It’s no exaggeration to say that Tsuboya Pottery District is the bona fide birthplace of yachimun – a regional word describing all pottery made by Okinawan artisans that uses only indigenous soil.
This historical neighborhood with origins dating back to the 17th century, also goes by its alias “Yachimun Alley” and is pretty much pottery shops galore, showcasing the latest clay creations at every turn.
As you stroll through the handful of ceramic studios and stores offering a mix of both traditional and contemporary potteryware, keep your eyes peeled for ancient “anagama” kilns brought from China to Japan via Korea.
You’ll spot more yachimun in the traditional houses with red earthenware roof tiles, as well as the iconic lion-dog statues known as shisa. Similar to gargoyles, these guardian statuettes stand watch on almost every rooftop in Okinawa – all of them made in the Tsuboya Pottery District.
Sneak a peek at talented potters molding away or personalize your own one-of-a-kind souvenir at any number of ateliers offering a workshop. Typical pottery courses range only an hour in length and beginners are always welcome. Try your hand at a pottery wheel or use the old-school molding method as per traditional Ryukyu technique.
From glazed mugs, plates, and pitchers aplenty, it may be hard to resist shopping till you’re dropping as you explore the charming nooks and crannies. But Tsuboya also has its share of places to eat, drink and be merry. Homely cafes serve their handmade fare on handcrafted platters that add a touch of rustic refinement. Yachimun containers have also played a vital role in preserving awamori – Okinawa’s famous alcoholic beverage. It’s probably best to shop before you drink as awamori is a notoriously potent poison.