Okinawa Tourism Information:MyChallengeReport:YachimunPotteryExperienceatIkutouen

My Challenge Report: Yachimun Pottery Experience at Ikutouen

post : 2018.09.11 07:00


To wrap up my “hands-on” series, this is My Challenge report, presented to you with great enthusiasm (and therefore, I’ll be reporting it in the tone and style as in my own column). Among the many options, I chose Yachimun, or pottery, one of Okinawa’s most famous cultures.


[“Ogawa at Work.” Photo provided by Ikutouen]



With numerous pottery studios offering introductory experiences, I decided on Ikutouen, located along the famous Yachimun Dori or “Pottery Street” in Naha. So, with name value and trust as criteria, I chose this area because of its 300-year history, and this studio which was founded in 1963. 



Having made my reservation a few days in advance, I set out on my way. The most well-known Ikutouen shop is their main shop on Yachimun Dori. Their popular products are the series of dishes and Shisa based on colors of black, white, green, blue, red, and others. The (meeting place and) introductory course was at this red-tiled dojo found along a narrow alley about 2 minutes away on foot. From the course menu (with 3 selections of “wheel” and “coloring”), I chose the Standing Shisa made by Tebineri (formed by hand). (Other selections like the face-only Shisa, plate Shisa and others are scheduled for renewal from June 2018.)



First, the staff gave an explanation on the flow. Basically, we knead the red-soil clay, form the parts large to small, join them together, and finally, decorate. Sounds easy enough. It may be easy, but each step really shows the character of the creator, which leads to “My Only One Shisa”. So, as you can see, the expressions and form really varies, depending on the tastes and preferences of the maker.



[Tips & Guidance]

-If you’re not too good with your hands, follow the directions of the staff.

-If you’re worried about the design, refer to the (huge number of) Shisa on display.

-If you’re unable to control your surge of creative energy, don’t bother looking at anything for reference, just go with your inspiration. (Which is highly recommended.)

-Have an idea on how you want the finished product to look like, and go through the steps to meet it.

-You don’t need to use all of the clay. (Actually, they give you a pretty big amount. You can always add more to increase the parts and size later, so it’s better to start small.)




1. The Body

You’ll be given a couple of small, fist-sized balls of clay. First, make the body of the Shisa which will become the base, and on the back side, create an air hole. (Note: the writer focused solely on the Shisa to look smart and fit, and completely eliminated cuteness or “pop-ness” in the appearance. The keywords to this creation: slim, realistic, detail, and sharp. So, my mission was clear: Making My Smart Shisa. Smar-Shi, for short.)


*Photos below are for illustrative purposes.



2. The Pedestal

Flatten a portion of the clay to create a pedestal and place the body. Spray some water on your fingertips or palm to smooth out the joints. Since the clay dries quickly, it’s important to keep your hands moist throughout the whole process. (Note: the writer stuck with a very plain pedestal to highlight the main body.)


3. The Legs

Knead the clay to make the four legs. First connect the two hind legs on both sides of the rear. Next, place the two forelegs. (Note: the writer made the legs in a cone-shape, with the top narrow, and the hind legs wider.)


4. The Tail

To make the Shisa cute, shape the tail wide and round. (Note: the righter, in pursuit of realism, made the tail long and slender. Of course, the fluffy tail-tip is a must.)


5. The Head

It’s important to make the head well-balanced with the size of the body. (Note: Of course, the writer believes in a smaller face size, by default.)



6. The Face

Needless to say, THE most important part. Thinking about where this Shisa would be placed, who would see it, and all other things to consider, set out to create the face. (Note: the writer focused on the fine details. For example, making two sets of eyebrows rather than the commonly seen, one set. Also, the “beard” is usually in seven parts, but the writer made nine instead, and decorated the edges in curves, a personal favorite in shapes and lines.)

                a. For the mouth, attach a narrow circle of clay to the lower part of the head.

   b. The fine details of the ears, nose, brows, fangs, mustache and beard create uniqueness to the facial expression.

   c. To say that the size and shape of the eyes, is not and exaggeration.



7. The Finish

Add the finishing touches by adding lines on the beard, mustache and other parts, using the variety of sticks available, and finally, the expressions on the eyes. Also, you can add the date, its name, your name, etc. (Note: You can draw in [^^] for the eyes than just [・・]. The writer, in pursuit of smartness, went with the contrasting, heartwarming touch with a large, powerful set of [●●].)



That concludes the whole experience. Finally, my Smar-Shi has taken shape. Afterwards, the studio will fire it up within a month or two, and when finished, they will mail it (from 1,000 yen ~), or they will contact you so you can go pick it up at their shop.



After about a month, I got a call and went back to the dojo to pick up my Smar-Shi. Finally, we’re reunited.


[My Impression]

I see. What awaited me was definitely a ♂. The glaring brown of the fired skin on Smar-Shi suggested the inner strength that wasn’t evident when he was just a lump of clay, and it reminded me of the strong men of the seas. The hard, sharp texture created a tenseness on the facial expression and the overall muscle tone, and gave a proud, dignified aura. Here was the birth of Smar-Shi, fearless and bold, true to his name but far exceeding my imagination. My mission is complete. Pat on my own back.




These days, Smar-Shi sits proudly in front of the TV with the other residents that came before him, and is enthusiastically…warding off evil? (The dust on the photo really stands out, doesn’t it?)


So that’s it for My Challenge Report: Yachimun Pottery Experience at Ikutouen. Finito.



Ikutouen, Tsuboya-Yaki Yachimun Pottery Dojo

Address: 1-22-33 Tsuboya, Naha City, Okinawa

Telephone: 098-866-8611 (Reservations required)

Hours of Operation: 9:00-17:30

(Workshop starting times: 10:00, 11:00, 12:00, 14:00, 15:00, and 16:00)

Holidays: None (Temporary closure on some occasions)

Price: Tebineri (Hand Kneaded) Shisa (Approx. 60 minutes) 3,240 yen (includes the clay and firing. Tax also included.) *Shipping charge not included.

Parking: None



*Rate is current as of March 2018.


Okinawa CLIP photo writer, Kiwamu Ogawa (Qey Word).