5 Must-Buy Traditional Crafts in Japan

There are many aspects of traditional culture and manufacturing artistry in Japan that they can boast about to the world. A craft product made by artisans with traditional skills is uniquely easy to use. In this article, we will introduce five stylish and handy goods.

1. Edo Kiriko (Tokyo)

The first thing that comes to mind regarding traditional crafts in Tokyo is Edo Kiriko. Edo Kiriko was founded in 1834 when the glass artisan Kyubei Kagaya started carving patterns on the surface of glass. Later in the 1870s, modern techniques were established as the result of induction of the western style of cutting and carving, and the technical guidance given by a cut-glass craftsman from England, which led to the expansion of Edo Kiriko. The original process of creating Edo Kiriko was carving translucent glass, sanding and polishing by hand. However, many are made using cased glasses (colored glass on top of translucent glass) today. The contrast in the radiant glow between red and blue of the traditional pattern on the glass surface is beautiful. It is not used just as tableware, but is also popular as an ornament.

2. Nambu Ironware (Iwate)

Nambu Ironware, the first product to be designated as a Traditional Craft of the Nation in 1975, is a traditional craft of Iwate and has approximately 400 years of history. Nambu Ironware is made in Morioka and the Mizusawa district of Oshu in Iwate. It has the distinctive feature of a detailed surface with profound design. The handmade ironware created by skillful craftsmen can last for three generations if used with care, and Nambu Ironware diffuses iron that can be easily absorbed by the human body, contributing to daily dietary requirements. A recent study stated that using Nambu Ironware everyday can relieve the symptoms of anemia, and may be effective at preventing Alzheimer’s syndrome. Some of the latest designs are very stylish and can be used with induction stoves. Nambu Ironware is highly recommended.

3. Tsuge Combs (Kagoshima)

The wooden tsuge comb is an item cherished by Japanese women since ancient times. In fact, the number of users of this product has been increasing in recent days because it is very effective for hair care. With the tsuge comb, less static electricity is created while combing and it can also eliminate dirt and dust. The Tsuge Comb also gives a moderate gloss and tidiness to the hair as oil is saturated into the wood of the comb, therefore it is perfect for hair damaged by perms and curling treatments. The reasons the tsuge tree is ideal for a wooden comb are because it is fine and strong so the teeth of the comb are less likely to break, and it has a beautiful color. The only place that can grow the type of tree considered to be ideal for the material of the comb is Kagoshima, and it takes 40 years for a tree to grow before it can be used as material. The tsuge comb is made through various processes, can last for a few decades if used with good care, and becomes easier to use over time. The price might seem a little expensive, but its practicality will not allow you to let it go. Please give it a try.

*The photo is for illustrative purposes.

4. Miyajima Zaiku (Hiroshima)

Miyajima zaiku is a type of traditional craft manufactured in one of the three most famous scenic places in Japan, Miyajima in Hiroshima. Its origin is in lucky charms like the historic five colored chopsticks and the colored toothpick they once used in rituals at Itsukushima Shrine. Today, Miyajima zaiku encompasses various products including large rice spoons, cooking spatulas, tea spoons, cake boxes, and wood turning products like stackable lunch boxes, turnery products, and carvings. The Miyajima Zaiku has characteristics that utilize the wood surface and the grain. The trees that are used as materials include mulberry, zelkova, horse chestnut, and cherry. These trees have features like a beautiful wood surface, firmness, and very good durability. The Miyajima Zaiku that is delicately handmade by a craftsman makes you feel not just the warmth, but the will of the creator. The colors and the gloss will deepen as it is used, and become comforting. For anyone who is looking for an item to use for a long period of time, there is nothing better.


4. Miyajima Zaiku (Hiroshima)

5. Edo Glass (Tokyo)

Glassware production in Edo (now Tokyo) began in the early 18th century with the production of mirrors, glasses, hatpins, windchimes, etc. Edo Glass is glassware that is handmade using techniques handed down since the Edo era. It is made by wrapping glass that is melted at a temperature of approximately 1,400°C into an iron rod, and is shaped with processes like glass blowing and pushing and stretching the glass by hand. The artistry of the craftsman that determines the moment to transform the scorching liquid into a beautiful shape is amazing. Glassware that is carefully shaped by the hands of highly trained craftsmen is beautiful, but also very light and comfortable to use. There are plenty of variations, from simple ones that can be used daily to luxurious designs that are suited for a special occasion.

*The photo is for illustration purposes.

Other than the items that we introduced here, there are about 1,200 traditional craft products in Japan. They can be found in specialty stores and nationwide department stores. So go explore, you might have an unexpected encounter!

*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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