2D Space, Sky Island

Sky Island Characters

Back to my Sky Island world. New characters, Cloud Maker & Sky Fish. #sketchbook #artjounal #drawing #doodle #fish #sketch #dailydrawing #artistleecaijun #art #artist #sgartist #©leecaijun #leecaijun

Art Travel

Ceramic Towns: Okawachiyama and Imari

Continuing from my last post, I did a 2 days 1 night trip to the renowned ceramic towns, Arita, Okawachiyama 大川内山 and Imari 伊万里. This is the 2nd day of the trip after an overnight stay at Arita. Okawachiyama 大川内山 is a secluded pottery town up in the mountain and which is the main charm of it. The town is small, less touristy and all the attractions are within walking distance. You are actually walking within residence area and the potters’ studio.

Took the train from Arita station to Imari station, it’s 25 minutes journey and there a train around every 30 minutes. The easier way to get to Okawachiyama is to take a bus (20 minute) right outside Imari train station 伊万里駅 or take a cab. There’s a tourist information at the train station where you can check the latest bus timing and grab a Okawachiyama map. Take the Saihi Bus bound for Okawachiyama and alight at the last stop. I took the 10.32am bus.

From Imari station to Okawachiyama. Blue font is departure timing and red font is the arrival timing. *time dated on May 2018. Do double check updated timing at Imari train station tourist information.
From Okawachiyama to Imari station. Blue font is departure timing and red font is the arrival timing. *time dated on May 2018. Do double check updated timing at Imari train station tourist information.
Map of Okawachiyama made from porcelain.
Bus stop. The room on the right is a small waiting area and tourist information counter. I start off with the sights from the bottom left of the map from the bus stop.

Potter’s tombs 陶工の墓

Do visit the 岳神社 shrine at the summit (top northwest of the map), it is sited in a carved in rock and the view from the summit is stunning.*note: it’s a really long stair up, just follow the pathway next to the stream and head uphill.

It was a very cold and windy, an unexpected downpour of snow made this place even more impressive.

In need of a warm drink after being caught in the snow. There was a cafe in one of the pottery shop called 虎仙窯, they served the cakes and drinks in their homemade porcelain wares.

Outdoor ceramic sculptures around the observation deck area.

While waiting for the 2.22pm bus back to Imari Station, had another round of sweets at another pottery shop (伊万里鍋島焼会館) closest the bus stop.

Imari 伊万里, there isn’t much pottery to see over here as Imari is a port where pottery wares are being shipped. That’s why I leave this ceramic town to the last. I was pretty tired from all the walking at Okawachiyama, only managed to stroll along the main road from the Imari train station until the river.  Map in Japanese. Main attractions are the Imari Nabeshima Gallery (2nd floor of Imari Train Station), Ceramic Merchant’s Residence Museum (close to river, small showcase of  pottery and living quarters), Umi no Silk Road House (1st floor selling pottery and gallery on 2nd floor), Koimari Clock and outdoor ceramic works.

A clock made of Koimari porcelain located at the end of main street, near to river. It plays music and re-enacts scenes from the city’s past every hour between 9:00 and 18:00.

Lastly, took the train from Imari heading towards Karatsu direction and back to the artist residency place where I’m staying.

Back to Karatsu station on this single carriage local train.

©Lee Cai Jun

Was there on 8 December 2017.

Art Travel

Ceramic Town: Arita

Did a 2 days 1 night trip to the renowned ceramic towns, Arita (有田), Imari (伊万) & Okawachiyama (大川内山) in Saga Prefecture during the residency period at Studio Kura, Kyushu. Arita is known as the first place where porcelain was produced in Japan around 400 years ago when a Korean potter, Lee Sam Pyun, discovered Kaolin (one of the main ingredient in making porcelain) in the nearby mountain. The Korean potters brought over their skills and knowledge into Japan and that how Arita wares started production. Arita and Okawachiyama are the sites for production, while Imari served as a shipping port for pottery.

As I was staying at Studio Kura, it is more convenient to travel from Karatsu to Kami Arita via the JR Chikuhi Line, the more popular tourist route will be from the Fukuoka, Hakata train station. Check out this link, https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e8301.html

Train route from Studio Kura.

For the exact train route and time, check out on this link. http://www.hyperdia.com/en/

My itineraries start fromKami AritaArita(stay overnight)- (Imari)OkawachiyamaImari. Went on a Thursday and Friday during December. It was off peak season, not much of a crowd, some of the shops and cafe were closed, but it wasn’t much of a problem since I like the cold and was able to enjoy the place more in depth without the crowd.

Kami Arita is where most of the attractions are and a few important ones at Arita. I covered the attractions from Kami Arita to Arita by foot it’s about 40minutes distance (non stop) between the 2 stations, hardly notice the distance as I stop and rest between attractions. Arita is where you can find guesthouses or inns to stay for the night. The 2nd day, I head to Okawachiyama, a pottery town up in the mountain (personal favourite among the 3) which is a short 15 -20 minutes bus ride from outside Imari train station and back to Imari. Most locals travel by car, which is more convenient to cover all the attractions within 2 days. But as a ceramist and tourist (using public transportation), I would have prefer to stay 1 more day as I missed out places like the Tengudani Kiln and Arita Ceramic Park’s Zwinger Palace.

Arita map made from porcelain tiles

Arita Map (english) / Arita Map (Japanese)

Starting from Kami Arita station, I covered the attractions at the far left side, Ishiba Shrine 石場神社, Izumiya Quarry 泉山磁石場, Gingko Tree 大イチョウand the Arita Folk and History Museum 有田町歴史民俗資料館before heading towards Arita direction.

Stepped out of train station and was greeted by this prominent pottery shop showcasing their impressive Arita wares outdoor all the way to the car park. No doubt, I can look forward to their renowned porcelain wares in the region.

Headed towards the 5 attractions on the right side first.

The left path at these ceramic owls lead to the 1000 years old Ginkgo Tree. Opposite the road from here, there’s a small bakery shop runs by a friendly lady and her cute dog. It’s nice to have freshly baked warm tasty bread in this cold weather. A quick recharge before the walk.

The Gingko Tree 大イチョウ would have been impressive at the right season. Nevertheless, the yellow carpet is pretty welcoming.

Many ceramic owls around the Ginkgo tree vicinity.


Ishiba Shrine 石場神社.
Ceramic statue of Lee Sam Pyun, the Korean potter who discovered Kaolin mine in Izumi Mountain.- Ishiba Shrine 石場神社.

Further up from the Ishiba Shrine 石場神社 is the impressive Izumiya Quarry 泉山磁石場.

Closest I can get to the quarry. It is not open unless accompanied by staff and have to be requested in advance.

Next to the quarry is the Arita Folk and History Museum 有田町歴史民俗資料館

Next, heads toward the Arita Station direction by following the main road and covers the rest of the attractions in between Kami Arita and Arita. Check out the Tombai Wall トンバイ塀, Koransha 香蘭社Arita Ceramic Museum 有田陶磁美術館Touzan Shrine 陶山神社(tori gate made of porcelain), Ri Sam Pei Monument李参平の碑(nice overview of the town), Kyushu Ceramic Museum 九州陶磁文化館 (extensive collection of Kyushu ceramic and pottery) & the individual pottery stores.

Main road are all where most of the pottery shops are, personally prefer the side/back alley where the production workshop and studios are.

Back alley has a small stream running through the town.

Tombai Wall トンバイ塀. Made of waste firebricks and pottery pieces.
Tombai Wall トンバイ塀.

Arita Ceramic Museum 有田陶磁美術館 has a very good collection of Arita wares in this two story stone building that used to be a storehouse. One of the most interesting and well known pieces is a large dish with illustrations of the local methods of porcelain production. There video description of this large dish at the Arita Folk and History Museum 有田町歴史民俗資料館.

Koransha 香蘭社 is a famous brand that produces high quality luxurious porcelain wares by the Fukugawa family. They have served as purveyor for the Japanese Imperial Household since 1910 and only produces high temperature true white porcelain.

Koransha 香蘭社.

I head to the Kyushu Ceramic Museum 九州陶磁文化館after checking out a few more pottery shops before they close for the day. It about 25- 30 minutes on foot. You will see a overhead bridge and a signage directing to the museum which is up on the hill. As you head upwards, you get a nice overview of Arita town.

Had a break at the 2nd floor cafe once I reached the museum. To my surprise their dessert set is served in 200 years old antique Arita porcelain wares and with printout that describes the history! They have a great collection at the museum and do check out the musical porcelain clock.


After this, I end the day and head to guesthouse, 民宿茶や Cha-ya (map), 3 minutes from the Arita train station. It’s a traditional Japanese guesthouse, homely and comfy place with scrumptious meals prepared by the super nice granny and his son. Booked a Japanese style room half board with futon. Granny recommended a public onsen, Nuru Nuru Arita Onsenヌルヌル有田温泉(map) while we wait for dinner. It’s about 20 minutes on foot or you can take a cab there, just need to bring along your own towel (can purchase on the spot) and change of clothes, the place provide shampoo and shower foam. Had a nice hot bath and relax my tired legs after whole day of walking.

Continue my journey to Okawachiyama the next day. Check out the posthere.

©Lee Cai Jun

Was there on the 7 December 2017

2D Space

Daily sketches

Really into 15th century woodcut folklore prints, particularly those cartoonish ones. All those museum visits are definitely worth it. Finding inspiration from them. #dailysketch #sketchbook #artjounal #drawing #doodle #artresearch #sketch #dailydrawing #yuystudio #artistleecaijun #leecaijun #art #artist #sgartist

Artist Residencies, Exhibitions

Way of Life

This art installation was done during the 1 month artist residency at Studio Kura. The documentation was the most challenging I have ever faced so far; neither photography nor video is able to capture the artwork entirely. This site-specific installation is beyond a visual display, it creates an “environment” engaging the viewer and stimulate their sensation experience and resonate with the space. The best documentation is being in the space and interact with it firsthand.

Title: Way of Life

Medium: Paper (site-specific installation)

Year: 24 December 2017

Dimension: L565 x W280 x H380cm

Description: In Itoshima, there are many Shinto shrines around this vicinity and where traditional culture are still being practiced in this 21th century. Even though many may not understand the reasons behind these cultural practices entirely but yet it is still being carry out without fail. Shrine visit is an important element of their life; as an emotional support, a habitual practice or a comfort zone; and thus “Way of Life” was created. By climbing up the stairway, passing through layers of “gates” into an inner meditative space, these ritualistic steps resemble how one does when visiting the sacred shrine ground. Crossing the invisible boundary between the stressful reality into the tranquil world, and how does one engages with the space will depend on each individual.

Installation process.


During the artist talk. Photo taken by Katsura, Studio Kura.
Photo taken by Eswari.
During the artist talk. Photo taken by Eswari.
During the artist talk. Photo taken by Eswari.
During the artist talk. Photo taken by Eswari.

© Lee Cai Jun

Exhibition on 23-24 December 2017 at Studio Kura.

Artist Residencies, Exhibitions, Projects, Activities & Events

Way of Life: Installation Process

Way of Life, this art installation was inspired by numerous Japanese Shrines that I have visited for this trip to Japan for the Artist Residency program at Studio Kura. Whether is the famous UNESCO listed or the homely neighbourhood ones, every single shrine has a story to tell; about their cultural anthropology influences and the way of Life in Japan.

Most of the shrines are lead by a lengthy stairways lined with Torī Gates from the entrance to the main shrine. Climbing through these steps clears up my mind and as I reach the tranquil & meditative main shrine nested among the greenery up in the mountain, it felt as though crossing through an invisible boundary into another ‘world’. The main shrine and the surrounding are decorated with numerous foreign motifs and iconic ornaments which sparks my curiosity enormously. These shrine visits are addictive and it has been a daily routine before I start work in the studio; it is an escapade from the stressful society & having quiet moments with myself. *some of the local shrines around the Studio Kura- Kamiari Shrine, Hakojima Shrine, MatsusueInari Shrine, MatsusueGoro Inari Shrine & Kotake Shrine.

Was very fortunate to participate in the Making of Shimenawa 標縄 with the locals, it’s an annual event and it happens that Studio Kura director’s mother owns the Matsusue Inari shrine around the vicinity. Clarified with the priest personally regarding some of the motifs meaning which inspire me to use incorporate some of the iconic motifs into my work.

Finding the right space was crucial for this installation, thought it might pose a challenge but I found it within an hour upon reaching Studio Kura on the very first day. It’s more like a fated encounter, instinctively knew it was the right space at first sight. Was told that the Studio Kura Gallery’s mezzanine is a work space and no one has ever used it to showcase their works there due to the accessibility and the design of the space. The mezzanine has a low slanted ceiling, windowless, space size around L565 x W280 x H380cm, with a simple rustic DIY stair connecting to it and a unusual opening on one side of the wall.

To create a tranquil space, the first task is to clear out the furniture and do a major spring cleaning. It took me 2 whole days to wipe down the walls and pillars, but the most tedious job was the floor. Many have been walking with their shoes on in this space for years, have to sweep and mop the floor for over 40 times with cleaning agent, literally “purifying” the space. And of course, shoes were forbidden thereafter. The spotless floor becomes my studio space, where I work with large sheets of white paper.

Photo taken by Eswari
Photo taken by Eswari.

The opening at the mezzanine is unusual but I like how the light pours in although it gets overwhelming on sunny day. Decided to work it to my advantage by creating a Japanese style “window” out of it.


Usually wasn’t able to take much of the work in progress photos when I’m in working mode. But this time, my bestie, Eswari Krishnadas, was also one of the participating artist. So here’s some rare behind the scene process.

Seems easy to install but I was trembling, have to tiptoe to reach the highest point and one slight miss I will fall over the ledge. Endless climbing for this installation really took a toll on my knees. Photo taken by Eswari.
Photo taken by Eswari.
Photo taken by Eswari.
Photo taken by Eswari.

Set up a cosy corner in the studio countering the cold winter. A makeshift snack bar and utilizing the kerosene burner to the max.

Final presentation of Way of Life will be in another post.

©Lee Cai Jun

At Studio Kura from 30 November – 26 December 2017.