One of the reasons people visit Bizen is to see, buy, make, and learn about Bizen Pottery. The area around Inbe Station is where the pottery sites are located. The Bizen Pottery Traditional and Contemporary Museum is a great place to learn about the history, and the streets are lined with shops selling pottery made by the shops' owners. There are other related sites scattered about that are worth visiting, too.
First, among the shops are the famous smokestacks. If you are lucky, you'll actually get to see smoke rising from at least one of them. That is a sign that the craftsman is firing some of his pottery.
Those interested in the history should definitely visit the Tenpokama (Tenbokama/Tenpogama, it's name is translated differently in different sources). The Tenpokama is an old kiln that has now been preserved so visitors can see it and walk around it to better understand the firing process and how the pottery is made.
Nearby is Inbe Shrine, where a monument to the Kita Oomamaato kiln stands and a nice lookout point over the town and the pottery smokestacks. Amazu Shrine, the famous Bizen pottery shrine, is also nearby.
The last site is easy to miss if you don't know to look for it. There is a place where Bizen pottery has been incorporated into a wall along the road. It's actually an interesting site. The best way to find this (and all of the sites) is to stop at the Visitor Center in Inbe Station before setting off to pick up a map. They have English and Japanese with pictures to make it easy to find the sites. The Inbe area is a nice place to walk around and to experience a different part of Japanese culture from the typical tourist spots.
The Bizen Pottery Traditional and Contemporary Art Museum is the best place to learn about Bizen pottery. The first and crudest form of Bizen pottery was made during the Kofun Period and developed during the Heian, Kamakura, and Muromachi Periods to resemble what it looks like today. The museum has Bizen pottery from throughout its history on display.
When the Ikeda ruled the area, Bizen pottery had such prestige that they only permitted six families to produce it. Bizen pottery became famous nation-wide during the Edo Period. Over time the market for Bizen pottery waned as porcelain and other forms of pottery became popular. It became a concern that the art may be lost, but thanks to Kaneshige Toyo's dedication to continuing to produce the pottery in the same way it was made in the past, Bizen pottery has survived and has regained prestige.
Along with the old pottery, the museum also features Kaneshige Toyo's revival pottery, examples of each of the six types of Bizen pottery, and modern works using the pottery. English pamphlets make it easy to learn here even if you don't know Japanese.
Entrance is 700 yen.
Bizen offers the opportunity not only to buy pottery and see how it's made; you can try to make your very own Bizen pottery! There are many places where you can do this, but if you want to do it at one of the pottery shops, you'll need to make a reservation. The easiest way to do it without a reservation is at the Bizenyaki Dento Sangyo, which is actually part of Inbe Station. It's on the 3rd floor above the souvenir shop (the 2nd floor features Bizen pottery that you can purchase).
When you compare to the cost of buying a pot, the price of making your own is quite reasonable. You can either make a mug/cup or a bowl. The price is around 3500 yen.
They will guide you in forming and shaping your bowl/cup and when you are finished, you can choose a glaze. Then you need to fill out a paper for them to send it to you when it's finished. It will not be finished for up to 10 months, so make sure when you fill out the form that your address is where you will be in 10 months (ask what month exactly it should be finished). Then, just wait or forget about it and in 10 months you'll get a surprise in the mail!
The workshops are only available on weekends and holidays.
Bizen has two train lines that run through it and they are not connected, so which you take will depend on where you want to go.
On the JR Sanyo Line, the stations in Bizen are:
-Mitsuishi Station: Mitani Falls
Yoshinaga Station: Shizutani School, Renga Hiroba, Hattoji Village
On the JR Ako Line, which runs from Aioi Station in Hyogo Prefecture to Higashiokayama, the stations within Bizen are Sogo, Hinase, Iri, Bizen Katakami, Nishikatakami, Inbe, and Kagato Stations.
Some of the more important ones for tourists with nearby sites are:
-Hinase: Hinase Port, Bizen Chunanbei Museum (Latin America Museum)
-Nishikatakami: Near the start of the Katakami Roman Kaido Cycling Path
-Inbe: Bizen Pottery Museum, Bizen Pottery Center