Artisanry in Japan


The words “artisan products’” often bring to mind Italian leather craftsmen, Scandinavian carpenters or Slavic folk-culture needlework. However there is a rich history of artisanry in Asia as much as it is in Europe. Japan is one of the Asian country that has successfully incorporated the philosophy and tradition of artisanry into modern design.

Japanese artisanry extends beyond lacquered ware or pottery that most people are familiar with. Our visit to Kyoto revealed a plethoral of divine range of craftware, and here are some of the less-known (outside of Japan) but highly desirable craft products:

Tankin Metalworking predates history and in Japan this craftsmenship is believed to be as old as time itself. All products, made by this technique, originate from sheets of pressed iron that are carefully cut, beaten into desired shape, and polished by hand, leaving a rhythmic wave of marks on the product.

Momoyama is a tradition of bamboo weaving that emerged in the 16th century and is a ‘resident’ craft in the city of Kyoto until today. Craftsmen weave the bamboo fibre with their fingertips. Hand touching these products is a highly sensory experience; it feels as if these artisans have woven heartfelt whispers dialogue between each bamboo stave.

Hitoyoshi is highly regarded for both the rare trees that are grown there and the expertise of wood artisans. Hitoyoshi carpenters are excellent with wood moulding, a precise technique that reveals the natural beauty of the wood. Beeswax is often used as wood finishing of the final product.

72 Smalldive would like to thank the staff at Sfera Kyoto and various artisans studios for enlightening us on the immensely amazing world of Japanese artisanry. To find out more about the artisanry in Japan, ‘Handcraft in Distant Towns’, a book by Ryuji Mitani (a well known craftsmen himself) boasts an impressive list of artisans living in 3 important cities, Fukui, Kyoto, and Matsumoto, that influences Japan’s craft movement.


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