The production of statuettes in the shape of oxen -- the Chinese zodiac animal for next year -- has been in full swing at Meizan Ceramics Industry Co., located in the Shigarakicho district in the western Japan city of Koka, Shiga Prefecture -- one of the country's oldest pottery production centers known for its Shigaraki stoneware pottery. Craftworkers apply clay slips onto the surface of the ware with a brush to draw out the clay's texture. The handmade products are sold in stoneware pottery shops in Koka, as well as online. Between 30 and 50 of the items are made per day, and the company plans to ship some 2,000 figurines by the end of this year. Shinya Ishino, 42, the ninth-generation head of the ceramics producer, said, "Although we'll ring in the New Year under this coronavirus crisis, I hope people feel at peace while gazing at the statuettes."
(Japanese original by Takao Kitamura, Osaka Photo Group)