Perfect for Souvenirs! 5 Recommended Traditional Crafts of Chugoku Region Made by Skilled Artisans

Japan is filled with many traditional handicrafts that possess their own, distinctive characteristics. Below are five recommended craft arts from Chugoku region. Everything on the list is a high-quality item that is carefully made by skilled artisans.

1. Kumano-fude (Hiroshima)

The Kumano-fude (Kumano brush) is a product from Kumano-cho in Hiroshima, each product carefully handmade by artisans. Made using superior techniques that have been passed down from generation to generation for about 180 years now, this brush is also called “the best brush in Japan”. They come in various forms, including writing, painting and makeup brushes, with the output of Kumano-cho accounting for about 80% of the total domestic production of brushes in Japan. Out of all the different types of brushes, though, the ones that are used for writing and Japanese painting have been designated as traditional crafts. Meanwhile, the makeup brushes that have been gaining popularity in recent years is highly regarded for its excellent quality both in Japan and abroad, and are loved by many makeup artists worldwide. They use natural hair, whose tip is not cut, so it has a smooth feel when used on the skin.

2. Hagi-yaki (Yamaguchi)

Boasting more than 400 years of history, 2. Hagi-yaki (Hagi pottery) is a traditional craft from Hagi City in Yamaguchi. It is characterized by its soft texture and high water absorbency that come from the use of rough and unglazed potter’s clay. Fine cracks appear on the surface depending on the difference in the shrinkage factor of the clay and glaze, and water penetrates from there. The color of the bowl changes the longer you use it, thereby boosting the taste. As for its style, Hagi-yaki wares often adopt a simple design that capitalizes on the feel and texture of the clay, and they barely have painting or any other decorations. During baking, the glaze of the part that touches the flame changes to create various expressions. Hagi has many pottery stores and workshops, so visit them and find the Hagi-yaki that you like the best.

3. Bizen-yaki (Okayama)

Boasting 1,000 years of history, Bizen-yaki (Bizen ware) is one of the oldest pottery styles in Japan. It is characterized by the absence of glazing and painting when being baked. Its appearance significantly varies depending on the ingenuity exercised, such as on how the work is put in the kiln and how the pine firewood is burned, and the length of time it is baked. No two Bizen wares are ever the same. Inbe in Bizen City, Okayama, is the main production area of Bizen ware and is dotted with more than 100 pottery spots and galleries. There are even works displayed and sold inside the premises of Inbe Station. Further, there is the Bizen pottery Museum where you can appreciate about 250 famous Bizen-yaki pieces from ancient times to the present, so if you are interested, why not check it out?

4. Yumihama-gasuri (Tottori)

Yumihama-gasuri (a kind of textile) is a craft that has been handed down in Tottori, especially in Yonago and Sakaiminato cities. The “kasuri” (dyed pattern) gives the fabric a distinctive look with patterns with faint and blurred outline. Yumihama-gasuri is flat-woven dyed cotton bearing white patterns on dark blue fabric, giving it a simple and rough feel. It usually has a distinct woven pattern of drums, fans, crane and tortoise, carps, chrysanthemums and other lucky charms. This craft began in the early 19th century. It was woven by women in farm villages, so it has become known as a traditional craft that incorporates the devotion and affection of the weavers to give it that warm feeling. There are many Yumihama-gasuri products being sold in the market that are easy to use in daily life, such as table centerpieces and pouches.

5. Yakumonuri (Shimane)

Yakumonuri lacquerware is a traditional handicraft that has been passed down in the cities of Matsue and Izumo in Shimane. It was apparently started in the early Meiji era (1868-1912) by a painter from Matsue in the early Meiji period who used Chinese lacquerware as his reference. Lacquerware usually has an undercoat painted on wood grain then decorated by painting on images, but the Yakumonuri lacquerware adds another small twist before it is finished. It adopts a traditional method of drawing a pattern using colored lacquer and aogai gold and silver powder, and then covering it in a layer of transparent lacquer. The clarity of the transparent lacquer increases as time passes, making the painted pattern float more beautifully. This lacquerware is used in a wide array of products, such as bowls, mirrors and other daily necessities.

The crafts featured in this article are available in souvenir shops found at the major train stations, airport and other areas in the prefectures where they are made. There are also facilities that offer hands-on craft-making classes and tours of workshops, so check them out!

*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.

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