The streets of Tokoname

I love Japanese manhole covers. They are the perfect example of the Japanese ability to introduce beauty to the most mundane of things. Today I present to you the manhole cover of Tokoname. Located in Aichi prefecture, Tokoname is a small city famous for its ceramics industry. Tokoname has been associated with ceramics production since at least the Heian period and it is one of the ‘Six Old Kilns’ of Japan.

tokoname manhole cover

Tokoname manhole cover with the city’s seal in the middle, surrounded by flowers.

tokoname manhole cover

Tokoname manhole cover, embedded in Tokoname ware tiles

Tokoname is full of interesting textures. Streets and walls are lined with pottery, which gives Tokoname a very original and picturesque look. It is perfect for a day-trip from Toyota City and a great place for a relaxing afternoon stroll.

tokoname pottery streets

One of the most famous streets in Tokoname, beautifully decorated with pottery

tokoname streets lined with pottery

Another Tokoname street lined with pottery

tokoname streets lined with pottery

Decorated wall in Tokoname

a shop in tokoname with pottery embedded in the floor

A shop entrance in Tokoname with pottery embedded in the floor

Tokoname pottery shop

A close-up of the floor of the shop

a beautifully decorated wall in tokoname

A beautifully decorated wall in Tokoname

a close-up of one of the pottery walls in tokoname

A close-up of the wall

Can’t wait to visit Tokoname yourself? Tokoname is located at 30 min. from Nagoya, right next to Chubu Centrair International Airport. The Tokoname City website provides directions to Tokoname and information on sightseeing in Tokoname.

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The vicious deer of Nara

Nara is an ancient city not too far from Nagoya. At one point it was the capital of Japan (from 710 to 785). The most famous sites include the largest wooden structure on earth (Todaiji Temple), a 15m Buddha statue and the second tallest pagoda of Japan (Kofukuji Temple).

But never mind all that, because perhaps the most famous tourist attraction in Nara are the deer. Large numbers of Sika Deer (‘shika’ in Japanese) wander freely around the premises. Visitors can purchase rice crackers, called ‘shika senbei’, to feed the deer.

Sika deer in Nara

Sika deer in Nara

Nara deer everywhere

Deer everywhere!

selling shika senbei

A stall selling shika senbei, the special crackers to feed the deer.

At first sight, the deer seem quite tame. In fact, they appear to be downright lethargic.

This deer just couldn't be bothered, although I am practically in its face with my camera    This deer just couldn't be bothered, although I am practically in its face with my camera. Even when I start petting it, it acts as though I am not there.

This deer just couldn’t be bothered, although I was practically in its face with my camera. Even when I started petting it, it continued to act as though I was not there.

But don’t be fooled. Their innocence is but a ruse. As soon as they smell food, the deer of Nara turn into vicious predators. They stop at nothing to get hold of the rice crackers, even going as far as attacking the humans holding the crackers.

deer looking for food

Obtrusive deer looking for food. These people didn’t even buy shika senbei. They are just trying to enjoy a bit of yaki-imo (grilled sweet potato).

My personal deer feeding adventure soon turned into a shouting frenzy when one of the deer tried to head-butt me. Another person in our group got bitten in theĀ  behind while feeding the deer.

In all fairness, the park authorities did warn us this might happen. Here is an overview of what the deer might do to you:

nara warning sign

Warning sign in Nara park

Be forewarned!

Shibori – Japanese tie-dye technique

Two weeks ago, friends of ours took us to see the historic town of Arimatsu.It still has a lot of Edo period buildings.

beautiful building in Arimatsu

Located on the Tokaido (ancient road from Tokyo to Kyoto), Arimatsu is famous for ‘shibori’ or tie-dyed cloth. The cloth is tied up with rope before dying, thus preventing certain parts of the cloth from being dyed. It’s not just fuzzy circular patterns, it really leads to intricate patterns.

Everything in this shop is created with various shibori techniques

It turns out we could have a go at shibori ourselves. Our friends had arranged for a workshop in the local museum. Upon arrival, we were immediately given a piece of cloth and a needle and were put to work. Two ladies of a respectable age with at least 50 years of shibori experience each, taught these clumsy gaijin how to make a simple shibori cloth. Unfortunately we could not see the dying process but they will send us the finished cloth once it has been dyed.


Of course when these ladies have a go at it themselves, it’s a whole other story.

Arimatsu ladies showing us how it's done

a little more complicated than a mere handkerchief

Hiroshige made an ukiyoe (woodblock print) about Arimatsu in the series ‘The Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido’, in which ‘shibori’ is pictured. You can see shops selling the cloth and someone sitting inside the shop tying some cloth in preparation for dying, or perhaps untying the knots after dying.

Hiroshige's print featuring Arimatsu