Pottery Workshop Kawagoe
Pottery Workshop Kawagoe – As the year comes to a close, I want to share one of our favourite experiences of 2018. At the start of the year, while my family were showing my cousin around Kawagoe, we passed a kura (storehouse) down an alleyway with crockery drying in the sunshine:
The crockery piqued my attention and I took a mental note to research it when I got home. Between one thing or another it ended up being 11 months later when I finally looked into it, but I booked it the minute I did. It ended up making it into our top ten experiences of 2018.
When I did finally research the pottery kura I was so surprised and utterly delighted by how reasonably priced this awesome hands on experience is. And how available it is too. They run several workshops a day, are flexible with time, and it is easy to book. You can either book online or ring the shop that manages the workshops; Touho Yamawa. If you’ve ever been up (or down) the main tourist thoroughfare of Kawagoe you’ve passed the stunning building that houses Touho Yamawa on your travels.
Touho Yamawa is a ceramic shop centered in a key location of the storehouse area of Koedo Kawagoe. It may look like an ordinary crockery shop from the outside, but there are two hidden gems within the shop. One a relaxing cafe with a traditional lunch. The other a reasonably priced pottery workshop.
Touho Yamawa Pottery Workshop Kawagoe
For just 1,900 yen you can make your own crockery on a manual wheel. For an extra 1,000 yen (so 2,900 yen) you can use a pedal wheel. The price is the same for both adults and children. Children of any age can enjoy this activity. The price includes the clay, instruction and the finished product. The clay is a fixed weight for that price, you can pay extra for more.
What you make from the clay you are provided with is up to you. It is the right weight to make a cup, bowl or small plate. The teacher will show you some samples and ask you to think about what you want to make. After you have chosen she will direct you how to use the wheel and shape the clay. She only speaks a little English from what she told me (we spoke in Japanese), but she told me they do have a step by step English guide book for foreigners who don’t speak Japanese.
After you have shaped the clay you use a small tool like a spatula to even out the surfaces. Then you get to design it. The teacher will provide you with toothpicks, stamps and other pottery tools.
It takes about an hour to make your item of choice. It might be less or more depending on whether you make a mistake and need to start over or if you want to do a complicated design. How many other customers are there on the day will also affect how quickly or slowly the teacher can give you instruction. The room can take about 10 people using a manual wheel and two on the automated pedal wheel.
The final step after you make and design your piece; the teacher will ask you to choose what colour you would like your crockery to be. She has a panel you can use to chose. You don’t paint it yourself. She paints it and then puts it in the kiln to bake / dry. It takes about three weeks.
You can either have your pottery sent to you or you can pick it up. Even if you are going to pick it up they will require you fill out a contact form with your address and phone number. They send a postcard to your home address to let you know when your pottery is ready for pick up. If you opt to have it sent to your home, you will need to pay postage.
An experience to remember
If you are looking for something hands on to do in Kawagoe, I have no hesitation in recommending this pottery workshop in the heart of Kawagoe City. The piece you make will serve as a keepsake of your visit to Kawagoe, or Japan for tourists from overseas. And the setting in an old kura storehouse with a rickshaw parked outside and shrine to the West couldn’t be more “Japanese”. Or you can just shop for take home souvenirs in the adjacent shop if you prefer and / or are pushed for time.
Touho Yamawa Pottery Workshop Access
Touho Yamawa is on Ichibangai, the principal section of the tourist and storehouse thoroughfare. It is close to the Ichibangai bus stop heading out of Kawagoe. And it is near the pedestrian lights at the entrance to the Bell Tower road, on the opposite side of the road to the famous bell tower.
The kura can be reached through the very back of the store or by walking down the quaint alleyway (complete with display rickshaw) to the left of the pottery store.
Both are about a 15 minute walk from Hon Kawagoe and Kawagoeshi stations. You can walk from the Tobu Tojo and JR Kawagoe stations, but it is quite a walk. Hopping on a tourist bus or a Tobu public bus will bring you to Ichibangai bus stop in about 7 minutes (depending on traffic).
If you come by car you need to pop into the shop first to get the directions to the car park which is about a 7 minute walk away. They only have parking for two to three cars, which they rent from a car lot near Kashiya Yokocho. There is a little space in the alleyway where you can pull in and put on your hazard lights while you run into the shop to get the map. Not ideal, but at least you get to park for free.
Other experiences you can enjoy in Saitama:
A small sample of other hands-on experiences you can enjoy in Saitama: