Tajimi a small town of about 100,000 people about 30 minutes north of Nagoya in Gifu Prefecture is known for its fine Minoyaki ceramics and also as being regularly the hottest place in Japan during the country's humid summers.
Tajimi has been producing pottery for over 1,300 years and has an abundance of suitable clay in the surrounding hills for the job.
Tajimi's association with pottery is in evidence at the station where visitors are greeted by a huge ceramic tile on the wall behind the ticket wickets. To the right is the Tourist Information Office where an English map of the area is available (100 yen).
Leaving the station by the South exit to your right nearest the Tourist Information Office, it is a short walk across the Tokigawa River to Honmachi Oribe Street, the commercial center of Tajimi's ceramics business since the Meiji Period. This redeveloped area has traditional black and white wooden warehouses, antique shops, ceramic galleries and restaurants.
There are two other Oribe streets in the Tajimi area: Ichinokura Oribe Street in the village of Ichinokura, south of Tajimi, and Takata-Onada Oribe Street to the north east.
Ichinokura is the largest production center of sake cups in Japan. The road running through the village contains a number of pottery studios and historic kilns. The Sakazuki Art Museum in Ichinokura introduces the work of local living National Treasures and a collection of sake cups (sakazuki).
Takata-Onada Oribe Street has over 40 pottery studios and is famous for the production of sake flasks (tokkuri). Pottery production dates back to the 12th century here, with sake flasks having their heyday between the 16th-20th centuries. Sake flasks also make excellent flower vases, a new use for them as demand has slackened recently.
Furuta Oribe aka Furuta Shigenari (1544-1615) was a samurai and a disciple of the famous tea-master Sen no Rikyu. Oribe took over the mantle as Japan's most famous tea ceremony master after Rikyu's death, designing his own tea bowls and stone lanterns for his tea ceremonies. Oribe-yaki, a style of Mino pottery is named after him. Oribe, like Rikyu before him, was forced to commit suicide by the ruling regime of his day. Rikyu displeased Toyotomi Hideyoshi, whereas Oribe fell foul of the Tokugawa family.
Back in Tajimi town, Tajimi Monastery was founded by the German missionary Father Mohr in 1930. An English Mass is said here every 2nd and 4th Sunday of the month. The impressive building has extensive grounds including a vineyard and log-cabins made for Christian study and meditation. The locally-produced wine can be purchased from the monastery shop.
Walking up the hill from Tajimi Monastery is Kokeizan Eihoji Temple, an historic Zen temple with a beautiful garden. Eihoji Temple was founded in 1313 and is still a practicing monastery for young Zen priests.
Ten minutes by bus from Tajimi Station is Ceramic Park Mino (Tel: 0572 28 3200), which contains the Museum of Modern Ceramic Art with a large collection of contemporary Japanese and foreign pottery. The International Ceramic Festival Mino is held here every three years. Further north are the Ceramic Workshop Yutori (Tel: 0572 25 2233) where visitors can try their hands at clay modeling before visiting the Gifu Prefectural Ceramic Museum (Tel: 0572 23 1191) which has over 50,000 ceramic exhibits on show.
Tajimi is only 34 minutes on an JR express train on the Chuo Line from Nagoya Station. Alternatively, if coming by car, exit at Tajimi IC on the Chuo Expressway.
The sites in and around Tajimi are spread out so using the local buses or a car are necessary.
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