travel and tourism

The Philippines’ Noritake connection

Isagani de Castro Jr.

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The Philippines’ Noritake connection

CONNECT. The Noritake Garden welcomes visitors to the Japanese manufacturer's birthplace in Nagoya City, Aichi Prefecture in central Japan, on April 18, 2024.

Isagani de Castro, Jr./Rappler

(1st UPDATE) This famous Japanese tableware maker turns 120 years old this year, and the Philippines is part of its history

NAGOYA, Japan – Do you have a Noritake dinner set or cup and saucer at home? If you do, chances are it’s from the ’50s or ’60s and could be expensive vintage porcelain or bone china.

A seller on e-commerce site Carousell, for instance, has a 28-piece “Noritake Legendary Tea and Expresso Set” that has a price tag of P9,770, while a store on Shopee is selling a single “Noritake Cobalt Blue and Gold Plate” for P2,936! 

Noritake, founded in 1904, is celebrating its 120th anniversary this year, and there’s a Philippine connection to this Japanese company. 

In 1974, Noritake established Noritake Porcelana Manufacturing Incorporated in the Philippines which put up a factory in Marikina City.

For many years, it produced tablewares. If you happen to visit Nagoya City, you’ll see the Philippine connection in the Noritake Museum. 

The museum showcases some old Noritake and contemporary Noritake tablewares and accessories. Part of the museum shows a chronological list of Noritake backstamps (see image below). Numbers 14 and 27 on the list show a backstamp that a tableware made in the Philippines might have.

drawings, kanji, symbols, japanese words
MARK. Some of the backstamps of Noritake indicating the manufacturer or origin. Number 14 (2nd from top of first column) says Philippines, 1996 to 2008, and number 27 (third from top of the second column) with the word Philippines below the backstamp, and the years 1976 to 2007, the years when Noritake Porcelana Manufacturing Inc. was producing tablewares in Marikina.

A backstamp is the mark on the reverse side of a plate or cup and saucer or figurine that identifies the product’s manufacturer or origin.  

plates, table, porcelain, bone china
GENUINE. Three Noritake plates with different backstamps, which are also signs of authenticity.

One of the backstamps (no. 14) displayed is this one below. Noritake tablewares that were made in the Philippines from 1996 to 2008 would have this backstamp.

trademark, backstamp, kanji, japanese characters
MADE IN PH. This backstamp (left) that are on Noritake ivory china tablewares, of which some were made in the Philippines from 1996 to 2008 by Noritake Porcelana Manufacturing Inc. in Marikina City, Philippines.

A Google translation of the second line says: “Some products (1996-2008) display the country of origin as ‘PHILIPPINES.’” 

Another backstamp (no. 27. below) says Legacy by Noritake with the word Philippines below, with the years 1976 to 2007.

LEGACY. The Google translation of the two lines above the years 1976 to 2007 reads: “Unglazed fabric with a lapis lazuli border and patterned with gold and other colors, used in Livin factory products.”

Unfortunately, Noritake decided to close its factory in the Philippines in 2008 amid a financial crisis that hit its biggest export markets, especially the United States. 

A year later, in September 2009, Tropical Storm Ondoy caused widespread flooding in Metro Manila, including in Marikina City, where Noritake had its factory, prompting some to think that it was the natural disaster which was the reason for the closure. 

But Catherine Santos, head of marketing of Noritake Philippines, told Rappler that while Ondoy also affected its factory, the main reason for the closure was the US recession since Noritake’s main export market was the US. Around 300 workers in the Philippines were displaced, she said. 

In Japan’s Noritake Company Limited’s 2009 annual report, the company’s leaders said they had to restructure in response to the global financial crisis, which led to “falling profit margins” in its tabletop and electronics business units. 

LEGACY. An old photo of personnel of the now defunct Noritake Porcelana Manufacturing Philippines in Marikina City. Courtesy of Noritake Philippines/Legacy Unlimited Inc.

“In the Tabletop Group, in tandem with the closure of our plant in the Philippines, we concentrated the overseas production of tableware in Sri Lanka and cut back production at the Imari Plant in Saga Prefecture, Japan,” the report says. 

Sri Lanka, located in the Indian Ocean, is geographically closer to emerging markets, such as India, China, Southeast Asia, and Africa. Wages there were also lower than in other Noritake plants, according to a Nikkei article in 2015.

Another factor was consumers’ changing lifestyle, with many families no longer buying pricey dinner sets as eating in restaurants became the more convenient option to entertain guests. Less expensive tablewares like the Corelle brand from the US and Ikea from Europe also emerged and became popular in the ’70s and ’80s.

After the factory closed, former Filipino executives of Noritake Porcelana put up Legacy Unlimited Incorporated, and continued to sell Noritake products in the Philippines. Most of Noritake’s tableware products are now made in Sri Lanka.

plates, cups, saucers, table wares, display room, glassware
SETS. Noritake tablewares, mostly made in Sri Lanka, on display at Rustan’s Makati, Ayala Center, Makati City, on May 7, 2024. Isagani de Castro, Jr./Rappler

Legacy Unlimited is the sole and exclusive importer/distributor of Noritake. Its main retail outlets are in Rustan’s department stores and in select SM stores nationwide.

If you go to Rustan’s Makati, Ayala Center, you’ll see Noritake dinnerwares and cutlery on display. The cost of a dinner set has become so prohibitive that most of the buyers are institutions, principally hotels and restaurants. Examples below:

  • A 68-piece Chaetelaine Gold dinner: P425,000
  • A 68-piece Brilliance dinner set: P225,000
  • A 68-piece Splendor Umber dinner set: P195,000
  • The Alluring Fields 20-piece dinner set: P69,500
  • The Aedrean Dreams 36-piece dinner set: P19,500

There are also selected Noritake tablewares on display in the Noritake Philippines office at No. 1 Libongco Compound, JP Rizal Street, Barangay Concepcion Uno, Marikina, which occasionally holds a bodega (storehouse) clearance sale, where you can get big discounts.

The best place to experience Noritake, however, is to visit the Noritake Musuem in Nagoya City, which has one of the best gardens with a French restaurant. It also has a Noritake Garden Craft Center, where you can try painting on white plates and mugs which are then fired at around 850°C degrees. For those who live in Japan, the finished piece can be delivered in two to three weeks.

Here are some photos of the Noritake Museum, the Noritake Square Lifestyle Shop, and Noritake Craft Center. (All photos below by the author, taken on April 18, 2024.)

Noritake Museum
museum, glass, tablewares, carpet, lights
VINTAGE. The fourth floor of Noritake Museum showcases old Noritake tableware, decor and figurines, manufactured in the late 19th and early 20th century. 
porcelain, glass, painting, design, museum
DECOR. A porcelain Noritake vase designed with a rooster perched on a tree, made from 1935 to 1945, showcased in the Noritake Museum in Nagoya City, Japan.
tableware, dinner plate, museum, glass
FIRST. The Noritake Museum displays the first dinner plate-set – “Sedan” – manufactured by Noritake in Japan in 1914.
store, shop, decor, tableware, plates, cups, saucers, dinnerwares, plants, glassware, person
CRAFT. A worker in the Noritake Garden Craft Center does finishing work on Noritake products, on April 18, 2024. 
Noritake Square lifestyle shop
tableware, dinner sets, plates, decor, plant, lights, room, person, female
SHOP. Various tablewares, cutleries, and other Noritake products are for sale in the Noritake Square Lifestyle Shop in Nagoya City, Aichi Prefecture, Japan.
tableware, dinner sets, plates, decor, plant, lights, room, person, female
TABLETOP. Dinner plates, decor, and other Noritake products for sale in the Noritake Square Lifestyle Shop in Nagoya City, Aichi Prefecture, Japan.
cat, figurine, decor, bell, necklace
MEOW. Noritake also makes figurines such as this porcelain beckoning cat that costs 77,000 yen or around P28,700, for sale in the Nagoya Square Lifestyle Shop in Nagoya, Japan. 
plate, porcelain, painting, dog, ceramic, frame
PERSONALIZED. You can have personalized dinner plates with pictures of your pet done by a Noritake master painter for 350,000 yen or around P130,000, such as this one displayed in Noritake Square Lifestyle Shop in Nagoya City, Aichi Prefecture, Japan.
dinner plates, cups, saucers, artificial plants, anime, shop
ANIME. Noritake sells 23-cm Studio Ghibli plates for 5,500 yen (around P2,000), tea cups and saucers ranging from 6,600 to 8,800 yen (P2,400 to P3,290), and coffee mugs ranging from 2,200 to 5,500 yen (P820 to 2,000) each in the Noritake Square Lifestyle Shop in Nagoya City, Aichi Prefecture, Japan. 
Noritake Garden
garden, persons, trees, water, rocks, stones, flowers, bricks
RED. Tourists and passersby can take a break on benches with Noritake’s red brick plant, the only remaining building from Noritake’s early days, in the background, in Nagoya City, Aichi Prefecture, Japan. There’s also a French restaurant (with blue-green canopy), Kiln, serving French food served on Noritake tableware.

garden, trees, benches, buildings, flowers, persons, plants
PEACE. The Noritake Garden provides a serene atmosphere for relaxation, especially during spring, to visitors and passersby.
bricks, flowers, plant, glass, umbrella, persons, vase
BRICKS. This red brick Noritake Square Nagoya building houses Noritake’s showroom where visitors can buy various Noritake products.

The cheapest option to encountering Noritake is to go to Japanese surplus shops in the Philippines where you can find second-hand Japanese tablewares made of porcelain or bone china, or simply look for these products on e-commerce sites like Carousell, Shopee, and Facebook Market.

TREASURE HUNT. This Japanese surplus shop, Nita, in Silang, Cavite sells Japanese tablewares and other household goods from Japan, on February 3, 2024. 

If you’re lucky, you might be able to find cheap vintage Noritake tablewares that you can later resell for a higher price. – Rappler.com

Book a half-day tour across Nagoya and see the Noritake Garden at https://bit.ly/rplrnagoya and get 5% off when you use the code “RAPPLERTRAVEL”! We earn a small commission every time you book through this link. #ShareAsia

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Isagani de Castro Jr.

Before he joined Rappler as senior desk editor, Isagani de Castro Jr. was longest-serving editor in chief of ABS-CBN News online. He had reported for the investigative magazine Newsbreak, Asahi Shimbun Manila, and Business Day. He has written chapters for books on politics, international relations, and civil society.