Handmade warmth and attention to detail. A day of healing with Shigaraki ware and cafes [Journey around utensils vol.14]

Koka City, Shiga Prefecture.
We went on a trip to explore the charm of "Shigaraki ware", which has been popular as a pottery village since ancient times.

One of Japan's six oldest kilns, the pottery that produces Shigaraki ware, famous for its tanuki pottery, continues to make pottery by hand, paying particular attention to each step.

Shigaraki is an area where there are many cafes that use Shigaraki pottery as well as potteries.
It might be interesting to visit the filming locations of the morning drama "Scarlet," which has become a hot topic in recent years.

On this trip, while walking around the charms of the Shigaraki area, we visited the Furuya Ceramic Works, which makes pottery that is a part of everyday life.

Start your journey leisurely on the Shigaraki Kogen Railway

From JR Kusatsu Station, transfer to the Kusatsu Line, then take the Shigaraki Kogen Railway to Shigaraki Station.

From the train window, you can see tiled-roofed houses and rice fields, creating a peaceful atmosphere.
A relaxing local train journey is just so exciting!

When you arrive at Shigaraki Station, you will be greeted by raccoons of all sizes! I felt as if I had been welcomed by the lively atmosphere, like a big family.

The day I visited Shigaraki was sunny and perfect for a walk.
Let's take a leisurely stroll through the idyllic scenery.

The first place we headed to was the "Shiga Prefectural Ceramics Forest."

Learn the history of Shigaraki ware at “Ceramic Forest” & have lunch at “Gingetsisha”

Shiga Prefectural Ceramics Forest is a facility where you can enjoy viewing and experiencing ceramics.
It is divided into four areas: the Ceramics Museum, a museum specializing in ceramics, the Shigaraki Industrial Exhibition Hall, a shop and gallery, a production studio, and a plaza.

Since it is built on a hill at an altitude of 300m, you can feel the spacious atmosphere of Shigaraki.
Walk around the square while admiring the outdoor exhibits.

In the past, over 80% of the production was Shigaraki ware, and there were many displays of braziers.

We had lunch at ``Yama to Omusubi Gingetsukya'' located on the grounds of Ceramics Forest.
At this restaurant, which just opened in January 2022, you can enjoy a Japanese lunch centered around fluffy rice balls cooked in a Shigaraki pot.

The inside of the store is spacious and the sunlight shines in, creating a relaxing atmosphere.
Plants, natural furniture, and a stove blend in perfectly with the atmosphere.

We also spoke to the staff about the dishes they use and their commitment to the menu.

I also found a pottery made by "Furuya Ceramics", which I will be visiting soon!
The Shigaraki pottery was lined up neatly, making it feel like you were looking at a gallery.

You can choose from three types of lunch, from daily specials to classics.
I chose the "meat set meal".

The lunch was carefully served in a Shigaraki pottery, and each ingredient was solid and I could enjoy it while chewing.
This is an experience where you can eat small portions of seasonal Japanese ingredients.

The gentle flavors made with plenty of seasonal ingredients make this a place you'll definitely want to visit again!

Delicious cheesecake at TORASARU

After that, I went to another cafe and gallery that caught my attention.
About a 10-minute walk from the Ceramics Forest, head to TORASARU, which is located at the end of the main street and has a stylish exterior.

This shop is popular for its cheesecakes, and the shop window as soon as you enter the shop is lined with various types of cheesecakes.

After being confused, I chose "Asamiya Matcha Rare".
Local matcha and cream cheese are rich and go great with coffee! Light poured in from the window and we had a peaceful coffee time.

In addition, the gallery space is lined with cups and utensils made by the owner, including Shigaraki ware.
Just by looking at it, you will be captivated by its beautiful appearance.

On the way to Furuya Ceramic Works, we went to the Pottery Shrine, which is also known as the setting for the drama "Scarlet."

Because it is located a little up a hill, it has the atmosphere of a shrine.
You could also see the entire cityscape of Shigaraki!

After passing by the idyllic road and raccoon ornaments, we finally headed towards Furuya Pottery.

"Furuya Ceramic Works", which makes handcrafted "pottery that fits your daily life"

Furuya Pottery is located around the corner of a residential area.

A large factory and gallery, and from the back of the factory you can see the staff involved in making pottery.
We were able to observe the process step by step to see how it is made!

We also toured the factory, the attached gallery, and the new space for hosting cooking classes and events.

The person who guided us was Koichi Furuya.
I have succeeded my father and am now the representative of Furuya Ceramics.

It was impressive to hear him say with a smile, ``It can be difficult at times, but I enjoy making pottery every day, thinking about what I can do to have fun.''
Now, let's take a look at each process!

First, mold it on the potter's wheel.
We will make about 40 to 50 pieces per hour.

You'll be amazed at how it adapts to its shape in an instant.
It will be ready in no time.

There are tools to measure height, but now you can almost intuitively measure the same shape...!
While we were talking, I could see the daily efforts of the craftsmen as they moved their hands one after another.

The pieces formed on the potter's wheel are left overnight to adjust their firmness.
And then on to the cutting process.

We will make finer adjustments to the molded object.
He seems to be able to adjust the slightly rounded lines almost by feeling.

When I asked him what criteria he used for carving, he said, ``I have an image in my head, and I try to get it close to that image.''

Although there is a manual, it seems that he acquired his current sense by inheriting it from his father.

This is a cute apple-shaped pottery that is popular at Furuya Pottery.
Actually, the shape of this apple was not created out of a sudden desire to make an apple.

``If I use the potter's wheel every day, I get bored.That's why I move my hands every day, wondering if there's anything I can do.It's in the shape of a lemon or a leaf, and one day I thought, ``Why don't you do this more?'' When I twisted the top, it turned out to be shaped like an apple."

``In this way, I am forever thinking about changing the shape and improving it little by little.''
He answered happily.

Some people say it's different from what it was before, but the appeal of using pottery is that you can create something better every day, and that you can enjoy the changes that occur depending on the time of year and temperature.

The scraped pieces are left to rest overnight, and a ``white makeup'' is applied, which is a characteristic of Furuya Pottery.

This is an important process to create a white and warm pottery.

Next, we observed the ``tatara'' process.

Tatara is a technique of creating shapes using clay plates.
This technique is used to mold octagonal, square, and oval vessels that cannot be created on a potter's wheel.

Some rounded vessels can also be formed using the tatara technique.

For white utensils that you want to give a rounded, gentle impression and a gentle texture, you can create a soft atmosphere by molding them with a tatara.

Also, use a board to adjust the hardness of the soil.
Since the board absorbs water, it can be finished to just the right hardness.

This process does not need to be done, but at Furuya Ceramic Works, they ``daringly take the extra effort'' to do it.
It creates depth, changes the expression of the vessel, and creates a more natural and detailed finish.

Mr. Furuya explains this step
``If you don't do something that no one else does, you can only make the same thing.It would certainly be much easier without this process, but I did it on purpose. It's something that my father taught me.I value increasing the number of steps and putting in more effort, and then working hard to do the rest of the work as efficiently as possible.''
He said.

After bisque firing, a glaze is applied to determine the color of the pottery.
He doesn't measure the glaze each time, but rather looks at the visual sensation, thickness, and expression of the pottery after it's finished.

It is a "feeling" that can only be created by being involved for many years.

Then, after firing at a low temperature, the medicine is applied to the baked pottery with a brush.
After that, grill it again at around 1,200 degrees.

The temperature and degree of baking are not changed by the type of pottery, but by changing the glaze to suit the temperature range.

Furuya Ceramics is a workshop that is particular about ``doing the main firing twice,'' which is rare in Japan.
By firing it twice, it becomes stronger and creates a more atmospheric atmosphere than firing it once.

It is said that the process will be difficult, but you can see that a ``daring effort'' was taken here as well.

Also, if you show us the pottery after it has been fired, you can see that the finish of the pottery is different even if it is the same type.

It's shiny and the color is different.
It seems that it changes little by little depending on the finish of baking, temperature, and position in the kiln.

``The appeal of pottery is that each customer has their own preferences, including their differences, so I hope they can enjoy something with a different finish,'' says Mr. Furuya.

When exhibited at exhibitions, customers have different tastes, and if there are 5 items, many people will line up 5 items and take their time choosing while enjoying the differences.

Even though they are all supposed to be the same (pottery), you can feel the joy of choosing between them because each pottery is created one by one.

The showroom attached to the factory also has a dining table and props so that customers can get a better idea of ​​the size and design.

It was a space where I felt like I could find the perfect pottery to match the atmosphere of my home.

Finally, we were introduced to the separate space.

We hear from customers that ``I don't know how to use the containers'' and ``I don't know how to use the containers properly.''
That's when I came up with the idea of ​​something we could do: create a space that could be used for cooking classes and events.

The walls are lined with pottery made by Furuya Pottery.
You can choose freely and enjoy the food.

Our goal is to help people understand the appeal and ease of use of utensils by actually using them.

While learning about his father's commitment and craftsmanship, he has the flexibility to always incorporate new things.
This is what I felt throughout the tour today.

``If it's not fun, there's no point in doing it.That's why I have to enjoy myself first.I enjoy not only when I'm making something, but also the process of coming up with new ideas.I enjoy creating things while interacting with various people. That's right.''
He said with a smile.

We proceed with handmade manufacturing without compromising on all processes and taking the time to make them.
Even though we have a small staff, I can see that everyone is working seriously and having fun.

After touring the gallery and workshop, and hearing stories from Mr. Furuya and other staff members, my love for pottery grew even more! It's fun to watch the detailed handmade process.

Finally, go to the "Shigaraki Museum" in front of the station

At the end of our trip, we had a general review of Shigaraki ware at the "Shigaraki Museum".
Admission is free and it's just a short walk from the station, so you can stop by for a break.

You can learn about the history of Shigaraki ware and the process of making it, so it is recommended for those who want to deepen their knowledge about Shigaraki ware.

A journey to experience the attention to detail and warmth of handmade pottery

This time, we visited the Shigaraki ware maker Furuya Ceramics and learned about the process of making pottery and their thoughts on handcrafting.

In addition, Shigaraki is home to many potteries that are rooted in the region and continue to uphold tradition, as well as many wonderful cafes that make use of Shigaraki ware pottery.
It was a place that conveyed the idea of ​​conveying the charm of Shigaraki ware to the entire city.

It was a wonderful trip where I felt the warmth of handmade pottery and the warmth of the local people who use it.

You can see the Furuya Seisho pottery introduced this time here.

Furuya Pottery List Page

May you enjoy your daily meals with your favorite utensils.