Young children and ceramics are not an obvious mix — the former having an alarming tendency to break the latter when they come into contact with one another (at least in our household). However, there is one situation when combining the two works like magic: children's pottery classes.

There are few more fun, or messy, joys for young kids than plunging their hands — and yes, on occasion their entire arms and maybe the odd foot — into a fresh mound of squishy clay. And it's even better — for parents, at least — when they don't do it at home, bearing in mind the clean-up it involves.

We recently put a children's pottery class to the test in a place that was located a safe 135-kilometer distance from our kitchen table — Mashiko in Tochigi Prefecture.