While looking for interesting Airbnb places to stay, Ivar found “Arita Art Residency”, a guest room in a building formerly used by the workers inside a Porcelain Factory, the Kouraku Kiln. We saw that the host, a Brazilian potter that works at the factory and leads the art residency programs, had so many nice, friendly and fun reviews that we were immediately convinced!
As soon as we got there, we meet the one and only Sebastião Pimenta. He immediately joked and made fun of me in Spanish, which was so refreshing after a month in Japan. He introduced us to Arita, its history and put us in contact with locals.
The town of Arita is well known, specially in Japan, for being a Porcelain factory town. The town started producing distinctive potteries since the beginning of the 16th century, and started exporting internationally from the seventeenth century as the Dutch East India Company (VOC) began importing Arita porcelain through the port of Imari.
After some rough times, the town experienced a huge crisis and lots of factories had to close. The one we stayed in, the Kourakou Kiln, has remained active thanks to very interesting ideas and a huge will to make it work. Mr. Tokunaga, the president and son of the family, brought Sebastião Pimenta, an experienced Brazilian potter expert to work on their residency program. And he brought a revolution!
We were so impressed with how humbly he has made a huge impact not only on the factory he works on but also with the neighboring ones, making the connections more friendly and relaxed. One of his many revolutions is a program he started called Treasure Hunting! Check this video https://vimeo.com/155909386 to get a feel of Pimenta and his fun character. The factory has a few warehouses full of unsold potteries which made him see an opportunity to get the factory more recognition again. For a very reasonable price you get a basket that you can fill to the top and bring home with you. The hunting through the warehouse is just so so exciting.
For the portrait we asked Sebastião to choose his favorite place from the factory and he took us to the old worker wood houses. They are have fallen apart but keep all the magic and mystery from the old times. Such a magical place where Sebastião shines and feels at home.