Nagoya is the fourth most populated city in Japan, and it is also a popular tourist place. It has attractions including Toyota Factory Tour, Nagoya Castle, Noritake Garden, the recently opened Legoland, and rich flavored food such as the amazing Miso sauce Tonkatsu (Pork Cutlet). These are a few favorite things for tourists!
Within the Aichi Prefecture, aside from the city attractions in Nagoya, there’s a city close-by which is well worth visiting and has always been overlooked. This is Tokoname. You may not have heard of this city, but you must have heard of “Maneki Neko 招き猫” the Welcoming Cat, better known as the Lucky Cat.
Tokoname is a relatively small city with less than 60,000 inhabitants, located on the western coast of the Chita Peninsula and facing Ise Bay. It’s next to Chubu International Airport, which is your main entrance to Nagoya.
The city has been long associated with “Tokoname-yaki 常滑焼” – the Tokoname Ware, since the Heian Period (平安時代) in the 12th century, and has been a center of pottery production. It is the main production place for Maneki Neko.
If you are heading to Chubu International Airport by train, just go to Tokoname Station which is two stations away from the airport. You may store your luggage at the station either in the coin locker or, in my case, with the staff at the tourist center within the station, who were more than welcome to keep them since the lockers were all occupied when I visited. Before you leave the station, check around and take an area walking guide pamphlet with you.
Once you step out, you will be welcomed by the people of Tokoname (not many though!). Don’t worry about the language as they might talk to you anyway. They are very sincere, warm, and friendly, and they’ll do their best to give you help if needed. Follow their suggestions and with the help of the walking guide, you’ll easily find your way to Tokoname Maneki Neko Street as well as the Pottery Foot Path. Just follow the path, and you can easily spend a whole day there visiting the pottery shops or just enjoying the scenery!
The footpath is a showcase of the Tokoname pottery artists. You’ll see a lot of pottery on display there, and all are cat themed. Each offers a blessing such as fortune, health, good business, love, and happiness.
There are two suggested paths shown on the map. The longer path, B Course, is only 4 km, and it is worth the extra time to take both courses because you’ll see a lot of pottery houses. At the far end of the circular path, you will find the Ceramic Art Institute, the City Folk Museum, and the IMAX museum.
If you are taking a late flight from Chubu International Airport and can spare a day, Tokoname is a nice place to slow down and relax before going home. There is a lot of very nice pottery and some lucky cats to buy in the area!