Search for your own Okinawa Yachimun that will liberate your heart [Journey around utensils vol.10]

The staff of the Uchiru editorial department visits the birthplaces of wonderful pottery all over the country on a ``Journey around Utsuwa.''
This time I visited Okinawa, a southern island with rich nature and unique culture.

The destination of the drive while admiring the autumn-colored sea is Issui-gama, a pottery that produces pottery that seems to condense the diversity of Okinawa.

A slightly nostalgic road trip in Yomitan Village, which is dotted with many potteries and is known as the sacred place for Okinawan pottery = Yachimun, and Onna Village, where you can enjoy delicious food and beautiful locations. I have enjoyed it to the fullest.

Go to Yomitan, Okinawa, the holy land of pottery

Yomitan Village, located in the central part of the main island of Okinawa, is a sacred place that cannot be missed when talking about Yachimun, and at the same time is a popular area with many famous tourist attractions, including the sunset.

Onna Village, which is next to Yomitan Village, is also one of the most popular areas in the prefecture where you can enjoy delicious food and a resort-like location.

On this trip, we will enjoy a leisurely drive to our destination, the pottery ``Issuigama'', while enjoying delicious food that will fill our stomachs and beautiful scenery unique to Okinawa!

It takes about 50 minutes by car from Naha Airport to Nagahama in Yomitan Village, where Issui Gama is located.

There is no big difference in the time it takes to get from the Naha Airport Expressway via Ishikawa IC or via National Route 58. However, traffic congestion tends to occur during rush hours, so if you are traveling in the morning or evening, we recommend using the Naha Airport Expressway.

Of course, whichever route you choose, you will pass through the seaside with a great sense of openness, so it is the best for driving!

Delicious sandwiches that look great on the sea

Start your journey with something delicious...right?

I came to "Seaside Drive-in" in Nakadomari, Onna Village.
This is a long-established restaurant that continues to be loved by many people, regardless of generation, region, or country, with the same taste and style that has remained unchanged since its founding in 1967.

The Seaside Drive-in has a takeout counter where you can feel free to stop by, but on this day we decided to go to the inside (hall) where we could take a relaxing break.

The retro, American atmosphere and the blue ocean that stretches out beyond the window will give you a comfortable feeling of time and place blending together.

I decided to order Seaside Drive-In's signature menu, ``Seaside Sandwich'' and ``Soup.''

Sandwiches and soups with lots of ingredients are both simple yet unique, but for some reason they have a nostalgic taste.
……It’s so delicious I can’t stop eating it!

These two items were actually recommended by Mr. Takahata, the representative of Issui Gama.

The Seaside Drive-In is a place where Mr. Takahata often stopped by when he was training as a pottery artist, and the unique atmosphere of the shop sometimes stimulates inspiration.

The delicious food and the calm atmosphere filled my stomach and soul.

Before I knew it, I had become a Seaside Drive-In fan.
I couldn't help but buy the sticker next to the cash register as a souvenir.

Next time, let's try other menu items!

From Ishikawa IC exit via Prefectural Route 78 About 5 minutes by car.
<Store Introduction>
Address: 885 Nakadomari, Onna Village, Okinawa Prefecture
TEL: 098-964-2272
Store HP: 
*As of October 2021, closed days and business hours have changed. Please check the store website for the latest information.

Beyond the door is another world. Arrival at Issuigama

From Seaside Drive-in, it's about a 15-minute drive along the "Onna Sunset Kaido" along the coast.
We have arrived at today's destination "Issuigama".

Issui-gama is located in a quiet residential area, just off the road along the coast.
When we opened the door to the adjacent gallery, we were greeted by a variety of colorful Yachimun.

When you open the door, you are in another world.

The colors of Okinawa are as vivid as if they were gathered in this place, and you will be captivated in an instant.
It's that presence.

``What kind of food should I serve? ” seems to be saying to you.
To say the least, it's amazing...!

As I was admiring the Yachimun lined up, I saw Mr. Shinya Takahata (hereinafter referred to as Mr. Takahata), the representative of "Issui Gama" from the workshop.

Mr. Takahata, with his reliable physique, welcomed us with a cheerful smile.
The impression of strength and gentle warmth overlaps with the style of the "Issui kiln" lined up in front of you.

A unique world view that has been gradually accumulated

The world view of Issui Gama's pottery is quite unique among the many Okinawa Yachimun potteries.

I'm sure "Issui Gama" started with a tremendous amount of "commitment"!
I thought so and asked Mr. Takahata

``The turning point was when I happened to see a notice in Okinawa during my travels around the world that said ``Yachimun Apprentices Wanted.''At first, I thought, ``This looks interesting, so I might give it a try.'' I jumped in out of curiosity (lol)."

That's a surprising answer.

Mr. Takahata said that life as an apprentice was so difficult that he once thought, ``I should go home tomorrow.''

However, the reason I have come this far is because even in the midst of hardship, there was still the joy of making things, the joy of making pottery, and the joy of making Yachimun.

At the root of his work, which draws inspiration from various everyday things, is the idea that ``What creates a work is everything that I have up until that point. It is the result of what I have done.'' .

“Even if I create a design recently, it is often an image that I had in mind for more than 10 years.The last piece that I haven’t found for years takes shape and snaps into shape thanks to the things I have accumulated. There are times when I get addicted to it.''

Whether it's the colorful and pop Yachimun or the simple yet powerful Yakijime, I feel a nostalgic sense of the passage of time in Issui Gama's pottery, which is a result of Mr. Takahata's steady efforts. Maybe it's because it's included.

Visit the Issui kiln workshop

After listening to the interesting stories, we were given a special tour of the workshop. (*Please note that it is usually not possible to tour the production site)

The first thing that caught my eye was the pile of soil sitting in front of the clay kneading machine.

Nowadays, soil is mostly kneaded using machines, but in the past, people used to knead the soil by stepping on it with their feet. Mr. Toshio Kinjo, whom Mr. Takahata studied under, is the eldest son of Mr. Jiro Kinjo, a Living National Treasure, and Mr. Jiro's father was a clay craftsman called ``Nchakunasa'' in the Okinawan language.

There is something deeply moving about thinking that such brightly colored pottery was born from this simple lump of soil.

This is a machine for rolling out soil and making molds such as square plates.

This is a container with white makeup applied.

Simply put, white makeup is a technique of coating the pottery with white clay as mud.
It was originally created to effectively use the precious white clay, which could only be collected in limited amounts and places.

This is a delicate process where the finished texture can be completely different depending on the color and texture of the white clay.
However, unfortunately, due to development and other factors in Okinawa, the amount of clean white clay that can be collected is decreasing rapidly.

These are the utensils that have been finished unglazed and glazed and are waiting to be loaded into the kiln.
This time, we got to see a little bit of the preparation process for filling the kiln.

Mr. Takahata's back as he heads towards the kiln is so cool!

Currently, Issui-gama has two kilns: one for unglazed firing and one for main firing.
It's amazingly hot near the kiln!

Finally, we observed Yachimun's traditional glaze making.
At the back of the workshop, containers containing glazes were lined up in rows.

Glaze made by burning rice husks is one of the essential ingredients for making Yachimun in Okinawa.
The glaze that was made at this time was called a transparent glaze, and it is characterized by its ability to create a glossy finish while taking advantage of the color of the base material.

When this transparent glaze is applied to a white-coated pottery, it creates the Yachimun finish that we are all familiar with.

I was very happy to see so many valuable production scenes.
Thank you very much!

Beyond creation

While showing around the workshop, Mr. Takahata laughed and said that the entire production process was fun.
It is said that it is especially important to take time to face the soil with no mind.

"Soil is the foundation for living things to live on. Maybe that's why you feel calm when you touch it."

Mr. Takahata's sincerity as he spoke with a bit of embarrassment was very impressive.

“Since I have only just stepped to the starting line, I always think that I need to forget the desperate feelings I had at the beginning.At the same time, I believe that creating is the only thing that is worth it. Because of this, I want to continue to change for the better.''

"I want to continue to take on challenges without closing off the possibilities of my work."

Mr. Takahata, who told us this at the end, always has images for new works in his head.

Issuigama's pottery is created by Mr. Takahata, who is passionate about creating new things, and by the reliable techniques of his craftsmen.

Maybe that's why we, the users, are stimulated by the imagery and can enjoy putting Issui Gama pottery on the table.

It was a trip I can't wait to visit again

After leaving Issui Gama, we finished our trip while watching the sunset from Cape Zanpa, which is about a 10-minute drive away.

The pottery and the people involved in its production that I encountered in Yomitan, the sacred place of Yachimun, were as sparkling as the beautiful nature of Okinawa.
I'm looking forward to seeing what kind of pottery will greet me the next time I visit!

You can also view the utensils from Issui Gama that we visited this time here.

Issui kiln list page

May you enjoy your daily meals with your favorite utensils.