Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Zwinger Palace at Arita Porcelain Park


To come across a full-size replica of a Rococo German palace in the countryside of Saga in northern Kyushu might surprise some people, but such things no longer surprise me.

This replica of the Zwinger palace in Dresden is located in a theme park devoted to porcelain, the Arita Porcelain Park, and as well as the Zwinger palace the rest of the park is made out to represent a "german" village.

The connection of porcelain to Arita is a strong one...... Arita is where the first porcelain in Japan was made, but the connection to Germany needs some explanation.

A lot of the porcelain produced in Arita was exported to Europe by the Dutch traders of Nagasaki and was very popular and known as Imari Ware after the nearby port to Arita from where it was exported.

In the 1970's it was discovered that behind the Iron Curtain in the museum of Dresden was an amazing collection of Imari Ware, and with some difficulty it was arranged to bring the collection from East Germany to show in Japan. This led to Arita and Dresden becoming sister-cities.

The original Zwinger was built in 1709 as an orangerie and gardens with galleries and pavilions for exhibitions. It is considered a classic piece of Baroque architecture of Dresden. It was largely destroyed by the infamous bombing raid of WWII but was rebuilt.

The Arita version was opened in 1993, and like many such ambitious projects from around that time the park never really became very successful and so has somewhat deteriorated. The gardens are particularly bleak.

When I visited the two long galleries held exhibitions of European porcelain and local Arita ceramics, but it seems that these exhibitions have now ceased. I suspect the whole park will not be a viable business for much longer, again a fairly common occurrence in the hinterlands of Japan.

I visited on day 70 of my walk around  Kyushu, a day I spent mostly exploring Arita, a town well worth a visit. Next, I will look at the rest of the porcelain park.


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