When you travel in Japan, you have some occasions to see a statue of tanuki, a raccoon dog, one at the entrance of a store, another in a Japanese garden and here and there ….
Where does the tanuki come from ??
Visit Shigaraki, a pottery village in Shiga prefecture, then you’ll find the place.
1. About Shigaraki Village
Shigaraki is taken as one of the oldest pottery villages in Japan.
The village is located in the south part of Shiga prefecture, which is east of Kyoto and famous for the biggest lake in Japan called Lake Biwa. This area once was designated to be the capital of Japan in 8th century, but after 4 years the palace was moved back to Nara.
The access from Osaka and Kyoto to Shigaraki is pretty easy.
Take JR train from Osaka / Kyoto to Kibukawa and from there Shigaraki Kogen Railway to Shigaraki.
From Osaka it takes about 2 hours and from Kyoto 1.5 hours.
When you arrive at Shigaraki station, a giant tanuki statue welcomes you at the exit (he changes the costume in every season).
2. Why tanuki pottery here ??
The clay of Shigaraki makes good quality pottery with fireproof and plasticity, and is good for making something large. So various products are made here, not only bowls and plates but also a brazier called hibachi and statues.
Tanuki statue is one of the Shigaraki pottery works.
When the emperor Showa visited Shigaraki in 1951, the village welcomed the emperor with tanuki statues, and the emperor loved it and the Shigaraki tanuki pottery got famous among people.
Shigaraki tanuki is said to have 8 features which are related to different lucks, such as big belly for calmness and boldness and bamboo hat for avoiding unexpected disasters etc…
It’s not only at the station but everywhere you explore the village, you’ll see millions of tanuki statues.
3. Get a pottery in Shigaraki
As you visit the pottery village, getting a couple of pottery is a must thing to do.
What they have is really wide-ranged, from a small cup and chopstick stand to vase and basin.
Of course various sizes of tanuki are waiting for you to be taken back home, and if tanuki is not your type, frogs and owls also bring good luck to you.
You also have a chance to make pottery as there are several pottery classes open everyday.
If you think it’s too hard to make a pottery, there is a class to just paint a pottery.
You choose one pottery such as a plate or cup or tanuki statue, and paint it as you like !
Just keep it in mind that you must wait a couple of months to get what you make as they need to get dry and be baked in a kiln.
There is a cafe which was renovated from a huge kiln and you can chill out there as well.
Onsen and a farm with tasty ice creams offer you some more things to do !
You would like to stay here longer ??
No problem, some nice ryokans with onsen are also here for you.
Shigaraki village is an ideal place to find a good pottery as well as scenery of countryside in Japan, and once you want to get away from a city trip, just hop on train to meet tanuki in the village !
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