There is a hidden pottery village located in the mountainous area of Imari Town in Saga Prefecture. It is such a gem of a location that not many people know about it, except of course those who are ceramic lovers. For these people the location is 7th heaven as it is so peaceful and tranquil, at times it feels as though one has stepped back in time.
Okawachiyama which translates as Big River in the Mountains doesn't feel like a place designed for the 21st Century. Time runs a lot slower in these parts of the countryside and its a place where you can forget about life for a half a day and feel the time slip of the region.
On this particular day, I arrived a little later than I wanted to. It was a weekday and there was hardly anyone around so basically I had the whole village to myself. I have been told that this isn't the case on weekends when quite a lot more tourists and visitors from around Kyushu congregate in the pottery regions of Kyushu looking for that one special piece that will make their ceramic collection complete. Of course for those die hart fans of all things ceramic, this is never the case! You will never be satisfied with what you have and you will always be looking for the next piece.
I will plan another trip over the following months to get a better lay of the land. Even if the village is busier I am sure it will still be a quiet and quaint place to explore all the nook and crannies in great detail.
Please click on this link to see Okawachiyama Village on a map:
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Many different types of ceramics
The main bridge is very decorative
Looks of workshops to explore
Plenty of side streets to explore
Ceramic murals are everywhere
This is a potters village
A special piece
Many shops selling their wares
Pottery exhibits are plentiful
One of the more narrow entrances
As quaint as it gets!
The quality is exceptional
Please click on these videos below to see more about Okawachiyama, the quaint hidden pottery village:
There is absolutely no doubt that this is the creme de la creme of hotel lodging in Nagasaki and debatably the entire region of Japan. Hanzuryo Ryokan is a traditional 5 star establishment located in the Unzen Amakusa National Park, that prides itself of providing a private, nature infused, gourmet inspired, luxury stay for those who wish to experience the full Omotenashi (hospitality) style of Japan as its absolute best.
Every thing about the stay was incredibly special and in some ways nearly perfect in every regard. Not only were the rooms elegant and spacious (which is very rare in Japan) but the attention to detail in every aspect was some thing that one will never forget for the rest of their life. It is indeed a once in a lifetime experience that should go down in everyone's bucket list of things to do in Japan.
There is nothing about the experience that I could fault even if I was trying to! From checkin to checkout, everything was delivered to precision which is what Japanese Hospitality is all about. Trying to maintain 100% perfecting and delivering satisfaction levels that are far and beyond what any service provider could attain from a western standpoint.
If I was to fault anything, it would be the lack of English both from a spoken and written point of view. For myself personally this isn't a problem but I can see where this may be an issue for some people and I would hope that with an increase in western travelers of the next few years, this establishment would be able to make a menu in English to describe in detail exactly what is being eaten and how to use the hot springs without making a faux pas.
As for the cuisine, what can I say, I was probably the greatest single meal of my life! The gourmet experience went on for at least 2 hours with at least 10 courses in total. This is of course what top rate Ryokan's attain to provide in their offerings, a complete Kaiseki (highest level of Japanese dining) experience. Not only was the food absolutely divine but the ladies in kimono's moving gracefully in and out of the scene, as not to disturb the dining experience of the customers, combined with the various plates used for display, made this feel more like a scene from a movie.
Alcohol may accompany the meal if you so wish (not part of the price) and on this occasion our party went for Japanese rice wine. It is felt that Japanese sake is a drink that is well paired with Japanese traditional foods and I must admit I fully believe this to be the case. Beer and wine just doesn't seem to gel with the foods available and I would recommend that sake be chosen if alcohol is desired.
As for the hot springs, there are public but also private options as well. I took advantage of both options but feel that not all western customers would feel comfortable with only a public bathing system. Again, there is nothing I could fault with the overall experience. You will just have to try for yourself to see whether this is the best hotel experience that you could hope for.
Please click on this link to see Hanzuryo on a map:
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Plenty of nature to enjoy
Simple but beautiful interiors
Public reading room
Japanese Gardens at night
The food was divine
Interior set up
Fit for a KING
Complimentary drinks after your bath
A very happy camper
Please click on these video's below to see Hanzuryo Ryokan in more detail: