After navigating a noisey, garish and twinkling market arcade, we were spat out into a calm and atmospheric limestone cobbled street. The winding 'Tsuboya-yachimun-dori' in the middle of Naha's pottery district is lined with little shops crammed full with pots, vases, bowls and cups in both the Arayachi (unglazed) and Joyachi (glazed) styles.

The origin of these beautiful ceramics date right back to when the Ryukyuan empire collected kilns in the area by royal decree from 1682. This rich history of craft is best discovered by turning off the Main Street and exploring hidden alleys of crumbling traditional Okinawan buildings and humming workshops that are decorated with ceramic lion dog guardians called 'Shissa' that ward off evil spirits. 

Here we watched the local artisans hunch over their work, carefully moulding the clay and delicately hand painting decorations. One energetic man with surprisingly good english kindly invited us into his studio to look at his gas kiln, works in progress and abundance of tools.

Words and images : Ali Goodman

Images: Gas Kiln, Works in Progress, Pottery wheel, Tsuboya Workshop, Shaping a fish mould, Clay Fish in Progress, Studio Kittens, Tea and Awamori (firewater) cups, Succulents, Hand painted bowl, Craftsman working late in the studio, Tooth pick pot (traditional Okinawan pot).