Values of Traditional Japanese Crafts


What is the true value of traditional Japanese crafts?

What do you usually find value in? Many people perceive value when they buy something with a high price tag. Of course, I do too. When I pay a lot of money for something that I want, I definitely feel that it is worth it. Perhaps you would feel that Traditional crafts might be expensive as they are priced not cheap because of handmade and elaborated. However, the value of traditional Japanese crafts cannot be measured by price alone although price is definitely one indicator of value under capitalism. I will explain the value of traditional Japanese crafts beyond price value.

1. the value of the item to you increases as you use it.

In general, the things we use in our daily life have the highest value when you purchase the new one, and their value decreases as we use them. The concept of depreciation is a perfect example of this. It is normal for the value of a product to decrease due to dirt, scratches, and wear. And when it reaches a certain level, your normal behavior is to throw it away and buy a replacement.

Traditional Japanese crafts are different from this natural decrease in value. Scratches and wear do occur in traditional crafts, but in fact, traditional crafts are made in such a way that the more you use them, the more goodness and charm they have.

For example, Arita-yaki plates are representative of Japanese traditional crafts. Some of them are available in light white. This white color is relatively bright in the beginning, and it makes the colors of other decorations shine. After many years of use, the light white color changes to an off-white color. Generally, when white color deteriorates over time, it becomes yellowish, but the white color of Arita-yaki porcelain becomes a beautiful off-white color without any yellowing.

The colors of the other decorations also lose a little of their vividness, resulting in a wonderfully subdued overall coloration. In Japan, we enjoy this kind of change. And because the off-white is a color that can only be seen after many years of use from the first light white, we feel the value of the new shade of tableware that we have arrived at after long use.

nanbu tekki, one of the most famous traditional Japanese crafts
Nanbu-Tekki KOGEI Japan

Let’s look at another example. Do your knives lose their sharpness after a certain amount of time, or does the handle of the knife become smooth and slippery? This is a very common phenomenon, but there is a traditional Japanese craft knife that can solve even this problem. You can use traditional Japanese kitchen knives for life-long as long as the knife is not broken as its blade is intended to be sharpened again and again. In other words, you do not need to buy another knife when it become less sharp. (You can use a whetstone that is sold in the market.)

Mass-produced knives are regarded as consumables, so it is hard to get them back to sharpness even after sharpening, and the blade quality will degrade after a few times. However, traditional craft knives are hardened not only on the surface but also in the depths so that they can be sharpened even like forever.

Plus, many handles are manufactured from wood, and these will subtly change over time to fit the shape of your hand. In the case of chemical handles, the shape does not change, and they simply become slippery. On the other hand, as the Japanese say, “traditional craft knives are comfortable in your hand,” they will fit the shape of your own hand. The more you use it, the more it gives you the perfect value for your money.

2. value as a gift

When you give a gift to someone, I think you want them to be happy, also you do not want to disappoint them. Aside from when a gift doesn’t match their preferences, people are disappointed when the quality of the gift is poor. Things are sometimes hard to use, or it breaks too soon, doesn’t it? Traditional handicrafts are made by hand, one by one, with high precision, and they have been transformed into the best shape over the years, so they serve your purpose perfectly.
traditional folding fan
Sensu – Japanprize
In addition, I suggest you give your gift recipients a brief explanation about the traditional crafts you present. Its history, method to manufacture…. if you can talk about it (for instance, with watching a YouTube video together), they will be happy to talk with you because you show them a new world.
Due to the fact that Japanese people are not good at foreign languages, Japanese culture and technology are not well known abroad. So your knowledge about your present can give them a brand-new world! I will be uploading information about the history, background, and particulars of various traditional crafts on this blog, so please take a look at it.
one of traditional Japanese crafts, Mikawachi ware
Miwakachi ware Small plates

3. product performance over price

The price of a product reflects the value of the product, so what is overpriced performance? It is natural to think so. As explained in detail in (Introduction to Traditional Crafts), in order to be classified as a traditional craft, a product must be a “daily necessity.  In other words, it has to be something that we use in our daily lives, such as dishes, glasses, textiles, chopsticks, kitchen utensils, etc. If it is too expensive, no one will be able to afford it.
In the beginning, when there was no mass production by automation, people used to buy and use these items, so they are not luxury items that only rich people use. The price is a little higher now than it was because of a premium for the inheritance of tradition, they are not prices that users cannot afford to pay for daily necessities.
However, the high level of Japanese craftsmanship, combined with the willingness to let people use the products for a long time, has led to overwhelming elaboration and quality that you never imagine from price and the word “necessities”.  It is the traditional craftsmanship sold as high quality at a moderate price.

Because traditional Japanese crafts  can be used for a long time

In Japan, there has long been a culture of passing down the dishes and knives that one’s grandmother or mother used. This culture was formulated because of the excellent durability and performance of handmade products. I guess there is a culture of “pass down” in your country. Wouldn’t you like to have a craft that you can pass on to your children in the future and from generation to generation?
Sakura glass of Mino ware
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