Introduction of Traditional Japanese Crafts

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What brings crafts as Traditional Japanese Crafts?

What do you have in your mind when hearing traditional Japanese crafts? You would imagine that they are old-fashion products born hundreds of years ago in Japan. This is partly right. However, when mentioning the words, they refer to products that are handmade using techniques and technologies that have been passed down from generation to generation over hundreds and thousands of years. In Japan, There are five strict definitions of “traditional Japanese crafts, and about 230 genres are accredited.
Conditions for Traditional Japanese Crafts
  1.  a craft product that is primarily used in daily life.
  2. the part of the manufacturing process that has a significant impact on the quality of the product is mainly done by hand.
  3. The product must have a history of 100 years or more and be manufactured using traditional techniques and technologies that have been maintained to this day.
  4.  The main raw material must have been used continuously for more than 100 years in principle.
  5. the business have been continuing in a certain region.
Isobe ware
Isobe Ware

Meeting all these five conditions is a very big hurdle for a manufacturer. First of all, it is difficult to secure the human resources to carry on the technology for 100 years. One of the reasons for this is wages. Today, employees of large mass-production companies are overwhelmingly paid higher wages, and only a limited number of traditional craftspeople can afford to live in affluence. Many young people are choosing white-collar jobs instead of becoming artisans, and many traditional craft manufacturers are going out of business because they cannot find the next generation of artisans. 

Moreover, there are few cases where raw materials can be secured for 100 years. Raw material producers often discontinue the production of materials for the traditional craft industry, where the volume of orders is low, in order to supply companies that are expected to receive large numbers of orders. Traditional crafts made by hand are difficult to mass produce, and without incentives other than income, it is difficult for suppliers to maintain a stable supply of raw materials for 100 years.

That is why the scarcity and value of traditional Japanese crafts have recently been reconsidered. There is a growing awareness to stop the continuous decline of craftsmen, and the development of the Internet and e-commerce sites has made it possible to deliver traditional crafts all over Japan. Until now, the only way to purchase these products was to visit a sales store integrated with a manufacturing company.

 However, the increased opportunities to order online have volumed up sales and profits, allowing them to hire the next generation of young people with a decent wage. Also, the number of opportunities for people to see traditional crafts has been going upward through online promotion, increasing the number of interested buyers and people who want to become craftsmen.

Japanese traditional crafts exhibition
Ishikawa Life crafts Museum (picture from Hakuichi)

Traditional crafts are Special products?

When seeing the word “traditional,” many people usually think that the products are special goods rather than ordinarily used items. But, this notion is not true. First and foremost, the roots of traditional crafts are derived from daily used goods. The only fundamental difference between traditional crafts and the items we use in our daily lives is the age when they were first made and the production method. In short, traditional crafts are daily necessities that started being made hundreds of years ago and are handmade. Traditional handicrafts are daily necessities that were first made hundreds of years ago and are handmade, while mass-produced in automated factories are products that we are familiar with every day.
In other words, it is quite normal to use, for example, plates, cups, and kitchen utensils manufactured as traditional crafts for daily use. However, one thing that is very different is the value that is derived from the above two differences. In other words, traditional handicrafts have an overwhelming value that cannot be produced by mass production because they are handmade and produced using techniques and raw materials that have been cultivated over many years.

Why introducing traditional Japanese crafts?

There are three reasons why I want to introduce Japanese traditional crafts to the world. 
I want people all over the word 
  1. to know the beauty of Japanese craft techniques. 
  2. to experience the beauty of Japanese crafts by using them. 
  3. to become fans of Japanese traditional crafts 

so that the traditional crafts will become a part of your daily lives.

1. KNOW Japanese craftmanship is truly amazing

Some of you may know that products made in Japan are highly precise and hard to break. The source of this reputation is traditional craftsmanship. The high level of Japanese technology is cultivated in the handmade method of making traditional crafts, which is then embodied in machines. Japanese craftsmen have worked out what and how to combine elements to make elaborate and sturdy products by hand. And, they have accumulated these skills over the years and have continued to improve their products. 
However, as industry developed and we entered the age of mass production, this technology was substituted by machines, but there is still a certain know-how that cannot be realized by machines. This is exactly what Japanese traditional crafts still embody today.  In other words, traditional crafts have a quality that surpasses that of Japanese ready-made products, which have a reputation for being elaborate and sturdy.

2. EXPERIENCE the splendid features 

You will understand the true value of traditional Japanese crafts when you use them. Although they can be used for a wide range of purposes, such as interior decoration, traditional crafts are, as I mentioned earlier, daily necessities.
An example is ”Ochoko”.This is similar to a shot glass. There is a traditional handicraft Ochoko shaped like Mt. Fuji. It is certainly good to put it upside down for shaping it like Mt, Fuji as an interior decoration. However, the best use of this elaborately made product is when you use it to drink alcohol. The Sake(Japanese alcohol) flows smoothly into your mouth, and the ceramic does not interfere with the flavor or taste of the Sake at all, allowing you to enjoy the original taste and aroma of it. You can notice the true and deep value of the product like this when experiencing it with the way originally intended.
 
Japanese small mag

3. BECOME a fan, and your life with traditional Japanese crafts

I hope that you will become a fan of Japanese traditional crafts after learning about them. Because I believe that your life will be more fulfilling when you become fans and decorate your daily life with them. Plates to decorate your table, glasses to drink with your partner or friends, knives to cook with. Surrounding yourself with traditional crafts will bring you a life that is not only stress-free but also highly satisfying. 
For example, traditional crafted cooking knives are much sharper and more durable than ready-made ones. Moreover, the octagonal handle is made so that there is no gap between your fingers and the knife, which makes it easier to transmit power to the knife. This is the kind of traditional craftsmanship that can improve and enhance our daily lives.
Traditional Japanese knofe
Seki Brand knife

Summary

You would find it difficult to understand Japanese culture and traditional crafts due to their uniqueness. But, No worries, this website is to help you comprehend what they are. Plus, we will introduce a variety of traditional Japanese crafts that you can use or decorate your house with it. We hope you dive into fascination of Japanese crafts and immerse into lives full of such great utensils. The list of traditional Japanese crafts sorted by prefecture is here: Traditional crafts by Prefecture.
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