–Visiting Tokoname City– A Town of Ocean, Air and Pottery

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Looking back on the year 2013, what drew the most attention among people in theTokai district since the opening of Central Japan International Airport was probably Tokoname. With new spots emerging one after another, the city’s waterfront and airport area have regained their lively atmosphere.

Ceramic Tokoname cats

Tokoname, a pottery town

Tokoname has long been known as a pottery town. The history of Tokoname ware goes far back to the Heian period, when an advanced pottery-making technique developed at a kiln workshop called Sanageyo, located in the hilly region east of what is now Nagoya City, had spread and become the origin of Tokoname ware, along with Seto ware and Mino ware.

Historical records mention the existence of kilns to fire ceramic bowls and jars. The kilns, built in around AD 1100, took advantage of the steep terrain of the Chita Peninsula, and thus Tokoname ware has been in existence for roughly 1,000 years. Many pieces of pottery that appear to originate from Tokoname have been excavated not just in the remains of settlements scattered along Ise Bay
but also in other areas in Japan, including Kyoto, Kamakura, Hiraizumi and Dazaifu. The fact that pottery items produced in a place far from the nation’s political hub were used throughout Japan proves their high quality.

Kenmotsu MIZUNO, who was the lord of Tokoname Castle in the Sengoku period, had a keen interest in renga (linked-verse poetry) and tea ceremony, and he was acquainted with SEN no Rikyu. For that reason, some believe Tokoname ware tea sets were first produced around this time. Green tea became popular during the late Edo period, but the only teapots available were imported from China, until a Tokoname potter named Jumon SUGIE started the first production of shudei (red clay) teapots in Japan. Eventually, Tokoname solidified its status as a pottery town.

Tokoname has in recent years also become known as the number-one producer of Maneki Neko (beckoning cat). “Tokoname Maneki Neko-dori,” a street leading from Meitetsu Tokoname Station, is famous for the variety of Maneki Neko displayed alongside. One of them, the gigantic “Toko-nyan,” measures 6.3 m wide and 3.2 m high.

Mentai

Challenges and expectations for Central Japan International Airport

Shift your eyes from the mountainous landscape where the charming old town spreads out toward the ocean, and you can see Central Japan International Airport (also known as “Centrair”), which has just celebrated its eighth anniversary. It quickly drew attention as an international airport that provides easier access from the city center than the Narita and Kansai airports. However, with Haneda commencing international services and Kansai starting 24-hour operation, Centrair has been unable to establish its own unique characteristics and, due in part to the smaller population of the service area as compared to Tokyo and Osaka, the airport hasn’t really met the initial expectation. To make matters worse, construction of the second runway and a new terminal building were reported to have been postponed. The circumstances surrounding Centrair are becoming increasingly difficult.

The airport will obviously need to work on enriching its primary functions as an international departure and arrival point by expanding the range of destinations, increasing the number of flights and attracting more LCCs. Additionally, as seen in the recent success of service areas located along highways, the airport may also have to consider operating as a stop-off point for planes on the way to their destinations. In fact, when Centrair first opened it also gained popularity as a facility that could pull in more visitors to the area. For instance, a public bathhouse featuring a view of airplanes taking off and landing became a popular topic. For these reasons, it seems there is still plenty of room for improvement.

Successively emerging new spots

In terms of attracting visitors to the region, there is an increasing expectation directed at newly established spots along the waterfront, which faces the airport and its artificial island. One of such spots is “Mentai Park Tokoname,” a popular facility opened at the end of last year. It features a mentaiko (marinated roe of pollack) museum, factory tours, free mentaiko sampling corner and more. The facility also has a distinctive appearance and serves as a stop-off point for tourist buses.

Furthermore, “Costco Chubu Airport Warehouse” was opened this summer. It is the very first Costco in the Chubu district, and the place is packed with customers every day. On weekends, the traffic to the store becomes so congested that one can’t even get off the highway from the closest exit, and traffic control is often required on nearby roads. Indeed, the store is creating a great boom.

Moreover, AEON plans to open a large shopping mall in the region sometime next year, fueling anticipation for even more visitors.

Costco Tokoname

And from now

Talk about the development of commercial facilities in the region has repeatedly surfaced since before the opening of Centrair, but it hasn’t yet materialized due to the uncertainty about the area’s potential to attract visitors. The environment surrounding the airport did not suddenly become favorable this year, and thus the current situation could merely be a temporary boom that could one day end.

Let us all hope the city will be able to sustain this momentum and continue to grow by taking advantage of its land, where the good old town lays adjacent to an area having the latest attractions and an international airport.

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