Thursday, May 19, 2016

China on the Park

One of the main reasons we wanted to travel to Kyushu at this time of the year was to attend the Arita Ceramics Fair, held once a year during the Japanese Golden Week long holiday, at Arita, a town in Saga Prefecture most famous for being the birthplace of modern Japanese porcelain industry, with history dated all the way back to centuries ago. In fact, this year they happened to celebrate the 400th Anniversary of Arita Ceramics  – what a great opportunity to visit the town and the fair on this special occasion.

The fair officially started on Friday, but we arrived in town a day early, trying to beat the crowd to some of the popular attractions. Our first stop was a place called China on the Park, about 15 minutes by car from Arita town center, an art gallery, park, museum, workshop and factory owned by Fukagawa Seiji (深川製磁), one of the major premium porcelain-makers in the area with worldwide reputation.

We happened to run into the super-friendly Mr Hashiyama who introduced himself as the export manager there, and volunteered to lead us into a tour of their Chujikan Gallery, with some of the antique pieces on display, including the gigantic vase that was made for the Japan Pavilion at the 1900 Paris Expo and some of the more recent works, like the ones they designed for Salone Internazionale del Mobile held annually in Milan. I am always an admirer of their designs but this was the first time I saw such a complete line of products on display – it was fascinating (and dangerous for a porcelain shopaholics like myself with the temptations of wanting to bring everything back)

Upstairs from the gallery was the tearoom with a light food and drinks menu, and served using some of their own fine porcelain tableware. It was a perfect place to chill, just to sit down and enjoy a simple piece of cake and tea.

Of course, to us the most amazing “attraction” was their outlet shop, located right next to the factory. Inside there were literally thousands of products sold at a deep discount, either those discontinued items or factory seconds. They even set up another hall specifically for the crowd coming for the fair. We literally spent hours going through aisles and aisles hunting for bargain, and probably bought more than we ever needed. That was so much fun, and to us, definitely the best tourist attraction of the entire trip! (hey, Michelin Guide agreed too by giving China on the Park an one star in the green travel guide)

China on the Park:

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