Saturday, May 21, 2016

Arita Ceramics Fair - The Real Deal

True, we had a satisfying shopping session the day before at China on the Park, but as we realized later, nothing compared to the real Arita Ceramics Fair (有田陶器市), held for the entire week starting on April 29 until May 5 this year. It’s the biggest of its kind in Japan, if not the world, with over a million visitors each year. We thought we were early enough to arrive in the town center slightly after 9 before everyone else, but most of the closer parking spaces were gone by the time we got there! Just don't under-estimate the will of eager shoppers to fetch an early bargain!

Since the whole street became pedestrian-only, even gas station turned into a makeshift stall to sell ceramic goods.
Lucky Bag is a common promotion in main stores - pay a price and you got a bagful of goodies. The catch is you wouldn't know what you are getting until you bought it
G Koubou - The one at the bottom right corner is missing - guess where that ended up? (www.arita.jp/shop/gkoubou.html)
The town center of Arita (有田), with a few blocks stretching in between two train stations (Arita and Kami-Arita), was lined with ceramics shops and during the fair, they all set up booths outside with tons of goodies offered to visitors at a discount. That’s on top of special exhibitions, and more stalls set in tents at various sites along the streets. Wanting to make best use of the limited time we spent at the fair, I studied the guidebook the night before and had specific targets in mind, essentially focusing on the finer products, and forget those 100 yen bowls and stuff which I probably could easily buy at home at a slight premium. (those were especially popular among restaurateurs wanting to stock up for their business)

Everything half price! That's my favorite word!
Factory store of Arita Porcelain Lab - I love its lines of modern and colorful design perfect for everyday use (aritaporcelainlab.com)

It’s been raining on and off for the past few days but on the day the fair started, the weather was perfect – perfectly clear sky and not a single drop of rain. We essentially started on one end of town walking downhills towards the other end and back. It’s eye-opening to see so many products on display in so many different styles – while most were tableware (cups and plates) good for everyday use, some were more like art pieces for collection, like those giant hand-painted vase. Some of them were offered at a discount, but some companies or artists also created lines of products specifically for the fair and put them on exhibit. I was extremely happy to have found a few pieces that I adore - items that I was eager to serve my food on when I got home.

Food truck selling crepes
Rice flour cake with red bean filling 
Arita-yaki Curry
Just like any fair, there were many food stalls too selling all kinds of food, from grilled chicken to sweet mocha cake. We had lunch at Arita-yaki Curry House and came home with a ceramics bowl that came with our curry rice set! Guess that could only happen here in the town of ceramics! We first thought the earthquake would deter some of the visitors from coming, but the entire street was lively and packed with people, from the time we got there early morning to late afternoon when we left.

Tozan Shrine (陶山神社) 
More at the fair at Hasami - this one at the stall of Hakusan where everything's at least 30% off retail price
As we were finishing up at the fair after picking up quite a bit of goodies, we stopped by Tozan Shrine up the steps from the main street. The shrine was famous for the torii-gate and lanterns made with the delicate porcelains. Just as you think we were done for the day, no, we drove to the nearby town of Hasami (波佐見町) at Nagasaki Prefecture, a town equally famous for ceramics-making, with another similar fair going on. We dropped by for some more shopping at one of the most famous brands called Hakusan (白山陶器) and got even more stuff. I think we don’t need any new tableware for the next 5 years – of course, knowing me, that’s probably a lie.

Arita Ceramics Fair: www.arita-toukiichi.or.jp

Kyushu + Hiroshima Travel "Series":
1. Day 2: Motsunube Treat in Fukuoka
2. Day 3: One Dish Wonder
3. Day 3: Ryokan by the Park
4. Day 4: Oysters for Breakfast
5. Day 4: Hiroshima's Okonomiyaki
6. Day 4: Three Stars in Hiroshima
7. Day 5: Abalone Cuisine in Karatsu
8. Day 6: Top Morning Market? What?
9. Day 6: Hip Ryokan in Ureshino
10. Day 6: China on the Park
11. Day 7: Arita Ceramics Fair - The Real Deal
12. Day 8: Seiromushi Pit Stop
13. Flickr Album: Kyushu + Hiroshima 2016
14. Flickr Album: Food from Kyushu + Hiroshima Trip


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