Saga with kids was the second day of our one-week road trip to Kyushu. Saga is a great place to enjoy the history and art of ceramics. We left Fukuoka early in the morning and ended up in Takeo for the night around 5:30 pm. A great day to view Kusatsu pottery, Imari, and Arita, which are all very different styles. The kids loved starting the day at a castle and ending in an onsen. We enjoyed our quick one day in Saga and highly recommend adding it to your Kyushu with kids itinerary. Here are also our packing recommendations for your Family Road Trip Essentials.
Kyushu with Kids Road Trip
Day 2 – Saga with Kids
Things to do in Saga with Kids
- Karatsu Castle
- Okawachiyama Ceramics Town
- Kyushu Ceramics Museum
- Arita Porcelain Park
- Kouraku Kiln
- Takeo Public Library
- Takeo Onsen
*Fukuoka City to Karatsu Castle is approximately a one hour drive or 1.5 hours on public bus. Plan for about 1-2 hours to view the castle and grounds.
Start your day early in Fukuoka and head over to Karatsu, which is a 1-hour drive. Karatsu Castle is a unique castle constructed on a plain surrounded by water on three sides. The castle was originally built in 1598 but demolished around 1869. The current castle was rebuilt, as many in Kyushu were, in the 1960s to drive tourism. The present castle features five tiers and five stories. The stairway to the castle is about 230 stairs; note if you can not do the climb, there is an elevator for 100 yen behind the castle. Once on the grounds, your kids can have fun trying to throw rocks on the top of one of the stone tori for good luck. The inside of the castle has floors of Karatsu ceramics, old illustrations of labor in the 1800-1900s, and other artifacts. The view of Karatsu Bay is also not to be missed.
Karatsu Castle Details
Address: 8 Higashijonai, Karatsu, Saga 847-0016 (Google maps)
Business Hours: Open everyday 9:00 – 17:00
Admissions: High School age and above 400 yen, Junior high and elementary 200 yen, 5 and under free
By Bus: From Fukuoka take the Nishitetsu Tenjin Kosoku Bus to Hoto Sambashi in Karatsu and then walk 8 mins to the castle.
By Car: Drive on the express way 50 Km for about 1 hour.
* Karatsu Castle to Okawachiyama drive is about a 45 min drive / 30 kilometers
If you are a ceramics lover, Okawachiyama is a dream village. It was a secluded potter village for a few hundred years where Koreans made pottery for the elite in Japan. The Koreans were brought to Japan after the Imjin War in the late 16th century, and their skills were highly desired. The town is located a few miles outside of Imari nestled into a mountain side. The cemetery of potters is located on the slopes of the town. Spend a few hours wandering the stores and kilms. There are very few restaurants so best to eat in Imari town before heading out.
Okawachiyama Ceramics Town Details:
Address: Otsu-1848 Okawachicho, Imari, Saga (Google maps)
Hours: Most kilms and stores are open 10:00 -16:00
Parking: Free public parking at the base of the village
Access: Train from Karatsu to Imari station about 1.10 hours then bus to the village from Imari station, the bus runs every two hours and takes 15 mins.
Okawachiyama to the Kyushu Ceramics Musuem is about a 25 min drive / 17 kilometers
The Kyushu Ceramics Museum is lovely but under utilized ceramic museum located on a hill top in the town of Arita, Kyushu. The museum was built by the prefecture of Kyushu to educate on the local ceramic specialties and impact on the world. There are five galleries which are filled with beautiful ceramics from across Kyushu. One gallery also explain about how the origins of Japanese ceramics came from China and Korea; and also how Kyushu produced ceramics were poplar in Europe. We were the only visitors in this expansive museum which seems a shame. We highly recommend making a one hour visit before visiting the area more extensively.
Kyushu Ceramics Museum Details:
Address: 3100-1 Toshaku Otsu, Arita-cho Nishi Matsuura-gun, Saga Prefecture
Business Hours: Closed Monday; other days open 9:00 – 17:00
Parking: Free parking available at the musuem
*Kyushu Ceramic Museum to the Arita Porcelain Park 10 min drive / 5 kilometers
The Arita Porcelain Park is probably the world’s only ceramics theme park. When you pull in to the park, you will be surprised by the huge Versaille looking building that dominates the site. This building houses a museum of ceramics. There is also a large beer hall and buffet, small Europe style village which is in pretty bad condition and the ceramic studio. We went to Arita Porcelain Park for the kids to paint some ceramics. Our kids were inspired by the items they saw in Okawachiyama. There are three choices in pottery projects – throwing your own piece, hand molding, or painting pre-baked pieces. Pay a few thousand in shipping in about one month piece will be delivered to you. Reservations are not require but best to make via phone or website.
Arita Porcelain Park Details
Address: 340-28, Toya, Arita, Nishimatsuura District, Saga (Google map)
Phone: Ceramics studio 0955-41-0030
Admission: Free to park and enter park. Museum is adults 600 yen, HS students 500 yen, Junior HS 300 yen, Elementary and below free. Ceramic projects 1,000 – 5,000 yen.
Business hours: Open everyday 10:00 – 17:00
Arita Porcelain Park to Koraku Kiln 10 min drive / 6 kilometers
There are hundreds of kilns in Saga prefecture, but the Kouraku Kiln is most famous for their “Treasure Hunting” ceramic buy-in. The kiln has collected used and end of lot ceramics from across Saga in their vast warehouse. Grab a basket, flashlight, and gloves and search for items to FILL your basket. There is one room of items to fill the 5,000 yen baskets and one room for 10,000 yen baskets. If I were not with kids, I would have chosen the 10,000 yen basket since the quietly and selection is much better, however, with kids 5,000 yen was fun and on budget. Your kids will have a great 60-90 mins search, and you can take back some great pieces. Kouraku Kiln also has onsite residencies for foreign artists. residencies for foreign artists.
Kouraku Kiln Details
Address: 2512 Hei, Maruo Aritacho, Nishimatsura-gun 844-0023
Admission: Free to park. 5,000 or 10,000 yen basket
Business hours: Open everyday 10:00 – 17:00
Kouraku Kiln to town of Takeo 26 min drive / 17 kilometers
We stumbled upon the most amazing public library in Japan while in search of coffee. The Takeo Public Libary was designed and is managed by Tsutaya Company and has a Starbucks inside. There are actually two buildings, the main adult library, and the kids. The design for both spaces is lovely, with raised beam roofs and exposed natural wood. We did not want to leave the kids’ library, which is colorful, fun to read in, and has a small cafe with pancakes and drinks. The library books are organized well with the latest library technology. Every librarian would be envious—a must on your visit to Saga.
Takeo Public Library Details
Address: 5304-1 Takeo, Takeo-cho, Takeo-shi, Saga-ken
Admission: Free to park.
Business hours: 9:00 – 21:00
End your Saga adventure in the town of Takeo. A small town close to Arita. The Takeo Onsen facility has three different onsens to chose from. You also can rent a private onsen space if you prefer the privacy. A lovely escape from a busy day. The large red gate was build in the 1800s to welcome important dignitaries and has become a simple of Takeo.
Takeo Onsen Details
Address: 7425 Honmachi, Takeo, Saga(Google map)
Admission: adults 500 -630 yen, kids above age 5 is 250 yen
Business hours: Closed Tuesday; 6:30 – 12:30
Great Restaurant in Takeo with Kids
Sagaya Yakiniku – This Yakiniku restaurnat was very family friendly and a three min walk from the Central Hotel Takeo which we stayed.
Hotel in Takeo Saga
We stayed at the Central Hotel Takeo which was clean, updated, had a great onsen on the top floor, and a good breakfast buffet.
Saga Famous Foods
- Yobuko Ika (Live Squid Sashimi) – caught daily and served freshly cut and sometimes still moving
- Saga Black Anus Beef – rated among the best in the work with globally rated fat marveling of at least 7 out of 12
- Ureshinocha (Saga Tea) – Green tea from the town of Ureshinocha has been grown for over 500 years
- Udofu (onsen cooked tofu) – Enjoy fresh tofu make in the natural hot spring water
- Kankoi (Koi Fish) – yep, carp. Some plentiful in Saga they eat it!
Kyushu Road Trip with Kids –
Road Trip One Day Itinerary
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