Tobe to most Japanese people calls to mind Tobe-yaki, a type of ceramic known throughout Japan. The town presents visitors with many opportunities to see, buy and even make these attractive products. Tobe-yaki tends to be white with navy blue decoration. Much of the work is of a highly practical nature and you can purchase very serviceable tableware for everyday use.
Visitors to Tobe can spend a pleasant hour or two at one of several centers by paying a small fee to purchase a pre-made plate or cup and finishing them in the Tobe-yaki style. The Tobe Creative Pottery Making Center is one of these places. Here you can also try your hand at making an original piece from scratch, but for this a reservation is required.
I went on a tour which included the pottery decorating thing, and I confess I wasn’t looking forward to it much. Although I love looking at and using fine ceramics, I’ve never derived much enjoyment from making them. But it turned out to be fun. You choose a fired, unglazed item, be it a plate of some sort, a cup, or sake flask. Each is marked with a price. Fortunately you can draw on this unglazed ceramic with a pencil, which allows you to finalize your design before you commit to it. If you’re short on inspiration, the Center provides books of designs that you can flick through until you find something that appeals, and you can also see designs that other people have come up with on the shelves. When foreign visitors appear, the staff are quick to produce laminated instruction sheets in English, which are quite adequate to guide you through the procedure.
Being a regular sake drinker, I chose a simple cup and carefully drew the kanji for shiawase—happiness—on the inside and outside. Then I carefully applied the coloring with a brush. This coloring is a darkish brown in its raw state, but after firing, it turns an attractive dark blue. I was completely satisfied with my work. I haven’t concentrated so intensely for a very long time. When I finished, I enjoyed looking at what my companions came up with. Everybody was demanding photos of themselves holding up their creation, and there’s one of me looking very pleased with my handiwork.
When you’ve finished your work, the Center will fire it for you and send it to you after 2 or 3 weeks.