Bizen-yaki – japanese pottery from Imbe, Bizen City – is the oldest of the 6 japanese kilns from way back – and is differentiated by its lack of applied glaze. Normally, a glaze is applied to pottery which is where much of the artwork you see gets applied. With Bizen-yaki, the patterns are applied during the firing process through several methods instead – and in part this is due to the quality of the clay and the fact that it doesn’t require sealing with a glaze after firing – it’s not pourus.
It’s been described as “earthy”, and that’s one of the characteristics I appreciate about it – hence, I took the day to visit Imbe, the town where the kilns and shops that make and sell Bizen Pottery are, not too far from Okayama by train.
The town itself is fairly small, and full of shops like this one:
It’s also home to a shrine, Amatsu-jinja, which is decorated in tiles and pottery made locally.
Wandering around town, it’s hard not to notice the chimney’s and piles of wood that the various houses and shops have. While I was there, a few even had started them up.
The remains of the original kilns can be seen, this one covered and fenced off, presumably to protect it from the elements – and tourists. This was back in the day when the town fired their wares together in very large kilns on a regular annual schedule, rather than individual as it is done now.
I picked up a few pieces at two or three different places. I had seen some of the same style and pieces in Kurashiki for about the same cost – but I also found several pieces not represented there. So, if you want more selection I’d suggest taking the trip even though there isn’t much else to do. It was also not very busy and some of the shops were closed in the morning, it being a weekday. I’m sure weekends would have been busier. The way out of town followed a canal back towards the station, so I took a walk.
Back in Okayama, I (again) noticed this shop selling waffle cakes of a wide variety – always a lineup, and always tempting – kind of like the feeling you get at some Toronto subway stops when there’s a Saint Cinnamon nearby. I decided to sample the raspberry and “old cheese” variety, and wasn’t disappointed.