I have a thing for pottery. I buy one piece of kitchen ware for every time I visit Japan. That’s at least a piece per year. I’m good at following my don’t-buy-more-than-one-per-visit rule, but this time, I wasn’t.

I purchased my first Ontayaki in a beautiful pottery shop in Kamakura over two years ago. I love the colour and accent in Ontayaki, so when I found out that the village of Onta is sort-of on the way between Kurokawa Onsen and Fukuoka (our last destination in Kyushu), I begged my husband to take me there. Thankfully he is also interested in pottery, and he was also on a mission to find a gift for his Mother. My Mother-in-law takes tea ceremony and kimono classes, and she is quite knowledgable in the subject of Japanese pottery. I love looking at a piece of pottery and guessing where in Japan do they come from. Even more otaku-ish, guessing what pattern they are using within the region.

Every piece of Ontayaki in Japan comes from only this one tiny village inhabited by 10 families. All 10 families are potters. The clay preparation is still done traditionally, with water-powered wooden hammer.

Like this one


Each family have their own shop and their own kiln. They mostly ship out their pottery to bigger cities. I think it’s very interesting that these 10 families can continuously meet the demand of hundreds of thousands of families in Japan for Ontayaki.

Another family’s kiln



I have to say that although the price in Onta is significantly lower, but the selections in Kamakura or Tokyo are way better than the ones they have in Onta. I think they select the better ones and ship them off for better prices. I saw one shop selling slightly defected ones at a real bargain.

I got this bowl in Tobikanna pattern there. Anything that looks like the clay has been scraped like the one in the picture below falls under Tobikanna category.

As you can see, the mark on the top overlaps. Ideally, it should not. 

I got this mug at a different shop. This one had a rough handle.

In kushigaki pattern. Everything that has a bit of wolverine touch is done in kushigaki pattern. Literally means: comb scratch.

And my favorite piece during this Onta trip.

This beautiful sake cup!

Yes, I did break my rule for the first time and bought three pieces of pottery in one go….

But don’t they look worthy?

Definitely the highlight of my Kyushu shopping!