The largest festival in Mikawachi, dedicated to Sugawara Michizane, is known as Mikawachi Okunchi. Its name originates in the fact that kunchi means day 9 in ancient China odd numbers were considered positive and even numbers negative, so the largest single-digit odd number 9 was selected for festival dates. Nagasaki Kunchi festival, held on the 9th day of the 9th month of the old calendar, is well known; Mikawachi was formerly part of the Hirado Domain and so brought its festival date in line with Hirado Kunchi in late October.
At festival time, sacred ropes are hung all around the streets where the deities pass through the Mikawachi pottery-producing region. On the eve of the main festival shrines hold religious services and the Hirado Kagura (Shinto dance and music) is performed. On the main festival day there is a religious service, kagura dancing, and sea bream, pink-and-white rice cakes, and agricultural products are offered to the gods. A lively procession parades around the area, the central palanquin transporting the deity accompanied by sword-bearers, comedians, festival floats and dancers. Prayers are offered at all large and small shrines en route, local representatives pay their respects at the shrine, special presentations of kagura and dance take place, and the deities are returned to their resting place on the same day.
HAMAZEN FESTIVAL - May 1-5 annually
The hama is a ceramic support, placed under pots when they are fired in order to prevent them from warping in the kiln. After one firing, the hama's role is over and they are discarded. Since 1968 the Hamazen Festival has been held to conduct a ceremony of gratitude to the hama, and to foster interaction between the ceramics workshops and the local community. The term hamazen originates in the fact that the hama resembles a four-legged tray for festive food called ozen.
At the Pottery Shrine, Tōso Jinja, Imamura Yajibē, the son of Imamura Sannojō who established the daimyō-sponsored kiln of Mikawachi, is enshrined as a deity; the Imamura Family holds the Tōso Festival in his honour on April 15th. The Hamazen Festival follows in this tradition.
On the first day of the festival, newly made hama are offered to the shrine, and a service is conducted. During the festival period all the local kilns studios hold exhibitions and sales. Visitors walk around many historic sites and pottery workshops, and enjoy shopping for ceramics.
THE CERAMICS FAIR -around October 10 annually
Held every year in early October in the square in front of Mikawachi Pottery Traditional Industry Hall in Mikawachi Honmachi. More than 30 special tents are set up by pottery studios and traders selling more than 20,000 items ranging from everyday utensils to art objects at low prices. There are also popular events like a lottery and ceramics auction, and the town is buzzing with shoppers.
Pottery workshops line up next year's new products
Mikawachi - Things to See and Learn
Mikawachi-ware Museum / Mikawachi-ware Traditional Industry Hall
Outstanding Mikawachi works, old and new, are displayed under one roof
Here visitors can appreciate both Mikawachi's history and modern Mikawachi Ware, with an exhibition room showing pieces from every era from the 17th to the mid 20th centuries, alongside a space devoted to the present-day pottery studios. As well as the jars, platters and vases one would expect, there are fragments from the era of pre-porcelaneous pottery, Edo period (1603- 1868) tea ware and hand-crafted ornaments, and very unusual works decorated with overglaze enamels not found elsewhere.
There is also an area for visitors to try painting on pottery, and openwork.
Address | 343 Mikawachi Honmachi, Sasebo City, Nagasaki prefecture. Tel | 0956-30-8080 Opening hours | 9:00 - 17:00 Closed | Dec 29th -Jan 3rd Admission | Free.
Items are displayed from the founding of Mikawachi Ware, through the era of the official kilns, to the late 19th and early 20th centuries
In the modern exhibit room one can see items from each pottery studio
The large parking lot enables visitors to leave their cars here while they explore the town
Sasebo Museum of the History of the Vessel
From the pre-Mikawachi Ware era to the acquisition of tools
The world's oldest earthenware, featuring a "bean applique design," is estimated to be 12,000 - 13,000 years old, and was excavated here in the Sasebo City area. This museum shows the progression from early earthenware to the era of glazed pottery, to the age of porcelain vessels. Valuable pottery fragments give visitors a picture of Mikawachi ware history before porcelain production began.
The exhibition also explains this region's unique production processes using tools from previous eras, a model climbing kiln, and visual images.
Address | 289-1 Mikawachi Honmachi, Sasebo City, Nagasaki prefecture. Tel | 0956-30-6565 Opening hours | 9:00 - 17:00 Closed | New Year's Holiday Admission | Free.
A very easy-to-follow display, with a chronology of Mikawachi Ware
Points of Interest
At the time of the Japanese invasions of Korea at the end of the 16th century, one Korean potter, Kōrai Baba, married into the family of Nakazato Moemon from Karatsu in Saga prefecture, and founded a pottery-making workshop here at Nagahayama in Mikawachi in 1622. This marked the beginning of Mikawachi as a pottery-making region. The workshop went on to become the first daimyō-sponsored kiln, where Imamura Yajibē (Joen) produced the first porcelain. It has remained at the heart of the Mikawachi pottery making region ever since.
In this region are very important ancient kiln sites like Yoshi-no-Motogama and Yanagi-no-Motogama, built by potters who moved from Karatsu between 1596 and 1644. These illustrate the initial phase of Mikawachi Ware, when pottery making shifted from iron-painted stoneware to porcelain.
In 1643 administrative branch offices for the pottery were set up here at Enaga and at Kihara. At that time the potters made porcelain for export; they later expanded to produce hakeme bowls (with decorative brushstrokes) for the domestic market, and general-use porcelain.