Okinawa Tourism Information:HistoryofTsuboyaWare,OkinawanWareThatHasBeenLovedForLong

History of Tsuboya Ware, Okinawan Ware That Has Been Loved For Long

post : 2014.09.05 12:00

In Okinawa, we call pottery “yachimun.”
It is one of the most popular Oinawan handicraft arts, so you often see them or touch them, don’t you?

“Tsuboya Yachimun-dori Street” is located in Tsuboya, Naha City in Okinawa.
Tsuboya ware that was originated here has a long history of as long as 330 years.  
The quaint street arouses your deep interest in the yachimun of Okinawa and the history of the islands. 

Although Okinawa suffered tremendous damage from the battle of Okinawa in 1945, the islands fortunately escaped the major air raid.  The reconstruction of Naha after the war has been said to start in Tsuboya.

For that reason, you can enjoy not only cultural properties related to the yachimun but also the Tsuboya street that nostalgically attractive townscape still remains from the prewar era.

“Fuenu Kama,” one of the prefecturally-designated cultural properties is the only existing climbing kiln for baking arayachi (pottery without medicine) in Tsuboya.

The Fuenu kama kiln was presented by the Ryukyu royal government in 1682, when the government integrated all three pottery districts of Chibana in Misato, Takaraguchi in Shuri, Wakuta in Naha into Tsuboya.  That is the start of Tsuboya yachimun making.

Tsuboya satisfied all the following conditions: having quality clay, having water places, having easy access to carry fire wood from the port, having hilly areas for climbing kilns, being not far from Shuri, where the royal government was located.

Mainly pots and jars were baked in the Fuenu Kama.  I wonder how many yachimun were produced in the kiln for more than 300 years!

This climbing kin for jouyachi (glazed Tsuboya ware) has been here since prewar period.
As the house name is Agari, it has been called “Agarinu Kama.”

The Aragaki Residence, which is on the same premises with the kiln, is a large house surrounded by stone masonry walls.  Almost all the residence, mainly the main house remains.  As of 2014, as a nationally-designated important cultural property, it has been reconstructed for preservation. 

Tsuboya ware is majorly divided into two: “Arayachi (unglazed Tsuboya ware)” and “Jouyachi (glazed Tsuboya ware).”  Arayachi is made from the soil of the south of mainland Okinawa, unglazed, or coated with mud or manganese glaze, and then is fired at about 1,120℃ while “Jouyachi” is made from the soil of the north of mainland Okinawa, and baked at about 1,200℃.  The Jouyachi is strong and colorful because of using glaze.

Okinawan people used to use the Arayachi jar for storing miso (fermented soybean paste), beans, oil, etc.  In addition, storing awamori (Okinawan liquor) to make kuusu (the aged awamori) in the Arayachi jar producse more flavored, mellow awamori.

The Jouyachi has been especially used for eating utensils because its beautiful colors and glaze makes dinner tables gorgeous.   Which soil and which glaze are used for the yachimun brings a different atmosphere to your table!!

Tsuboya Ware has various techniques of its own including “akae (polychrome overglaze painting with red as the central tone),” which used to produced only limited number of for the royal government’s use, “takkuwasaa (decoration with additional clay on the surface),” “kakiotoshi (sgraffito)” and “sen-bori (line-engraving)! 

After main firing at 1,200℃, products are painted before being fired a second time at around 800℃.  “Akae,”which needs to have brilliant red settled on the surface goes through this process.

The elegant, dazzling red mesmerized us all the more for a good deal of time and effort.♪

Currently, 14 potteries produce their products in Tsuboya.  Please visit any of potteries to watch how they work and listen to potters, and you will be more and more drawn by the charms of Tsuboya ware, what a great deal of time and care they devote themselves to the yachimun, how much passion and deep affection they put into the yachimun, etc.

When I visited “Niougama Kobayashi Workshop” in Tsuboya, a pottery artist, Mr. Ikeno told me, “We never know how products turn out until we take out them from the kiln.  The yachimun is “a living thing”” while watching the yachimun he created.

Around Tsuboya Yachimun Street, you can find the yachimun made with fresh sensitivity by young artists as well as Tsuboya ware. 

When you walk onto an alley, there are cafes you can enjoy meals and tea.♪
As the street has a potter and a shop which provide visitors pottery making experience programs, why don’t you try making pottery?

I went to “Ikutouen” right away with my child to try our first pottery making!

The Ikutouen is one of the potters which has been making the yachimun based on traditional glazes and technique. My children were so delighted that they could experience the process making the shape of ware from soil with their own hands by using potter’s wheel.  I am sure this experience will remain in our heart.

Learning and feeling the history of Okinawan pottery, please enjoy walking on Tsuboya Yachimun Street and alleys on its both sides at a leisurely pace.

Tsuboya Yachimun-dori Street

Address: Tsuboya, Naha City
Managed by Tsuboya Yachimun-dori Street Association
TEL: 098-866-6661
(Please note: Staff members might not be able to speak English. So please ask your Japanese friend for help.)
Official Website:
(Please note: This website is written in Japanese. So please ask your Japanese friend for help.)

“The 21st Okinawa Industrial Arts Fureai Square,” for which Tsuboya Pottery Cooperative Association also exhibits their products, will be held in Ginza, Tokyo.

For 3 days from Friday, September 5 to Sunday, September 7, there will be full array of Okinawan industrial artifacts in Ginza.

For more details, please click here.
 (Please note: This website is written in Japanese.  So please ask your Japanese friend for help.)

You can find full of attractive events such as demonstration on how to make chiburu shisa (shisa consisting only of the head) and dragon takkuwassaa pot of Tsuboya ware, experience programs of making mini shisa using Okinawan red soil.

Please don’t miss this chance to get familiar with the traditional skill.

For more details, please click here.
 (Please note: This website is written in Japanese.  So please ask your Japanese friend for help.)

Okinawa CLIP Photo Writer 0173 (Reina Chinen)