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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.
  • 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.
Seto-yaki
Tokoname-yaki
Mino-yaki
  • Kutani-yaki : Ishikawa prefecture.
    It started since the 17th century.
    Colorful and graceful painting covers the pottery all over.
  • 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.
  • Bizen-yaki : Okayama prefecture.
    One of the most oldest production areas.
    The pottery is made without glaze, and is simple and practical.
Kutani-yaki
Shigaraki-yaki
Bizen-yaki
  • 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.
Hagi-yaki
Karatsu-yaki
Arita-yaki (Imari-yaki)

Lacquerware

Lacquerware is the craftwork which is coated with natural resin extracted from 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.

  • 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 : Many rainbow glow chips thin-sliced inner surface of seashells are enchased.
Makie
Chinkin
Raden

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.
  • 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.
Aizu-lacquerware
Wajima-lacquerware
Yamanaka-lacquerware
  • 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.
  • 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.
Kiso-lacquerware
Kishu-lacquerware
Ryukyu-lacquerware

Traditional textiles

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

  • Nishijin weaving : It's the first-class silk textile for Kimono, and made around Nishijin area in Kyoto city.
    Various techniques are used, so all textiles are like gorgeous Japanese-style painting.
  • Yuzen dyeing : It's a dyed silk textile.
    On a basic silk textile, skilled craftmen paint beautiful picture by hand, then it is dyed.
    This is one of gorgeous textiles. Kyo-yuzen (made in Kyoto city) and Kaga-yuzen (made in Kanazawa city) are famous.
Work of Nishijin weaving
Nishijin weaving
Work of Kyo-yuzen
Wahing away the paints on Kaga-yuzen in a river
Kimono of Kaga-yuzen

Nishijin Textile Industry Association Kaga-Yuzen

  • Tsumugi : It's a textile woven with cotton yarn or low-quality silken threads.
    So this was used for casual wear or work clothes.
    Yuki-tsumugi (made in Ibaraki and Tochigi prefectures) and Oshima-tsumugi (Amami-Oshima Island in Kagoshima prefecture) are famous.
  • Hakata weaving : It's also nice silk textile, and was dedicated to the government in Edo period (the 17-18th centuries).
    It's made around Fukuoka city.
  • Bingata : It's a dyeing in Okinawa area, and has colorful patterns.
    At the 14th century it started.
    This is used for not only Okinawan dress but also wall hanging, store curtain and so on.
Kimono of Tsumugi
Hakata weaving
Kimono of Bingata in Okinawa

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 the gampi tree, the mitsumata shrub, or the paper mulberry.

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.

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.

Making Washi
Washi in Japanese room
Chiyogami

Sekishu Washi Hon Minoshi (Washi in Mino area)

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