Mashiko Town (Mashiko-machi)

If you’re into pottery, Mashiko Town (益子町, Mashiko-machi) is the place to go in Tochigi. Mashiko is located in the southeastern part of the prefecture where there are over 300 kilns throughout the city. According to history, Otsuka Keizaburo was the potter responsible for creating a unique style of pottery in 1853. A semi-annual Pottery market attracts many visitors from various parts of Japan. It is held each spring and fall. If you visit the Pottery Center, you can study the various types of pottery and then sit at a potter’s wheel and give it a try yourself.

Mashiko, a small town located sixty miles north of Tokyo in Tochigi prefecture, is known throughout Japan for its Mashiko-yaki, a distinctive, country-style pottery. The traditional craft items in Tochigi include Mashiko pottery, the lacquer ware and woodwork of Nikko. In Mashiko-cho (Mashiko Town), there are more than 150 kilns of Mashiko-yaki, pottery decorated with simple patterns, which traces its history back 140 years. Take a walk in the Yamamoto and Ogoto areas to enjoy the charm of farming village.

First founded in 1853, Mashiko pottery utilizes the nearby mountain clay and red pine wood for crafting such items as plates, bowls, and teacups. Shoji Hamada (1894-1978), who settled and established his kiln in the town in the 1920s, is responsible for bringing the pottery to the attention of the world. A central figure in the Folk Art Movement, Hamada dedicated himself to preserving and passing on the traditional pottery techniques. The term mingei or folk art describes the simple art made by craftsmen centuries ago who, without artistic aim or pretense, created functional objects of great beauty. Mashiko-yaki exemplifies the rustic charm and warmth of mingei pottery. Artists such as Hamada sought to create works that spoke to the spiritual and practical needs of life. Hamada was designated a Living National Treasure in 1955.

Other potters continue the mingei tradition. Tatsuzo Shimaoka (b. 1919), who apprenticed with Hamada for three years, was appointed a Living National Treasure by the Japanese government in 1996 for his extraordinary range of work using a variety of clays, impressed designs, and firing techniques. Masayuki Miyajima, who apprenticed with Shimaoka for five years, continues the mingei tradition. Miyajima’s wife Darice Veri, a native of Ohio, moved to Mashiko in 1982 to pursue her interest in Hamada’s pottery. She and Miyajima later established their own kiln in the area.

Husband and wife work closely together while maintaining their own styles, creating pottery that is a blend of both modern and traditional. Miyajima might create straw wrapped stoneware while Veri uses a Japanese comb to form lines mimicking those found in rice fields prior to harvest. Their style is described in Veri’s words:

“We both use several different kinds of high fire (2300° F) stoneware and porcelain clays. At least half of the clay we use comes directly from Mashiko. The majority of our production is done on traditional style Japanese kick wheels. We have a gas kiln and fire to cone 9. We use a variety of glazes and glazing techniques – clear glaze, ash glaze, nuka glaze (white glaze made from the ash of rice husks), celadon, and black glaze. We do a lot of faceting and carving and use different colors of slips, or liquid clay. Mostly the slips are used for inlay work, wherein a piece is carved and inlayed with a different color of slip/clay and then, when hardened up somewhat, trimmed away to reveal the design or pattern. What we make is always entirely functional with the focus being on tableware.”

Whereas in the past Mashiko pottery was believed to eschew artistry apart from the everyday life, today the Mashiko style celebrates a versatility of vision that encourages the experimental while still prizing the practical beauty of the everyday.

  • Mashiko Town (Mashiko-machi) Tourist Essential Addresses and Links:

    • The Mashiko Reference Collection Museum/Mashiko Museum of Ceramic Art Center in Togei Messe/Jonaizaka Avenue)

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    In Ceramic-Art-Messe Mashiko, a theme park of pottery, you can enjoy the exhibition of works by Shoji Hamada and others. You can find the works of modern ceramists, too. There is a pottery studio at the site where you can try your hand at making pottery and painting it yourself. Mashiko Museum of Ceramic Art / Ceramic Art Messe Mashiko is located inside Togei-no-Oka (ceramic hill) Park in Mashiko town center.In Mashiko Sanko-kan, a reference collection museum of Hamada, not only his ceramic works, the kiln with stepped chambers he used – a living national treasure in his time, and the house he lived in, but also craftwork made in his lifetime and a collection of works by his associates are on display. At Jonaizaka, you can also visit Higeta Indigo Dyeing Studio by request.During Flame Festival you can use the climbing kiln in Togei Messe Mashiko to produce your own unglazed works and/or glazed pieces by pouring glaze onto them and then putting them back in the kiln.

    Ceramic Art Messe Mashiko (Mashiko Museum of Ceramic Art Center) and Mashiko Sanko-kan (Reference Collection Museum)

    flame_festival_in_togei_messe_mashiko Address: 3021 Mashiko, Haga District, Tochigi Prefecture 321-4217, Japan Tel: 0285-72-7555 Fax: 0285-72-7600

    Website: http://www.mashiko-museum.jp/

    English Info: http://www.e-yakimono.net/html/murata-gen-pt-2004.html & http://www.e-yakimono.net/html/hs-reference.html

  • 6 buildings with whitewashed walls make up this folk village. In addition to Mashiko-yaki ware, indigo dye products made at local studios are displayed and sold here. 3-min. walk from the Mashiko Reference Collection Museum.

    Address: 3435-1 Mashiko, Haga District, Tochigi Prefecture 321-4217, Japan Tel: 0285-72-5955Fax: 0285-72-1973

  • With advanced notice, the complete process from dying to weaving fabric of various indigo dyes can be seen at this workshop. Address: 1 Jonaizaka, Mashiko, Haga District, Tochigi Prefecture 321-4218, Japan Tel: 0285-72-3162Fax: 0285-72-3983
  • Saimyou-ji, also known as Tokko-san Fumon-in, is a temple of the Buzan Shingon school of Buddha-dharma. Its main revered figure is the Eleven-faced Kannon Bosatsu who achived perfect freedom from egoism to arouse great compassion. The temple has one of the four famous 3-storied pagodas in the Kanto Koshinetsu area, a gate built in the Muromachi period (1392 – 1573) which is now a designated cultural asset of Japan, and the nation’s only laughing Enma devil. Saimyo-ji Temple is worth visiting for its historic value. Address: 4469 Mashiko, Haga District, Tochigi Prefecture 321-4217, Japan Tel: 0285-72-2957Website: http://fumon.jp/e-idx.htm

  • The JA Hagano Strawberry Picking (Hagano Mashiko Kanko Ichigo Danchi), just wide enough to fit the Tokyo Dome on its grounds, is Japan’s top agri-tourism destination both in name and reality. You’ll have to visit the farm and try some tochiotome strawberries, a type with particularly high sugar content. At the red-roofed restaurant situated among the strawberry fields, you can try the taste of handmade noodles prepared using local buckwheat flour. Address: 527-6 Hanawa, Mashiko-machi, Haga-gun, Tochigi Prefecture 321-4216, Japan Hour: 9:30 am – 3:30 pm Tel: 0285-72-8768 Fax: 0285-72-6582Website: http://www.ja-hagano.or.jp/
  • tsukamoto_shopping_mall_mashiko Tsukamoto has one of Mashiko’s largest kilns. Situated in a mountain village near Togei Mura (Ceramic Village), Tsukamoto has a parking lot with a capacity of 500 cars. Craftsmen at work can be observed, and pottery classes are offered at the workshop. Address: 4264 Mashiko, Haga District, Tochigi Prefecture 321-4217, Japan Hour: Open 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. open everyday (observation hours: 9 a.m. – 12 p.m., 1 p.m. – 4 p.m., closed Thursdays) / 0285-72-5151 Tel: 0285(72)3223 Fax: 0285(72)1139Website: http://www.tsukamoto.net/
  • mashiko_glass_workshop_at_rose_studio Collection of glass made pottery Address: 390-1 Kamioba, Mashiko, Haga District, Tochigi Prefecture 321-4212, Japan Hour: 10:00~17:00 Tel: 0285-72-9111http://www.barakoubou98.jp/
  • Twin Ring Motegi is a complex built by Honda which hosts all types of car and go-cart racing, the Honda Collection Hall transport museum, a resort-style hotel, and the “Hello Woods” camping and nature area. Set on hills linked to the Hakko mountain chain, Twin Ring Motegi is surrounded by forest, with the pure water of the Nakagawa river, originating on Mt. Nasu, flowing by.Motegi Town (Motegi-machi, 茂木町) along the Nakagawa River has long attracted visitors for its traditional festivals and natural environment. Nowadays, many people come to the town to check out the motor sports at Twin Ring Motegi. This new facility hosts exciting competitions for racing enthusiasts. Address: 120-1 Hiyama, Motegi, Haga District, Tochigi Prefecture 321-3533, Japan Tel: 0285-64-0001, 0285-64-0489 Fax: 0285-64-0009Website: http://www.mobilityland.co.jp/english/motegi/
  • Mashiko Pottery Fair has been held each year since 1966 and was selected as one of 100 most beautiful festivals in Tochigi Prefecture. This fair is open twice every year: once in the spring during Japan’s Golden Week Holiday, and once in the fall around November 3rd. 50 shops and 500 dealers sell Mashiko wares (Pottery and Agricultural products) in Mashiko town (mainly in Jonaizaka and Sayado). The Pottery Fairs provide a great chance to enjoy talking with young artists and local potters in the shops and tents.The Pottery Fair Board (Toki-ichi Jikko Iinkai)Tel: 0285(70)1120Website: http://blog.mashiko-kankou.org/english/mta1/mashikoyaki/toukiiti/tokiich…
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    Earth Art Festa called Mashiko Hijisai Festival celebrate “Earth” which is the key concept for both its ceramics and local agriculture. Several events including exhibition of ceramic artist, gallery musical show, movie on pottery culture, restaurant, culture store, cafe, etc. The entire town is marked by exhibitions and showcases of Earth Art. Its almost like a carnival atmosphere over here.Earth Art Festa Mashiko Hijisai Festival Executive CommitteeMashiko Community Center (Mashiko Town Office) Address: 2030 Mashiko, Haga District, Tochigi Prefecture 321-4217, Japan Hour: 8:15-17:30 Tel: 0285-72-8873Website: http://hijisai.jp/
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    The Pentax Camera Museum exhibits the best classic cameras from around the world. Pentax is a well-known manufacturer of cameras, lenses, and other optical apparatus, and its excellent technology developed Japan’s first single-lens-reflex (SLR) camera and the world’s first SLR camera to feature a built-in through-the-lens auto flash. About 1000 cameras are always exhibited among several thousands collected. You can enjoy at ease in a wide space the history of photography that has made remarkable development from the silver plate photography at the initial stage of the invention of photography to the present. As well as the camera, they also have a section on meters, accessories and films. About 3000 visitors visit it every year and at the time of Mashiko Pottery Fair held twice every year, a number of visitors come.Pentax Camera MuseumHOYA Corporation, PENTAX Ceramics Division, Mashiko Factory Address: 858 Hanawa, Mashiko, Haga District, Tochigi Prefecture 321-4216, Japan Tel: 0285-72-1111 Fax: 0285-72-1119Website: http://www.pentax.jp/english/
  • About 30 vessel shops are on the street. Pottery placed in the doorsteps of these shops is simple and delight the eyes of those who come to this street. Thanks to the town’s improvement plans, such as pavement and public restrooms where you can enjoy walking comfortably on the street.
  • An indoor and outdoor museum of statues and art pieces, displaying works by Nandor Wagner a Hungarian scupltor who lived for three decades in Mashiko. He evinced great talent to draw, to paint, to model people and to create useful objects at early age. The place for his grave was selected and prepared by him in the garden of his Mashiko studio. Address: 4264 Mashiko, Haga District, Tochigi Prefecture 321-4217, Japan Tel: 0285-72-9866 Fax: 0285-72-3487Website: http://wagnernandor.com/indexe.htm
  • Mashiko is famous for Mashiko-yaki (Mashiko Potteries) and pottery kilns are located all over the town. There are 300 pottery kilns in the town. Pottery kilns such as TSUKAMOTO KILN and MASHIKOYAKI KYOHAN CENTER, you can observe the whole process of pottery making and participate in the pottery making classes. Tsukamoto is the largest pottery company in Mashiko.Numerous pottery exhibitions are held every year in its three galleries and art museum.Tsukamoto Kiln Address: 4264 Mashiko, Haga District, Tochigi Prefecture 321-4217, Japan Hour: Open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5 p.m. (enter by 4 p.m.). Closed on Thur. & every other Wed. only for visiting Factory. Tel: (0285)72-5151 or (0285)72-3223 Fax: 0285(72)1139Website: http://www.tsukamoto.net/

  • Wholesale and retail of potteries from 270 kilns in the town. Well-known pottery fairs are held here in May and Nov. Address: 706-2 Mashiko, Haga District, Tochigi Prefecture 321-4217, Japan Hour: 9am – 5pm Tel: 0285-72-4444 Fax: 0285-72-0313Website: http://www.mashikoyakikyouhan.jp/ and http://www.mashiko.com/

  • A museum which has about 30 pieces by Shoji Hamada, a ceramist who is a living national treasure, and many other arts & crafts works. The studio is open to the public. Address: 3388 Mashiko, Haga District, Tochigi Prefecture 321-4217, Japan Hour: 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (enter by 4:30). Closed on Mon. New Year Season and during Feb. Tel/Fax: 0285-72-5300Website: http://www.mashiko-sankokan.net/http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/location/regional/tochigi/pdf/mashiko.pdf

  • Tsuna Shrine was built by the Lord Asalsuna in 1194 and has been designated as a Japanese Important Cultural Property. Okura Shrine is said to have been built in 807. Its main Shrine has an ‘ikken yashiro nagare zukuri’, or a special kind of gabled roof covered with straw-thatched roofing and is designated as a Japanese Important Cultural Property. Address: 2350 Kamioba, Mashiko, Haga District, Tochigi Prefecture 321-4212, JapanContact: Mashiko town tourist association

  • Just south of the famous Mashiko pottery town is Amamaki-san (Mt. Amamaki). Highest peak of the mountain is 533.3m. and takes approximately one and a half hours to top of 533m above sea level. All season is colored by blooming flowers. Superb views of Mount Tsukuba or far-off Mount Fuji. Great for hiking in winter snow for beginners. You can hike through other mountains together.Amamaki-san (Mt. Amamaki)Address: Kamioba, Mashiko, Haga District, Tochigi Prefecture 321-4212, Japan Tel: 0285-72-8846 Fax: 0285-70-1180Website: http://www.town.mashiko.tochigi.jp/index.php?code=111
  • Address: 1211 Kamioba, Mashiko, Haga District, Tochigi Prefecture 321-4212, Japan Hour: 09:00 to 17:00, Closed on Wednesday Tel: 0285-72-2771Fax: 0285-72-8291
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    This festival is held for three days beginning on July 23 every year and coincides with the Festival of Yasaka Shrine. During this time omikoshi, or portable shrines and floats are paraded in Mashiko. Described as one of the three biggest and funniest festivals in Japan. About 7,000 hydrangea flowers will be in full broom in Hydrangea Park for the festival. The Ajisai Festival is held from June 24 to July 25 every year. During this time Kenka-sai (Offering Flowers Festival) is open as well as the chinowa-kuguri, where a procession, including a big omikoshi (portable shrine) buift on a pottery plate, passes through a thatched ring.Kashima Shrine (Kashima-jinja)Address: 1685-1 Mashiko, Haga District, Tochigi Prefecture 321-4217, Japan Tel: 0285-72-6221 Fax: 0285-72-6818Website: http://www.kashimajinja.com/

  • This forest is about 31 hectares in area on the gentle hill in the mountain village, which is covered with deciduous, conifer and broad-leaf trees such as red pine trees, konaras, chestnuts and wild cherry blossoms. The Tochi-otome strawberry, a very sweet and delicious variety grown in Tochigi Prefecture You can enjoy eating strawberries in ‘Strawberry Tourist Farm’, which is one of the largest scale tourist farms in the Kita-Kanto area. Forest Mashiko is located at the entrance to the Prefectural Natural Park. The forest has a 4 kilometer hiking trail, a square covered with lawn, an apparatus for athletics, a rope bridge and an observation tower There is also a facility called ‘Forest Inn Mashiko1 , which has restrooms, overnight accommodations, a restaurant and an observatory equipped with one of the largest refracting telescopes with an SD lens. Address: 4231 Mashiko, Haga District, Tochigi Prefecture 321-4217, Japan Tel: 0285-70-3305Website: http://www.pref.tochigi.lg.jp/d04/eco/shizenkankyou/shizen/masikonomori….
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    Address: 343 Nanai, Mashiko, Haga District, Tochigi Prefecture 321-4106, Japan Tel: 0285-72-6101Fax: 0285-72-4210
  • mashiko_traditional_tea_ceremony Address: 4329-2 Mashiko, Mashiko-machi, Haga-gun, Tochigi Prefecture 321-4217, Japan Tel: 090-2623-2720Fax: 028-673-3637

  • Address: 160 Kaminobu Haga, Haga District, Tochigi Prefecture 321-3311, Japan Tel: 028-677-4126 Fax: 028-677-4177Website: http://www.michinoeki-haga.gr.jp/roman/rom_top.htm
  • sanyo-digital-camera Address: 4352-2 Mashiko, Haga District, Tochigi Prefecture 321-4217, Japan Tel: 0285-72-5647, 0285-72-3107 Fax: 0285-72-3058Website: http://www.mashikoyakikumiai.com/
  • Address: 3650-2 Osawa, Mashiko, Haga District, Tochigi Prefecture 321-4104, Japan Tel: 81-285-72-6484Website: http://www.harveyyoungpottery.com/english
  • Address: 3288-6 Mashiko, Haga District, Tochigi Prefecture 321-4217, Japan Tel: 0285-72-3866 Fax: 0285-72-4178Website: http://www.mashiko-tougei-club.jp/
  • Address: 4398 Mashiko, Mashiko-machi, Haga-gun, Tochigi Prefecture 321-4217, Japan Tel: 0285-72-5266, Mobile: 080-5095-3705, 080-5067-5031 Fax: 0285-72-5266Website: http://kobofuwari.web.fc2.com/welcome.html
  • Address: 1397-1 Mashiko, Haga District, Tochigi Prefecture 321-4217, Japan Tel: 0285-72-3000Website: http://www.takashima-e.com/rent.html
  • Address: 243-3 Mashiko, Haga District, Tochigi Prefecture 321-4217, Japan Tel: 0285-81-3227 Fax: 0285-81-3228Website: http://www.mashiko-jk.jp/
    • Take JR Tohoku Shinkansen Line at Tokyo or Ueno Station. Or take JR Utsunomiya Line (Tohoku-honsen Line) from Ueno Station. From Asakusa, take Tobu line to Utsunomiya. On weekends and holidays, between March and December, you can travel for ¥500 extra on a restored steam train on the Moka line – tickets can be booked at JR stations (ask for a ticket on the “SL”).
      Mashiko Station [Cotton Way Railroad (Moka/Mooka Railway), Mashiko Station]
      By Moka Railway Co. (about 40 mins)
      Shimodate Station
      By JR Mito Line (about 20 mins)
      Oyama Station
      By JR Utsunomiya Line (about 80 mins) or JR east Tohoku Shinkansen (about 45 mins)
      Ueno Station or Tokyo Station
    • You can take a bus leaving from the Westside No.14 of JR Utsunomiya/ Tobu Utsunomiya Station for Mashito Station and 2-minute walk to Miyanohashi Bus stop (or 5 min. by bus from Tobu Utsunomiya Station). And then take the Toya bus bound for Mashiko Station about 60 min. One way fare from Miyanohashito Uchimachior Mashikois 1,100Yen. See: Toya Kotsu Bus Service at Utsunomiya
      Details Train and Bus Scedule including Fair for Getting to Mashiko Town (Mashiko-machi): http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/location/regional/tochigi/pdf/mashiko.pdf
  • English maps and leaflets on Mashiko are available at the tourist information booths in Utsunomiya Station (daily 8am-8pm; tel 028/636-2177) and next to Mashiko Station (daily 8.30am-5pm; tel 0285/72-8846), though the staff don’t speak English. If you want to tour around the kilns, you’ll need to rent a car since they’re spread over a wide area; try Eki rent-a-car in Utsunomiya (tel 028/625-6629). More details for Utsunomiya City (Utsunomiya-shi) Tourism
  • Address: 2044-1 Mashiko, Haga District, Tochigi Prefecture 321-4217, Japan Tel: (0285)72-2398 Fax: (0285)72-5881Website: http://mashiko.shokokai-tochigi.or.jp/
  • Department of Commerce and Tourism Industry Address: 2030 Mashiko, Haga District, Tochigi Prefecture 321-4217, Japan Tel: 0285-72-2111, 0285-72-8825, 0285-72-8845 (Commerce and Tourism) Fax: 0285-72-6430, 0285-70-1180 (Commerce and Tourism)Website: http://www.town.mashiko.tochigi.jp/section.php?code=4 (Japanese)
  • Address: 1539-2 Mashiko, Mashiko Town (Mashiko-machi), Haga District (Haga-gun), Tochigi Prefecture (Tochigi-ken) 321-4217, Japan Tel: 0285-70-1120 Fax: 0285-72-1135Mashiko Town (Mashiko-machi) Tourist Association Website: http://blog.mashiko-kankou.org/english/index.htmlHaga District Tourist Association, Mashiko Branch Website: http://www.hagakanko.com/mashiko.html
    Mashiko Guided Tour Vacation Packages: http://www.toh-tas.com/