Imari city was the next destination in our trip after visiting Karatsu city in Saga prefecture. About 40 minutes drive from Karatsu, Imari is located southwest of Karatsu and is famous for its Imari ware or Imari procelain.
Imari wagyu beef
You may have already heard of the ceramics of Imari as they are pretty famous but Imari wagyu beef is also starting to make a name for itself to rival the better-known Kobe or Yonezawa brands.
Imari wagyu beef, the beef produced in Imari city, has top class quality with its sweetness and well-balanced fat which is contributed by dedicated Imari farmers who are highly skilled at raising superior cattle. The Imari beef is now served at high-end restaurants in Japan.
The root of Imari-gyu is Tamba-gyu which is also the famous beef brand from Hyogo prefcture. Historically, the Tamba cattle was brought into Imari and has been raised in the city which now has become its own brand in Saga prefecture.
If you are in Imari city, it is worth trying the Imari wagyu beef. We tried the part called ″Ichibo″ whcih is also called Ranichi and is marbled meat of thigh. This part is one of the most tasty and fine texture cut of Wagyu. The restaurant we went served the beef with a Teppanyaki style as shown in the picture below. The Imari wagyu beef was very soft and had very rich taste that we did not even have to use the sauces served together with the beef.
The average price for Imari wagyu beef lunch in the area ranges between 2,000 to 5,000 yen.
Arita (Imari) ceramics
Arita ceramics are one of the most famous ceramics in Japan.
Arita ware (aritayaki in Japanese) in based Arita city, Saga. It was called Imari ceramic ware or Hizen ware in the Edo era. It is said that raw materials of porcelain and clay for chinaware were discovered in Izumiyama of Arita city in the early 17th century by a Korean ceramist called Sanpei Li and others. Since then manufacturing of tablewares and art crafts has continued for over 400 years in the area.
In 17th century, earthenware products were exported to Europe through East India Company from the Imari port which is the reason why the ceramics were also called Imari ceramic. The Imari ware that was produced in Edo era is now called “Old Imari” or “Ko Imari” in Japanese which is also popular. The arita ceramics are made from procelain taken from Izumiyama but recently, made from procelain taken from Amakusa city in Kumamoto prefecture. The pottery rock from Amakusa city is very hard and strong which is why Arita ware is resistant to breaking.
If you are interested in buying some Arita ware, I would recommend going to the main shopping street of Arita lined with ceramics shops. These days, you are able to find not only old-styled potteries but also modern ceramics in one of those shops. On the street there is Arita Kan where you can watch the word’s only mechanical ceramic doll play. The dolls in the play are all made from Arita ceramics and they move using mechanics.
One of Arita’s spots to visit is Touzan Shrine. It is located on the top of a small hill, is dedicated to a god of creating ceramics. To climb stairs is a bit tiresome, but it is worth visiting. While shrine gates, known as “Torii” are usually made of stone, the gate to Touzan Shrine is made with Arita ceramics. Within the shrine there are various ceramic statues of animals and dragons.
After I came back from the trip, I had dinner with a beautiful Arita yaki plate that I bought during the trip. Please see the square shape plate in the middle of the picture below.