“Do-tougeikan” Pottery School

Make a piece of tableware that brings out the flavor of your food

Take up the challenge of creating an original piece of art

Ceramics have a feeling of warmth to the touch, perhaps because their main material is earth. Especially with something you have made yourself, you can feel a deep significance in the piece even if it is a little misshapen. The authentic pottery school, “Do-tougeikan”, presided over by the ceramic artist Kazuhiko Sato, welcomes beginners and holds a hands-on ceramics workshop. So, I went to try it out (photo 1, 2).

The workshop offers three options: a 2-hour hands-on pottery course, where you can shape the clay and decorate it with a pattern; a 1-hour ceramic painting course in which you can paint onto an unglazed, already fired plate; and a 1-hour gold-leaf painting course, where you can take home your creation on the same day.

I wanted to make my own original piece of tableware, so I decided to challenge myself at the hands-on pottery course.

What to make?

First of all, I have to decide what to make. Samples are on display near the entrance, so it’s easy to visualize your creation using these as a reference (photo 3). You can make rice bowls and teacups, as well as plates, beer mugs, aroma oil burners, and more. I heard that making figurines of TV characters is popular with kids, and there are even people who make haniwa, which are ritual terracotta figures from ancient Japan.

Around 1kg is provided for us. This is enough to make one large item, or around two small ones. If you want to make more pieces or something larger, it’s possible to increase the amount of clay for an extra fee. The motto of this school is that the customer’s requests are the number one priority, and everybody should enjoy themselves as much as possible.

The clay used here is an original blend of earth from the Shigaraki area - an authentic, subdued red clay, also used by ceramic artists. After forming the shape from the clay, you can paint a pattern onto it using white and red slip. When a piece is glazed and fired, the finished article has white and brownish sections on a gray base. Bearing this in mind, I tell the instructor about my concept for my piece. I decided to make a largish bowl, just the right size for stewed dishes.

First, the instructor explains the pottery method while demonstrating on a sample. The whole process was explained at once, so I got rather worried that I wouldn’t be able to remember it all. This must have showed in my expression, because the instructor said to me kindly, “It’s okay. I’ll show you again partway through, and I’ll answer any questions you have”.

I start making my bowl by the “coiling method”, piling the clay little by little onto a round revolving platform called a “manual potter’s wheel”.

I’m looking forward to my finished creation!

I start by kneading the clay provided before me. It is cool to the touch and moderately hard. The kneading does not require much force. About as much as slapping the surface of the clay is enough. Strictly speaking we are supposed to knead clay for quite a long time, but this stage of the process is already complete.
I make a thick circle of clay, around 1cm high and 15cm in diameter, on the manual potter’s wheel. This part is the base of the bowl. Then, I make a long string of clay, about 30cm in length. Making sure this is a uniform width seems like it would be easy, but was surprisingly difficult. I place it on top of the base (photo 4). This is easy to accomplish if you turn the manual potter’s wheel as you do it. My next task is to flatten the clay of the string-like part upwards. The trick here is to place your thumb and forefinger at the bottom and pinch the clay between them. It works well if you turn the manual potter’s wheel little by little.

After flattening the clay to a width of around 1cm while turning the wheel, I then make another string in the same way and place it on top. When I repeat this process three times, I have made something that somehow looks like a small bathtub.

Next to appear is a spatula shaped like a comb. Using this, I smoothen the parts where the coils are piled, and form the shape of the bowl (photo 5). Finally, in order to flatten the lip of the bowl, I insert a thread - like a kite string - from above, and spin the wheel round. In the same way, I separate the base from the potter’s wheel.
So, next is painting on the decoration. Using a type of clay called slip, in white and red varieties, we can paint patterns and pictures, or carve away the clay to make our own truly original creation. After firing, the base clay will turn gray, and parts painted with the white slip will turn white. The red slip, however, turns to brown in the kiln. I settled on a simple design, with the lip portion in red and the whole of the bowl in white, painted on in a swirling pattern with the brush. What do you think? I did a pretty good job, huh? (photo 6)

The workshop ends here, but in the following one to two weeks, Do-tougeikan will dry your creation, bisque-fire it, apply glaze, then glaze-fire it, and after around 45 days, deliver it to you (the delivery fees are extra). There are various discounts available, such as delivery fee-included group discounts and family discounts. Of course, you can come to pick it up yourself if you prefer. I’m looking forward to my finished creation!!


>> Kanagawa Travel Info

Kanagawa P.G.T.D. image

Kanagawa P.G.T.D.


Kanagawa P.G.T.D.'s other advice

Traditional fire festival at Shonan beach, Oiso SAGICHO. images

Traditional fire festival at Shonan beach, Oiso SAGICHO.

Oiso SAGICHO is the last event of NEW YEAR celebration in SEISHO Area (western district of Shonan, Kanagawa Pref.). Originally, local fishermen operated this event and it has been held for 400 years …

Kokonotuido Home-Fired Suenosato Hand-blown Glassworks Make your own original glass creation images

Kokonotuido Home-Fired Suenosato Hand-blown Glassworks Make your own original glass creation

“Kokonotuido Home-Fired Suenosato Hand-blown Glassworks”, where you can try your hand at glassblowing, is a 10-minute bus ride from JR Ofuna Station. After walking through a peaceful rural area for a…

Yokohama Port Museum and the Training Ship Nippon Maru Learn all about the Port of Yokohama images

Yokohama Port Museum and the Training Ship Nippon Maru Learn all about the Port of Yokohama

Yokohama and its port have an inseparable relationshipMost people immediately associate the words of “harbor” and “ocean” with Yokohama. The “Yokohama Port Museum” and the “Training Ship Nippon Mar…

Kinokoen Oyama no Taisho images

Kinokoen Oyama no Taisho

Providing the rich bounty of nature to urban dwellersEating wood-grown shiitake mushrooms freshly picked? There is a place where such a luxurious delight, hardly imaginable by city dwellers, can…

Kirin Yokohama Beer Village images

Kirin Yokohama Beer Village

Kirin Beer originates from YokohamaThe Kirin Beer Village, where you can learn about the history of beer, is surely a place that any beer-lover would want to visit.Kirin Beer originates from Yoko…

The Silk Museum A specialized silk museum that is out of the ordinary images

The Silk Museum A specialized silk museum that is out of the ordinary

The port of Yokohama has developed dramatically together with raw silk, and at the same time the silk thread industry has supported the Japanese economy. The Silk Museum was established in 1959 as pa…

You might also like

Yakimono: Japanese Pottery and Porcelain images

Yakimono: Japanese Pottery and Porcelain

Japanese pottery and porcelain, often referred to as 'Yakimono', is as beautiful as it is useful. It's also one of the world's oldest art forms dating back to the Neolithic period."Yakimono means…

Former Deep Japan Writer image

Former Deep Japan Writer

Ashiyu - Onsen For Your Feet images

Ashiyu - Onsen For Your Feet

Have you tried onsen in Japan? There are many famous hot spring areas in the country and most of them offer both full baths and ashiyu. Ashiyu (足湯)is an onsen foot bath. Try it. A warm foot bath …

David image


Family-Friendly Zushi Beach in Japan images

Family-Friendly Zushi Beach in Japan

I recommend Zushi beach in Kanagawa prefecture. It only takes about 1 hour from Tokyo on the Yokosuka line and I was actually there yesterday! Although the transparency of the water can't really be c…

GenS image


Chigasaki Beach for your Japan Travel images

Chigasaki Beach for your Japan Travel

Have you ever been to a city call “Chigasaki”? It is located central Kanagawa Prefecture between Fujisawa and Hiratsuka city with population of little over 236,000 people and a population density of …

AustinA image


Ukiyo-e (woodblock print) in Asakusa images

Ukiyo-e (woodblock print) in Asakusa

Sakai Kokodo is one of the oldest stores specialized in UKIYOE established in 1870. You can buy a replica of Katushika Hokusai or Utagawa Hiroshige. Located on the Nakamise Street.Mokuhankan is a n…

Keiko, OTT image

Keiko, OTT

Running Around in Yokohama images

Running Around in Yokohama

I often write reviews and articles about restaurants in Yokohama, but what do I with the all the calories that come with the job? Well, like many of the 3.7 million people who live here, I run. And t…

Former Deep Japan Writer image

Former Deep Japan Writer