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Exploring Traditional Japanese Crafts: An Art Heritage Journey

Numerous prefectures have specialized in traditional Japanese art for centuries. Discover where you can meet Japanese artisans and learn age-old skills.
Exploring Traditional Japanese Crafts: An Art Heritage Journey

Learn where to find traditional Japanese crafts in every corner of the country.

Local artists have produced traditional crafts for as long as people have lived amid the Japanese landscape. Merging style and function, refined skills are often passed from one generation to the next. For years, loyal apprentices learn from master artists, forging an enduring dynasty.

As each craft has grown in sophistication, these practices have become more like fine art. Countless workshops across the country are now celebrated globally for their work. Yet many artisans and their craft remain closely tied to their local communities. 

Across ceramics, textiles, glass, and more, Japanese traditional art remains highly appreciated in the modern age. Despite changing tastes and industrialization, you don’t have to travel far to find a true master. Here, we explore where to find the best traditional Japanese crafts during your visit.

Discover the traditional Japanese art of Otani pottery

Discover the traditional Japanese art of Otani pottery

Otani pottery is Tokushima Prefecture's defining craft. It was created in Naruto City 250 years ago and involves a creative duo working in perfect harmony. The potter's assistant lies on the floor spinning the potter's wheel. At the same time, their partner shapes the jar above. 

You can find Otani pottery ranging in size from rice bowls and teacups to pots as tall as people. Otani pottery is often used to store Awa-ai, an indigo-colored dye native to the region.

Embark on a pottery experience at Onishi Pottery

Onishi Pottery remains one of the most respected Otani pottery workshops in Tokushima. Established in 1919 by Yonekichi Onishi, his descendants continue to produce stunning pieces. Plus, the studio explores new techniques using ancient methods.

If you'd like to learn more about this Japanese craft, attend Onishi's pottery classes. Guided by the experts, you'll use a hand-cranked or electric potter's wheel to shape local clay into plates, bowls, and cups. Then, you'll paint your creation in the region’s famous indigo dye.

Address: 17-2 Higashiyamadani, Oasa-cho, Otani, Naruto, Tokushima 779-0302
• Operating Hours: Thursday to Tuesday from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM
• Contact Details: +81-88-689-0414

Learn about local pottery history at Mori Otani

The Mori Otani Pottery Studio is another outstanding place to admire Otani pottery. Founded in 1912, it has produced pots big and small ever since. Inside, an expansive storefront overflows with beautiful pieces. Meanwhile, the outdoor section showcases even more work. 

On the outskirts of Naruto City, Mori Otani offers adults and kids guided tours and pottery workshops. Learning from local artisans, painting classes, and private group sessions immerse visitors in this historic craft.

• Address: 24 Irinokata, Oasa-cho, Otani, Naruto, Tokushima 779-0302
• Operating Hours: Monday to Saturday from 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM, Sunday from 9:30 AM to 4:30 PM
• Contact Details: +81-88-689-0022

Learn the Japanese craft of Kintsugi

Learn the Japanese craft of Kintsugi

When something breaks, it doesn’t mean it becomes worthless. That’s the philosophy behind the ancient craft of Kintsugi. This art form sees broken pottery repaired using lacquer mixed with gold, silver, or platinum powder.

Dating to the 15th century, Kintsugi artists embrace the imperfect. Cracks that appear on a plate or pot become part of that object's history. Rather than hiding fractures, this traditional Japanese art form draws attention to them.

Take a Kintsugi class at POJ Kintsugi

POJ Kintsugi is perfect for exploring this age-old craft, with engaging lessons teaching visitors the basics. Surrounded by modern architecture in a renovated Machiya townhouse, this setting highlights the beauty of everyday objects.

Depending on your needs, travelers can choose between a single class or several. You'll get to know Kintsugi's history and cultural context. Then, masterful Japanese artisans will help you repair broken pottery. Alongside tasty tea and sweets, this relaxing experience enriches the soul.

• Address: 427-19 Myohoin Maekawa-cho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto 605-0932
• Operating Hours: Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Friday to Sunday from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM
• Contact Details: +81-90-5086-3837

Join a Kintsugi workshop at Tsugu Tsugu

Learn Kintsugi in Tokyo at the Tsugu Tsugu workshop. Founder Yuki Matano discovered a passion for the art form after searching for somewhere to repair a cherished broken plate. Now, Tsugu Tsugu is one of the go-to destinations forKintsugi craft.

The Kintsugi Discovery Workshop is ideal for those looking to learn fundamental skills. Yet beginners can also grow their talent through ongoing classes. This detailed Kintsugi education provides visitors with all the skills needed to repair their pottery.

Address: 1F, 2-21-2 Ebisu, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0013

Find out what makes Arita ware porcelain so special

Find out what makes Arita ware porcelain so special

Have a love for Japanese porcelain? Known as Arita ware, travelers to Japan should head to its namesake town to see the best examples. For over 400 years, this rural community has produced ceramics and tableware in region-specific styles and colors.

Today, Arita ware is often associated with the classic blue and white creations often seen in Chinese porcelain. However, the term also includes styles produced in Saga Prefecture and beyond. For example, Kutani-style porcelain is also known as Arita ware.

Explore the history of Arita ware at The Kyushu Ceramic Museum

Kyushu has a long history of ceramics, with countless examples created in the region. If you’re excited to learn this story, plan your visit to the Kyushu Ceramic Museum. Opened in 1980, it contains an incredible collection of Arita ware dating back centuries.

The permanent collection provides excellent insight into this enduring history. Plus, modern examples highlight how this craft survives in the present day. Across thousands of pieces, the Kyushu Ceramic Museum is great for discovering local ceramics.

• Address: 3100-1 Tobaku Otsu, Arita-cho, Nishimatsuura-gun, Saga 844-0017
• Operating Hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM
• Contact Details: +81-955-43-3681

Wander the Arita Porcelain Park

Wander the Arita Porcelain Park

The Arita Porcelain Park is a unique way to engage with the region’s celebrated craft. Set amid sprawling gardens, this ceramic theme park fully reproduces Germany’s iconic Zwinger Palace. 

Meanwhile, displays throughout the park showcase how Arita ware influenced many of Europe’s great monuments. Alongside a climbing kiln, a sake tour, a beer brewery, and a restaurant, the Arita Porcelain Park offers a rewarding day out.

• Address: Otsu-340-28 Toya, Arita, Nishimatsuura-gun, Saga 844-0014
• Operating Hours: Daily from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM
• Contact Details: +81-955-41-0030

Show your respect for pottery at Sueyama Shrine

Show your respect for pottery at Sueyama Shrine

Set on a hillside overlooking Arita, the Sueyama Shrine pays homage to the town’s incredible craft legacy. Dedicated to the deity of pottery, Emperor Oujin, this Shinto monument was founded in 1658 with remarkable features. 

For instance, the tori gate at the entrance is made from porcelain rather than wood or stone. Plus, the guardian lions, statues, and lanterns are also pottery-based. Head along to show your respect for Arita’s traditional craft.

 Address: 2-5-1 Odaru, Arita, Nishimatsuura-gun, Saga 844-0004
• Operating Hours: Open 24 hours
• Contact Details: +81-955-42-3310

Dive into the layered beauty of Wajima lacquerware

Dive into the layered beauty of Wajima lacquerware

The precise origins of Japanese lacquerware are unknown. But over the years, archaeological digs have unearthed objects from thousands of years ago. As one of Japan’s oldest traditional crafts, it involves drawing sap from lacquer trees. This is dried, colored with natural pigments, and layered onto the object.

Once a layer has been applied, it’s polished before the process repeats. The city of Wajima is particularly known for its lacquerware, thanks to its special technique. This sees a finely powdered mineral from the area, jinoko, mixed into the lacquer, giving the final product unmatched durability and shine.

Explore a multi-generational lacquerware business at Wajima Kirimoto

For the last 200 years, Wajima Kirimoto has created traditional Japanese lacquerware. In fact, it's now in its seventh generation of ownership. Inside, visitors will find everything from lacquerware chopsticks and bento boxes to household furniture.

At Wajima Kirimoto, you'll also get an up-close look at their work through a detailed tour. You'll roam the workshop and hear how old and new techniques have helped the company become one of the most respected in the space.

• Address: 70-5 Ohyakugari, Sugihiramachi, Wajima, Ishikawa 928-0011
• Operating Hours: Monday to Friday from 8:00 AM to 5:30 PM, Saturday to Sunday from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM
• Contact Details: +81-768-22-0842

Find modern Wajima lacquerware at Ross Studios Gallery

See how a foreign artist has reinterpreted Wajima lacquerware at the Ross Studio Gallery. Born in London, founder Suzanne Ross studied with local master craftsmen for over ten years before opening her gallery and studio practice.

Here, visitors will find a collection of Ross’ acclaimed lacquerware. This includes striking jewelry, fine art, and vessels. Inspired by Edo-period artists, Ross explores the boundaries of lacquerware, bringing the art form into the modern age.

• Address: 4 Kawai-cho, Wajima, Ishikawa 928-0001

See the vast collection at the Wajima Lacquerware Museum

Head to the Wajima Lacquerware Museum to experience 3,804 beautiful pieces. With so many incredible examples to admire, the museum captures what makes lacquerware such a beloved art form.

Opened in 1971, the Japanese government has recognized the museum for its dedication to the ancient craft. Wander through the vast exhibition space and showroom to appreciate why lacquerware is so important to Wajima.

• Address: 24-55 Kawai-cho, Wajima, Ishikawa 928-0001
• Operating Hours: Daily from 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM
• Contact Details: +81-768-22-2155

See the Japanese craft of Edo Kiriko cut glass

See the Japanese craft of Edo Kiriko cut glass

Japanese artisans have produced Edo Kiriko glass for over 200 years. It's believed the practice was founded in Edo, now known as Tokyo, in 1834 by a glassware seller Kagaya Kyube. Today, it remains a popular craft enjoyed by locals and travelers.

Edo Kiriko glass is available in about a dozen classic patterns. These each symbolize certain positive traits. For example, the checkerboard pattern suggests prosperity. Make sure you learn about the immense skill required to create this pristine double-layered glass.

Cut Edo Kiriko glass alongside a master artisan

There are few better people to learn the craft of Edo Kiriko from than Yoshiro Kobayashi. Founded in 1908, he is the third generation to lead the celebrated company, Kobayashi Glass.

Here, you learn from a true Japanese artisan as you tour the family’s studio and watch as Kobayashi creates remarkable objects. You can also wander the store to appreciate the work and buy souvenirs. 

• Address: 2-9-6 Sarue, Koto-ku, Tokyo 135-0003
• Operating Hours: Monday to Saturday from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM
• Contact Details: +81-3-3631-6457

Experience Edo Kiriko in a traditional family workshop at Asakusa Ojima

If you’d like to produce some Edo Kiriko glass, heading to Asakusa Ojima is the right move. You’ll work alongside Eiji Ojima, a third-generation craftsman who runs the workshops for the business which launched almost 100 years ago.

Over the decades, Asakusa Ojima has created almost endless Edo Kiriko glassware. This includes wine glasses, saki glasses, plates, vases, and more. Explore the glass-cutting studio and put your skills to the test in beginner-friendly sessions.

• Address: 4-49-7 Asakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo 111-0032
• Operating Hours: Tuesday to Thursday and Sunday from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM
• Contact Details: +81-3-4285-9664

Marvel at traditional Yuzen silk patterns

Marvel at traditional Yuzen silk patterns

Yuzen is a traditional Japanese silk dying technique originating in the 17th century. Since then, this method has been used to decorate high-end textiles like kimono and obi. The result? Garments that resonate with vibrant colors and patterns.

First, a paste called “itome nori” is used to outline classic images of flora, fauna, and the local landscape. Then, artisans fill each section by hand before fresh water washes away the paste, leaving behind incredibly detailed scenes.

Dye kimonos at the Yuzen Silk Center

Set in the ancient city of Kanazawa, the Yuzen Silk Center is the ideal place to admire this historic art form. Here, visitors participate in live sessions where you’ll learn the essential skills behind Yuzen silk dying.

There’s also the chance to get dressed up in traditional kimonos. Plus, the Yuzen Silk Center also features extensive displays made using this dynamic method, including kimonos, noren curtains, and folding screens.

• Address: 2-6-16 Nagamachi, Kanazawa, Ishikawa 920-0865
• Operating Hours: Thursday to Monday from 9:30 AM to 5:00 PM
• Contact Details: +81-76-264-2811

Dye your own silk at Kaga Yuzen Workshop

The Kaga-Yuzen Kimono Center is a leading destination for Yuzen-style craft. Through exhibitions of traditional garments alongside new creations, the venue provides fascinating insight into the art form’s legacy.

For those hoping to get immersed in Yuzen, participating in a dying workshop is a wonderful decision. Decorating a handkerchief, you’ll learn how to stencil a striking image before applying the dye using traditional methods.

• Address: 8-8 Koshomachi, Kanazawa, Ishikawa 920-0932
• Operating Hours: Thursday to Tuesday from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM
• Contact Details: +81-76-224-5511

Head to Japan to discover the wonders of traditional craft

When you next visit Japan, be sure to discover just some of the traditional crafts originating from prefectures across the country. To make your journey even more rewarding, take advantage of the JAL Japan Explorer Pass. It offers outstanding airfares to more than 30 destinations across our domestic network. Plan your journey with JAL today!

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