Lisa’s Wanderings Around Japan/ Noritake Garden: the ceramic manufacturer now produces more than fancy table decorations

Let’s see. What comes to mind when I hear Aichi? Aichi, Aichi… I watch my hands on the steering wheel at 10:00 and 2:00. Or on a clock face, 10 minutes past 10. I am a model pilot!

Back to Aichi – oh, that’s what I drive – a Toyota, of course. I decided to visit the automaker’s main plant in Nagoya. But sometimes life has other things in store for you.

On the road, I caught all the red lights. As someone who attaches meaning to everything, I began to think that the universe was blocking me with a purpose.

Then, I glanced at the sign under a red light. I had never seen this kanji pairing and was wondering how to read it. I moved my eyes to the romaji and saw “Noritake”.

“Noritake? I looked at the kanji again. Well, could this place have something to do with Noritake porcelain? It had never occurred to me that the name could be a place, and I had only seen “Noritake” written in romaji.

Noritake Garden is located at the headquarters of the porcelain manufacturer in central Nagoya. A first-time visitor could spend the whole day there and more.

It’s a sprawling green oasis with a visitor center where you can learn about the company’s history, then join a factory tour to learn how their products are made, visit the beautiful museum with items Old Noritake on display, shop for crockery and other lifestyle products in the cleverly designed store, have a drink in the cafe or treat yourself to a delicious full lunch or dinner served on Noritake crockery at Kiln Restaurant.

Bricks from the original factory building and an early 1900s oven form a garden wall, and people of all ages lounge on the grass. There is a biotope, a stream, a fountain and tasteful artwork scattered around.

I was surprised and delighted to learn that Noritake does more than wash dishes. After all, Nitori and Ikea sell tableware like hot cakes, and more people like “quick” than “quality” products these days.

Noritake has 23 consolidated subsidiaries in nine countries and regions, and is now the largest comprehensive manufacturer of grinding and polishing tools in Japan. It produces industrial ceramic materials, coolants, abrasives, printed circuit boards, dental materials and engineering equipment used for automobiles, electronic components and energy-related industries.

When you think about it, it makes sense because the manufacture of ceramics has many applications.

I was impressed.

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This article by Washington-born, Tokyo-based photographer Lisa Vogt originally appeared in the August 22 issue of Asahi Weekly. It is part of “Lisa’s Wanderings Around Japan” series, which depicts various locations across the country through the perspective of the author, a professor at Meiji University.

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