tourism

A Beautiful Studio-Gallery Overlooking Karatsu Bay

The Excellence of Karatsu Ware at Kentaro Kiln
Learn to Make and Use a Wood-Fired Kiln (4-5hrs)

Finished pottery made by program participants; wood-fired kilns create pleasantly surprising variations in glaze
Firewood splitting
Assembling bricks to build the kiln and lighting the fire
Pottery is fired in flames that reach over 1150 degrees Celsius
Enjoy an indulgent moment in the gallery overlooking Karatsu Bay

Built on a hill overlooking Karatsu Bay, Kentaro Kiln was opened in 2008 by Kentaro Murayama, an up-and-coming maker of Karatsu ware. Murayama collects all of the raw materials for his clay and glazes in the surrounding mountains, and has researched the ideal firing temperatures and methods for each material. Through this research, Murayama has developed a unique clay that can be fired in half a day instead of the usual two. In this completely novel pottery experience, chop firewood, build a kiln, and be a part of the moment when ceramics are born from the kiln’s flame.

  • Experience everything from chopping firewood to making a kiln, painting glaze to firing pottery, all in one day
  • Take your finished pottery home after the tour
  • Indulge in the workshop’s picturesque view, which overlooks Karatsu Bay and the Nijinomatsubara Rainbow Pine Grove
  • Enjoy and purchase Kentaro Kiln’s work at their gallery
Kentaro Murayama
Born 1978 in Karatsu City. After graduating from the Arita College of Ceramics, Murayama apprenticed under Kiyomi Kawakami and established his own kiln in 2008. He opened Kentaro Kiln on the mountainside of Kagamiyama in Karatsu City, Saga Prefecture. Overlooking the Nijinomatsubara Pine Grove and Karatsu Bay, Murayama makes pottery that honors its strong connection to the earth and local environment.
Destination Info

Pottery Loved by Tea Ceremony Masters

Karatsu ware is a pottery produced in the eastern part of Saga Prefecture and the northern part of Nagasaki Prefecture. The tradition is said to have originated in the 1580s from the Hata clan, lord of Kishidake Castle. The pottery later spread from the port of Karatsu to Kyoto, Osaka, and other parts of western Japan. It became so popular that the pottery was collectively referred to as Karatsu mono, the “things of Karatsu.” As exemplified by a common saying in the tea ceremony world that ranks pottery traditions, “First Raku [ware], second Hagi [ware], and third Karatsu [ware],” Karatsu ware is also a favorite of tea ceremony practitioners.

Foot-powered potter’s wheels are known as “kick wheels”
The Karatsu ware of Kentaro Kiln

In Pursuit of Modern Functional Beauty: Kentaro Kiln

Kentaro Murayama, the owner of Kentaro Kiln, creates a unique materiality in the kiln’s work through repeated research on clays and glaze, rooted in the traditional techniques of ancient Karatsu. With the aim of achieving a modern “functional beauty,” the kiln’s relatively simple and familiar style results in pottery that can at once be used in traditional tea ceremonies, but also incorporated into everyday life. All the raw materials that go into the vessels, such as clay and glaze, are collected on walks in the surrounding mountains.

Raw materials collected from the surrounding mountains
Murayama applies glaze
Program Contents

A Taste of Ancient Pottery-Making Techniques

First choose from a selection of unglazed vessels on which to paint your own design. Then move on to this program’s highlight, building and using a wood-fired kiln. First choose from a selection of unglazed vessels on which to paint your own design. Then chop firewood, build the kiln with bricks, and start the fire. Watch as an artisan skillfully raises the kiln’s temperature by controlling flames with the power of wind, creating mesmerizing changes to the fire’s color and sound. The colors and patterns of the pottery change depending on their placement within the kiln, along with how the flames strike each vessel’s clay and glaze. This process brings to mind the more ancient methods of pottery-making that were widespread even before the beginning of Karatsu ware.

The glaze is also made of iron collected from the mountains
Taking out a fired piece of pottery from the kiln

Enjoy a Luxurious Moment Overlooking Karatsu Bay

While your pottery is being fired, relax in the workshop with a cup of tea while enjoying a luxurious moment overlooking Karatsu Bay and the Nijinomatsubara Pine Grove. Watch the kiln’s steady flames, browse the Kentaro Kiln gallery, and listen to stories about Karatsu Ware. After firing is complete, gently shape the pottery with sandpaper to complete the process.

Taking a tea break while the pottery is being fired
Sanding the finished pottery
Tour Code GSKR01
Dates Mon-Wed, Fri-Sun 13:00~
※ Please send us your preferred date(s) through the inquiry form. We will confirm availability with the workshop and notify you as soon as possible.
Duration 4 to 5 hours
※Please note that the time required for the experience may vary depending on the weather, as it affects how long it takes for the kiln to cool after firing.
Schedule
13:00

Gather at Kentaro Kiln, reception.

13:15

Wood-fired kiln making experience (choose your favorite vessel from a selection of unglazed pottery, paint it, pack it in the kiln, split firewood, fire the ceramics, and finish the vessel). While the pottery is being fired, take a relaxing tea break at the workshop gallery while overlooking the picturesque Karatsu Bay.
※ Please note that warping and cracking may occur during the firing process.

17:30

Photos and program conclusion. Kentaro Kiln’s work displayed in the gallery can also be purchased (cash and credit card accepted).

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 4 / Maximum 6
※The tour can be held even with one participant, starting at the price of 40,000 yen. If interested, please contact UNA Laboratories by email or phone.
Meeting Place
Kentaro Kiln
1608-2 Hamatamamachi Yokotashimo, Karatsu, Saga
※For those coming to the meeting place by car, please use the free parking space in front of the workshop (fits a maximum of three vehicles).
Reservation Deadline 10 days before the start of the tour (for example, please apply by October 6th for a tour that starts on October 15th)
Payment Method Advance payment at the time of reservation (VISA, Mastercard, Amex, JCB)
Attire Please wear clothes you won’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 inclement weather such as heavy rain or a typhoon.
  • All photos displayed on the website are for illustrative purposes only.
  • Guests who are under elementary school age may attend the tour accompanied by a parent or guardian. However, UNA Laboratories and Kentaro Kiln shall not assume any responsibility for accidents/injuries that occur in the parking lot and/or during the tour.
  • 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
Mon-Wed, Fri-Sun 13:00~
※ Please send us your preferred date(s) through the inquiry form. We will confirm availability with the workshop and notify you as soon as possible.
※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
4 to 5 hours
Recommended Age
None
Price
15,000 yen
(includes tax and material fee)