Only dedicated lovers of ceramics will want to linger in drab IMBE (伊部), 30km east of Okayama and home of Bizen-yaki, Japan’s oldest method of making pottery, developed here over a thousand years ago. The ceramics’ distinctive earthy colour and texture are achieved without the use of glazes by firing in wood-fuelled kilns, whose brick chimneys you’ll see dotted around Imbe Station. Beside the station is a tourist information counter (9am–6pm; closed Tues; t 0869/64-1100), where you can pick up an English leaflet about Bizen-yaki and get directions to the local pottery museums, the best being the Bizen Pottery Traditional and Contemporary Art Museum (9.30am–4.30pm; closed Mon), in the grey concrete block immediately north of the station; it displays both old and new examples of the ceramics, providing an overview of the pottery’s style and development. There are plenty of kilns with attached shops in which you can mooch around, and at some there are studios where you can sculpt your own blob of clay, for around ¥3000. This is then fired and shipped to your home (for overseas deliveries you’ll need to pay extra). The most convenient place to try your hand at making pottery is the Bizen-yaki Traditional Pottery Centre (t 0869/64-1001), on the third floor of Imbe Station, where workshops are held each weekend and on holidays.

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