment.
  • We advise taking out domestic travel insurance when participating in this tour.
Cancellation Policy 20 to 8 days before the day preceding the tour start date: 20% of the tour fee
7 to 2 days before the day preceding the tour start date: 30% of the tour fee
Day preceding the tour start date: 40% of the tour fee
Before departure on the tour start date: 50% of the tour fee
After the start of tour or no-show: 100% of the tour fee

UNA Laboratories COVID-19 Policy

UNA Laboratories is committed to ensuring the safety of our customers, staff, and community. In accordance with municipal, national, and industry guidelines for the prevention of infectious diseases, UNA Laboratories is implementing the following measures:

  1. 1. Guides will wear a face shield during tours.
  2. 2. Guests are requested to wear a mask.
  3. 3. Hand-sanitizing alcohol will be provided.
  4. 4. We will check your temperature and general physical condition at the start of the tour. UNA Laboratories reserves the right to refuse tour participation if a customer’s temperature is over 37 degrees Celsius.
  5. 5. We strive to maintain adequate social distance throughout the tour, so the maximum number of participants will be capped at six.

Travel Planning: Implementation

  • UNA Laboratories Inc. (Fukuoka Prefectural Governor Registration #2-951)
  • 3-12-22-302 Yakuin, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka-shi, Fukuoka Prefecture 810-0022
  • TEL: 092-982-7956E-MAIL: tour@unalabs.jp
  • Domestic Certified Travel Supervisors:
    Aya Tamura, Noriko Yahata, Rei Watanabe
  • Business Hours:
    9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday (Closed Saturdays, Sundays, and Holidays)
  • *Requests received outside of business hours will be processed the following business day.
  • *Domestic Certified Travel Supervisors are responsible for transactions held at the sales office that processes customers’ travel. Please do not hesitate to contact the aforementioned Domestic Certified Travel Supervisors with any questions or concerns regarding the travel contract.

Tour Information

Dates
Monday to Saturday 10:00~ by request
※The tour will not be held on dates marked with (-) on the reservation form.
※This program is scheduled to begin Spring 2021. If you would like to be notified when registration opens, please fill out the form below.
Duration
About 1.5 hours
Recommended Age
Suitable for All Ages
Price
8,500 yen (tax included; shipping costs excluded)