Traditional Fukushima craft | various traditional goods that you will love


Aizu Hongo Pottery is beautiful blue colored Fukushima craft

Aizu Hongo Yaki is a traditional Fukushima craft of Aizu, Fukushima Prefecture, with a history of approximately 400 years. It  includes both pottery and porcelain, with some kilns specializing in porcelain or pottery respectively, and others producing both. Originating in the Warring States period, this pottery was protected and nurtured by the feudal lord of the Aizu domain in the early Edo period, and later, with the dissolution of the magistrate’s office, each kiln began manufacturing freely. As a result, each kiln produced works in its own unique style.

Aizu Hongo Pottery is characterized by the variety of porcelain pieces that are produced, such as somezuke (blue pigment called gosu) and other traditional Japanese paints, as well as multicolored paintings using Western paints. This Pottery is often made for utilitarian purposes and uses traditional glazes (yuyaku). There are a variety of styles, including celadon, white porcelain, and carbonized, with or without luster, and a wide range of textures and textures.

Hongo pottery
Source: irori from Hongoyaki

History of Aizu Hongo pottery

The origin of Aizu Hongo ware dates back to the Warring States period, when the warrior Ujisato Gamo became the lord of the Aizu domain in 1593 and had tiles fired for the reconstruction of the present Tsuruga Castle. Later, in the early Edo period, Masayuki Hoshina, founder of the Aizu Matsudaira clan, called in potters from Owari, and full-scale production began.

With the support of the clan, the production of ceramics and porcelain developed. However, the industry faced two difficult periods due to the agitation of war. During the Boshin War, the potters went to war and the pottery factory was scorched by the flames of war, and for a time the industry was forced into a situation where it could not survive. After that, the entire village worked together and by the mid-Meiji period, the village had recovered to the point of exporting its products to Europe and the United States.

In 1916, a large fire destroyed most of the pottery factory once again, but the village successfully recovered. Thus, Aizu Hongo Pottery overcame turbulent times and passed on its long traditions and techniques, becoming widely known for its simple beauty and usability.

Fukushima craft, Aizu pottery
Source: Tohoku Bureau of Economy, Trade and Industry

Manufacturing process and method

1. Leaving in the field

The clay is exposed to wind and rain for at least one year before production.

2. Kneading

After the exposed soil is sifted, water is added and the clay is kneaded.

3. Molding on a potter’s wheel

The desired shape is formed using a potter’s wheel. The clay is spread out while rotating the wheel, and then pushed to the top while shaping the shape.

4. Drying

The molded product is dried in two ways: natural drying and heated drying. If a picture is to be painted on the product, it can be done directly on the finished product or after unglazed.

5. Firing

The product is fired in a kiln for the time required for each method.

6. removing from kiln

The fired product is allowed to cool slowly in the kiln to prevent it from cracking as it cools, and is removed from the kiln when completely cooled.

7. Inspection

The baked products are finally checked for any defects.

What is Okuaizu Showa Karamushi-ori, Fukushima craft

The next Fukushima craft, Okuaizu Showa Karamushi weaving is a textile produced in Showa-mura, Onuma-gun, Fukushima Prefecture. The raw material is ramie, a plant belonging to the nettle family Ramieae, also known as “Choma” or “Aoso. Although Karamushi is also produced in Echigo, Miyako, Ishigaki, and other areas, Showa Village is the only place in Honshu where Karamushi is grown.

In particular, karamushi produced in Showa Village is known for its high quality, and its light and comfortable texture is used for a wide range of purposes, including summer clothing, accessories, and decorative items.

Aizu texture
Source: Okuaizu Showa-mura Promotion Public Corporation

History of Karamushi texture

In Showa Village, karamushi cultivation has been practiced since the Edo period (1603-1868), and was promoted as one of the recommended crops during the reign of Masayuki Hoshina, lord of the Aizu domain. The high elevation and cold climate of the area has supported the livelihood of the local people. It is said that merchants from Echigo came to buy the high-quality karamushi from Aizu Showa-mura because it was used as a raw material for Echigo Kamifu and Ojiya Shrinkage Kamifu. In the mid-Meiji period (1868-1912), the village reached its peak, recording an annual production of 6 tons, but since the Showa period (1926-1989), demand has declined sharply due to the spread of modern lifestyles and synthetic fibers, and the village is now on the verge of extinction.

In response, in 1994, the company began inviting “karamushi weavers (Orihime and Hikoboshi)” to spend a year learning a series of techniques from growing karamushi to processing karamushi products. Even today, the entire village is involved in passing on the techniques and skills and promoting the industry.

Aizu texture traditional Fukushima craft
Source: Okuaizu Showa-mura Promotion Public Corporation

General Production Process

1.Pulling the weft

After thoroughly soaking the peeled skin in water, Ramie boards, Ramie drawers, boards, etc. are used to remove the “sole skin” (the bluish part of the surface) and the front side (the side with the sole skin) is drawn. Turn over and pull in the same manner to remove the blue part on both sides of the front and back, and remove the inner fibers.

2. Spinning

All dried karamushi fibers are manually torn into small pieces and spun into yarn according to the thickness of the yarn to be made. Warp yarns are spun tightly and weft yarns are spun a little more loosely.

3. Weaving

The yarns are then woven on a loom (jibata) to finish the fabric.

What is Okuaizu Braided Craftwork, Fukushima craft

The last Fukushima craft, Okuaizu Amikumi zaiku is a woodwork made in the Mishima-cho, Onuma-gun, Fukushima Prefecture area. Because of the heavy snowfall in the mountainous areas of Okuaizu, farm work is not possible during the winter, so this handicraft has been handed down from generation to generation as a handicraft during the snowy season. The plants that grow in this region, such as hiroro, mountain grape, and matatabi, are used to make these braided crafts, which are classified as hiroro work, mountain grape work, and matatabi work, depending on the material.

The characteristic of Okuaizu braided craft is the simple yet unique delicacy of hand-knitting, which makes the best use of natural materials of the region.In hiroro-zaiku, hand baskets, held baskets, and shoulder baskets are made, with fine weave and a finish similar to lace weaving. Also, because of its strong material, mountain grape work is used to make sturdy baskets and confectionery containers. Matatabi zaiku is mainly used for cooking utensils because of its drainage and good texture.

Okuaizu braided crafts are traditional handicrafts that continue the culture of “monozukuri” (craftsmanship), in which people deal with nature well and create necessary folk tools by themselves.

Japanese traditional craftwork
Source: Tenone


Fragments of woven baskets and other objects have been found at the Arayashiki ruins in Mishima Town, and it was believed that the Okuaizu braided craft technique existed as early as the Jomon period. In addition, descriptions of wickerwork can be found in ancient documents such as the “Aizu Nosho” and the “Touyu Zakki”. Thus, Oku-Aizu braided crafts have been made in this region on a daily basis since ancient times.

The number of people engaged in Oku-Aizu braided craft has been decreasing since 1965 due to the aging of the workforce. The town of Mishima, fearing the loss of braided craft skills and techniques, launched a lifestyle craft movement with the goal of establishing it as a local industry. The lifestyle craft movement has spread throughout the region over the years, and today, more than 100 people are engaged in preserving the techniques and craftsmanship of Okuaizu braided craft.


General Production Process

1. Collecting

There are three types of Okuaizu braided craft: matabi-zaiku, hirorozaiku, and yamabudo-zaiku. Here we introduce the process of making matabi-zaiku.

In the case of matatabi work, the harvesting period is from November onward. Thick-fleshed matatabi are collected before the snow begins to accumulate.

2. Peeling

Peel off the skin of the matatabi.

3. Split into pieces

The peeled vine is split lengthwise into 4 or 5 pieces.

4. Core removal

Use a knife or other tool to shave off the soft parts to make the hinges. The entire process from harvesting to coring must be done at once before the material dries out.

5. Bottom knitting

The bottom is made using skins of uniform width. The techniques used are Nibon-Tobi Ajiro Weaving and Yotsume Weaving.

6. Horizontal weaving

The sides are knitted from the four sides of the bottom. The most common techniques are zaru-ami (colander knitting) and nibon-tobi amishiro-ori (two-ply knitting).

7. Edge fastening

After knitting up to the planned height, roll up the edges and fasten the edges.

8. Reinforcing the edge

Fix the edges with a Kumagotsuru or similar tool.

9. Drying

Bleaching is done by either Kansarashi (cold bleaching) or Yukizarashi (snow bleaching). This is to dry the finished colander under the eaves of the roof where it is well ventilated and exposed to the sun. The cold winds will strengthen the fabric and the reflection of the snow will bleach the fabric.


Ohori Soma pottery 

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