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Japanese traditional crafts

Ceramic art

Japanese ceramics are highly-evaluated internationally along with China and Korea.

Since ancient times Japanese had made earthen vessels.

In the 5th century, the technology of making on a wheel and being burnt in a kiln was introduced from Korea.
In the 8th century, glazed potteries are imported from China and such potteries were begun to make in Japan.

Since this period several production areas were born throughout Japan.

In the 16th century, Korean potters introduced the formula of beautiful porcelain, and many products were exported to Europe.

After this, Japanese potters have continued to improved making technology.

Famous production areas of ceramics

"Yaki" in the following names means "burning in a kiln".

  • Seto-yaki : Aichi prefecture.
    One of the most oldest production areas.
    The porcelains for daily use are mass-produced.
  • Tokoname-yaki : Aichi prefecture.
    One of the most oldest production areas.
    Red clay is used, so reddish teapot or cup are famous.

Seto-yaki, Photo by Seto city


  • Mino-yaki : Gifu prefecture.
    In this area, half of all Japanese potteries are produced.
    The deformative potteries which Oribe Furuta started to make in the 16th century is famous as artwork.
  • Shigaraki-yaki : Shiga prefecture.
    One of the most oldest production areas.
    Various potteries for daily use are produced.
    Pottery figurine of Japanese raccoon is famous.

Oribe ware (A kind of Mino-yaki)

Racoon figurines of Shigaraki-yaki

  • Kutani-yaki : Ishikawa prefecture.
    It started since the 17th century.
    Colorful and graceful painting covers the pottery all over.
  • Kiyomizu-yaki : Kyoto prefecture.
    It has been produced aroudn Kiyomizu-dera temple in Kyoto city started since the early 17th century.
    Kyoto was the capital of Japan and the potters had come from the all over Japan, so various techniques are used for this pottery.

© Ishikawa Prefectural Tourism League


  • Bizen-yaki : Okayama prefecture.
    One of the most oldest production areas.
    The pottery is made without glaze, and is simple and practical.
  • Hagi-yaki : Yamaguchi prefecture.
    It is said that it started by the the traditional technology from Korea at the 17th century.
    The looking is quiet, but becomes deep flavor during using.



  • Karatsu-yaki : Saga prefecture.
    It started at the 15th century, and many nice potteries for tea ceremony were produces.
    This keeps the traditional technology from Korea.
  • Arita-yaki (Imari-yaki) : Saga prefecture.
    In the 17th century, many Korean potters are invited, and one of them started to make nice porcelain here.
    Many "Imari-yaki" were exported to Europe in that century.
    It is very beautiful porcelain.

Photo by Karatsu Tourism Association



Lacquerware is the craftwork which is coated with natural resin extracted from sap of "urushi" (Japanese lacquer tree).

Mainly wooden box, bowl, chopstics, etc. are coated with Japanese lacquer.
The products has tasteful color and luster.

Lacquerware is made by alternating between coating and polishing again and again.
Then some products are added the following embellishments.

Urushi tree


  • Makie : Some picture are painted with lacquer.
    While it is wet, gold or silver powder are sprinkled on it, then it is polished.
  • Chinkin : Some patterns are engraved on the lacquer with knife, then gold or silver foil are put into there.
  • Raden : The inside of shell shining in rainbow color is shaved thinly as many chips, and they are enchased on the lacquer.



Famous production areas of lacquerware

  • Aizu-lacquerware : Western area in Fukushima prefecture.
    Since the 16th century it is produced.
    Various techniques are used.
  • Wajima-lacquerware : Noto peninsula in Ishikawa prefecture, and most famous production area in Japan.
    Diatomite produced in this area is mixed in lacquer, so the product is tough.

Photo by Fukushima Prefecture

© Ishikawa Prefectural Tourism League

  • Yamanaka-lacquerware : Ishikawa prefecture.
    Originally this was produced as souvenir for tourists of hot spring resort.
    But since the 20th century this changed to mass-produce.
    Now, amount of production is top in Japan.
  • Kiso-lacquerware : Nagano prefecture.
    Since old times, forestry has been a main industry in Kiso area.
    So lacquerware has been producing since the 18th century.

© Ishikawa Prefectural Tourism League

  • Kishu-lacquerware : Wakayama prefecture.
    This is one of famous production areas, so not only traditional products but also advanced ones are made.
  • Ryukyu-lacquerware : Okinawa prefecture.
    When this area was the Kingdom of Ryukyu in the 14th, this started to produce for tribute to China.
    It has bright color.

Photo by Wakayama Tourism Federation

© Okinawa Convention & Visitors Bureau

Traditional textiles

Japanese traditional textiles are mostly for Kimono.
Of course, there are various types from gorgeous to casual.

Luxury Kimono is a product of silk.
Especially, Nishijin weaving and Yuzen dyeing have been the two important traditional technics to produce such Kimono.

Nishijin weaving

Nishijin weaving is a technic to make a luxury cloth by weaving.

First, the design of cloth for kimono is drawn on a paper and is copied to graph paper and colors are decided.

To weave the cloth, all threads are produced and dyed to the the necessary colors.

According to the data of above graph paper, the cloth is woven with the threads.

The workshops are in Nishijin area to the west of Kyoto Imperial Palace.

Nishijin Textile Industry Association

Cocoons for silk threads
372 kyoto nishijin textile center, Photo by u-dou

Weaving a cloth of silk
376 kyoto nishijin textile center, Photo by u-dou

Kimono of Nishijin weaving
Nishijin Kimono Show, Photo by sodai gomi

Kimono fashion show in Nishijin
366 kyoto nishijin textile center, Photo by u-dou

Yuzen dyeing

Yuzen dyeing is a technic to make a luxury cloth by dying.
"U" in the word is pronounced long, so it is read as "yûzen".

The name of Yuzen came from Miyazaki Yuzen (1654-1736) who was a painter.
His painting style has been used for this cloth.

First, the design for kimono is drawn on the cloth directly by dyes.
After that, some processes of dying are performed.

Finally, the cloth is washed in flowing water.
It was once performed in the river, but it has been performed in the artificial river in the factory for good water quality.

Kyo-yuzen made in Kyoto city and Kaga-yuzen made in Kanazawa city are famous.


Drawing work of Kaga-yuzen
Photo by Kanazawa City

Washing work of Kaga-yuzen
Photo by Kanazawa City

Kaga-yuzen, Photo by Kanazawa City

Experience of wearing kimono of Kaga-yuzen
Photo by Kanazawa City


Tsumugi is a textile woven with cotton yarn or low-quality silken threads.
So this cloth has been used for casual wear or work clothes.

Yuki-tsumugi made in Ibaraki and Tochigi prefecture, Oshima-tsumugi made in Amami-Oshima Island in Kagoshima prefecture are famous.


Bingata is a dyeing in Okinawa area.
It has colorful patterns.

It started to produce in the 14th century.
This is used for not only Okinawan dress but also wall hanging, store curtain and so on.

Oshima Tsumugi silk
Photo by Kagoshima Prefecture Visitors Bureau

Okinawan kimono by bingata

Washi (Traditional Japanese paper)

Traditional Japanese paper is called Washi in Japanese.

Papers which we usually use now are produced from pulp.
But washi are made using fibers from the bark of "gampi" tree, "mitsumata" shrub, or "kouzo" (paper mulberry) tree.

Washi is stronger and more durable than general paper.
So it is used as not only sheet for calligraphy or Japanese painting but screen of sliding door in Japanese room.

Additionally, Japanese banknotes contain washi.

Mitsumata, one of materials of washi

Making washi

Washi is produced in various regions in Japan, but the amount of production is far lower than general paper.

Because the production of washi needs many hands, so is unsuitable for mass production.
The trees as raw materials are grown in the fields, therefore forests are protected from destruction.

Through the production process, little chemicals are used and little fuels are needed.
So they say washi is eco-friendly.

Sekishu Washi Hon Minoshi (Washi in Mino area)

Washi on Shoji (paper screen)

Chiyogami of Washi

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