Pottery is one of Japan’s most influential, historical and luckily accessible art forms, so much so we've covered a number of facets of the county’s ceramic history. from some of the finest Japanese artists to the best towns to discover ceramic art. But if you’re more interested in getting behind the (pottery) wheel than staring at pieces displayed behind glass, then book yourself a session at one of these very diverse, English-friendly pottery classes.
1. Uzumako Ceramic Art School
For those with only a little time to really pack in everything there is to see and do in the city, then Uzumako Ceramic Art School may be the school for you. The one-hour classes offer a comprehensive, but condensed, ceramic experience which will allow you to make around two to four pieces within the hour. Beer mugs, bowls, vases, it’s all covered here, making this a great choice. If you’re wanting to try something a little more extravagant there are more complex extended classes available too. Once your item is finished it’ll be shipped to you within around a month.
2. Panda Sensei
If you’re planning an extended stay in Tokyo and want to really immerse yourself in a longer, more rewarding ceramic experience, consider taking it slow and signing up for a few classes with Panda Sensei. There are single class options available too, but return visitors can try their hand at a number of different ceramic projects. Unlike many more tourist-focussed classes, Panda Sensei is young and his approach to ceramic creation is a little more contemporary. You can learn to craft chopstick holders, vases, dishes, and miscellaneous items depending on what day you visit. Check out his website for a full guide to available pottery classes!
Price: ¥1,000 Sunday, ¥4,000 every other day
Time: Two-hour classes run between 10am- 7pm, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday
Address: Takarada Studio, Oi 4-20-7, Shinagawa, Tokyo (see map)
3. Shin Koenji Kintsugi
An undeniably Japanese ideology of appreciating the beauty in even the most imperfect of items, kintsugi is the art of repairing broken ceramics by using lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, ultimately making it even more beautiful, and more unique than the original item. In the trendy local neighborhood of Shin Koenji you can try your hand at crafting your own piece of repaired pottery by using kintsugi. The class is split into three sections, the first covers the theory and practice of Kintsugi, the second section is a tea break while you wait for your piece to dry, then the third part is when you can add all your finishing touches. Unlike regular ceramic pieces, items repaired using kintsugi only take about a day to dry so you can either return the next day to pick up your item or get it shipped home.
As Japan’s political and cultural capital for over 1000 years, it’s not surprise that this is a superlative place to buy and make ceramics. Find out Where to Buy Ceramics in Kyoto, or enjoy these 10 Best Cultural Activities for your Kyoto Itinerary. For Japanese ceramic classes in Kyoto specifically, read on…
4. Kiyomizudera Studio
Located right by one of Kyoto’s most iconic landmarks, Kiyomizu Temple and right by the towering five-story pagoda Yasaka-No-Tou (Yasaka Pagoda) sits Kiyomizudera Studio, an elegant, minimalist traditional style Japanese ceramic workshop that looks like an interior designer’s ultimate dream. The main studio only offers classes in Japanese, however, there are some English classes available too in other studios. The workshop offers a range of different plans to suit those of all level of ceramic interest. If you just want to dabble and don’t have a lot of time to commit there’s the 20 minute light plan where you’ll make a small-sized cup. However, if you’re looking for something a little more comprehensive, go for the zuikou plan which runs for an entire hour and features a more comprehensive demonstration.
Technically a little out of Kyoto, but still close enough to be added to the Kyoto section of this list, the town of Shigaraki’s Oogoya Ceramic Center is a ceramic shop, cafe, restaurant, and pottery workshop all rolled into one. The classes at Oogoya are dedicated to the area’s own special form of ceramics, known as Shigaraki-ware. There are a few different classes available including hand forming, pottery wheel ceramic making, and just ceramic painting. All the classes take around 50 minutes and will take you through the many different pottery techniques perfected in Shigaraki.
Outside the Cities
If you really want to experience Japan and Japanese ceramic art, you need to head out of the cities. The history of pottery in Japan grew from smaller towns, many of which are still producing world-class work. Check out these 6 Best Japanese Ceramic Towns You Should Visit. While you’re exploring, give it a go yourself at these top spots:
6. Mashiko Ceramic Art Club, Tochigi
We mentioned immersive ceramic experiences earlier, but really it doesn’t get much more immersive than this, a Japanese ceramic workshop complete with accommodation facilities. Nestled in nature abundant pottery town of Mashiko, Tochigi’s ceramic hub, Mashiko Ceramic Art Club is a laid-back folk style retreat. Although the website is in Japanese, the staff here do speak English. Given the location and commitment needed to book a stay at this workshop, it’s best for those who are serious about their ceramic pursuits. For information about the accommodation, contact the facility directly through the website.
7. Kutani Kosen Kiln
Located in the craft-loving city of Kanazawa, the Kutani Kosen Kiln is the only ceramic kiln in town dedicated to Kutani-ware, a special local type of pottery which originated from Kaga, Ishikawa. If you’re more interested in flexing your painting skills than your ceramic talents then this is the class for you. At Kutani Kosen Kiln there are around 15 different ceramic pieces for you choose from, all the pieces have already been carefully and professionally crafted ready for you to paint.
For something a little off the beaten track, consider making a weekend trip from Tokyo to Kanagawa to try your hand at a little ceramic sculpting by the beach. The Goens workshop offers two classes, one painting, and one pottery class. There are details directly on the website, but if you can’t read Japanese, then it’s best to book via Activity Japan, which is in English. The class involves a demonstration, shaping, firing, and painting is possible too if you’re feeling extra creative.