Photos by Shoji Kudaka
Photos by Shoji Kudaka

A look into the Craftsmen’s Commune – Yachimun no Sato

by Shoji Kudaka
Stripes Okinawa

For a taste of old Okinawa, Yomitan Village’s Yachimun no Sato is one of the best on the island.

The quaint, old-style buildings of this area serve as pottery studios where skilled artisans make the village’s signature traditional craft: “Yachimun,” pottery in Okinawan dialect.

Yachimun no Sato, which means “Home of Yachimun,” is at the epicenter of this craft. According to Yomitan Village’s tourism association, there are 19 studios in the area.

To get to the home of pottery, it is around a 30-minute drive from Camp Foster. Here you can watch artisans at work, but access to the studios is usually restricted unless you book ahead for a tour.

Though Yachimun no Sato is, first and foremost, a production site, the pottery is gaining popularity making it a popular tourist spot in recent years.

The nostalgia of the area draws visitors and the vintage kilns, or “noborigama,” still in use contribute to that nostalgia as well.

This type of kiln remains somewhat common around Japan and is typically installed on a slope with several chambers lined up in a way that makes them look like giant stairs. “Yuntanzan-gama” and “Kita-gama,” are two of Yachimun no Sato’s most famous kilns.

Visitors wanting to purchase pottery pieces can head to several shops adjacent to the studios where they can peruse the handmade cups and plates to shisa dogs which are displayed on shelves.

Today, Yomitan Village is widely recognized as a hot spot for Yachimun pottery, which has a lot to do with Yachimun no Sato. But, this was not always the case.

According to the Yomitan Village Office, an old style of pottery, “Kinayaki,” was once produced in Yomitan around the 1670s. In 1682, the Ryuku Kingdom moved all the kilns to Tsuboya, now a part of Naha City, halting the production of Kinayaki. “Tsuboya Yachimun Dori” in Naha City, is recognized as another tourist spot for the preservation of the kingdom’s history of pottery making.

The kilns didn’t return to Yomitan for another three centuries. In 1980, the opening of the Yuntanza-gama kiln marked this triumphant return which then led to formation of Yachimun no Sato around the kiln.

Four decades since its beginning, Yachimun no Sato continues to be the mecca of Okinawan pottery. A stroll through the quiet streets, lined with old-fashioned houses and watching the area craftsmen work, is a great way to get know a part of Yomitan Village history that endures to this day much like the pottery being created here.

Yachimun no Sato 

GPS Coordinates: 26°24’29.4”N 127°45’14.3”E 
* Free parking 
* Every year in December, a bazaar is held at the location where pottery is on sale for discounted prices.

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