Traditional craft in Aomori | endemic culture nurturing various crafts


Tsugaru Biidoro

Traditional craft in Aomori is so diverse and unique. Today we will introduce them! The first traditional craft is “Tsugaru Biidoro.” It is a glass artifact made by applying the process of making floating balls for fishing that used to be made in the Mutsu Bay area. That has attracted Japanese people with its colorful beauty. The traditional craft was first made using sand from Shichiri-Nagahama, located on the west side of the Tsugaru Peninsula, using the ancient and highly difficult “air-blowing” technique.

traditional craft in Aomori, Biidoro

The materials are melted at a high temperature of 1,500 degrees Celsius, and the glass, melted bright red in the scorching heat of 1,200 degrees Celsius, is wound around a blowpipe and blown into the air by a craftsman, transforming it into a richly shaped and hued craftwork. Today, not only the traditional green, but also pink, red, yellow, white, and other colorful and practical products are being made.

Nambu Weaving (Nanbu SAKIORI)

The next traditional craft in Aomori; Nanbu SAKIORI is a weaving technique developed in the Edo period (1603-1868) as a way of reclaiming worn-out kimonos and cloth. At that time, the cold climate made it difficult to cultivate cotton, and the cotton and old-fashioned cotton brought in on the Kitamae-bune were very precious. Therefore, this technique was born out of the wisdom of women in rural areas who were forced to live in harsh conditions in order to cherish their cloth.

Traditional craft in Aomori
Source: Aomori prefecture Homepage

SAKIORI, woven on a jiiki (a traditional Japanese loom) using thinly torn cloth as the weft and cotton threads as the warp, is durable and warm, and is characterized by its colorful color transitions and intricate weaving. It has been used mainly for kotatsu quilts and obi belts, but is now also used for table covers and other modern hand-woven goods.

 KOKESHI is one of the most famous traditional craft Aomori

Aomori Prefecture is famous for its kokeshi dolls. Kokeshi dolls are a local toy of the Tohoku region. Miyagi also has Kokeshi crafts It is a wooden doll toy made by grinding on a wheel, and generally has a simple appearance of a round head and cylindrical body. It is said to have originated in the late Edo period (1603-1867) as a souvenir from hot spring resorts in the Tohoku region. A popular theory for the birth of kokeshi dolls is that kijiji-shi (wood craftsmen), who ground wood in the mountains to make bowls and trays, began making them as souvenirs for children to sell at hot spring resorts.

At that time, ornaments made with red dye were favored as good luck charms and to ward off evil spirits, and kokeshi dolls, with their cute red coloring, spread throughout the country as good playmates for children and toys to protect their happiness.

KOKESHI has some varieties depending the region they are made.

1. “Hirosaki” Kokeshi Dolls and Traditional Wooden Crafts

This is the most standard kokeshi. Dainty and lovely “Hirosaki Kokeshi Dolls” and ingenious “Wooden Toys” with a touch of nostalgiaTraditional kokeshi dolls, a craft of the Tohoku region, are categorized into 11 lines. Tsugaru kokeshi, one of them, is a generic name for kokeshi made in Kuroishi City, Owani Town, and Hirosaki City, and is characterized by the “Tsukuritsuke” technique, in which the kokeshi is made mainly from a single piece of wood with an okappa hairstyle.

Kokeshi doll, traditional craft in Aomori
Aomori Prefecture Regional Industry Division

Since the Meiji era (1868-1912), there have been many exchanges between wood craftsmen in the Tsugaru region and between Tsugaru and other prefectures. And Hirosaki Kokeshi has been passed down to the present as a continuation of the Owani line among the Tsugaru line of Kokeshi. In addition to kokeshi dolls, wooden toys such as koma and dharma dolls are also popularly made in this area and loved by local people.

2. “Owani” Kokeshi Dolls and “Zuguri” Spinning Tops

-Owani Kokeshi” with a simple but gorgeous appearance, and “Zuguri” with beautiful colors.

Kokeshi in Aomori
Aomori Prefecture Regional Industry Division

Owani Kokeshi dolls were first made in the Taisho era (1912-1926) by kokeshi craftsmen who moved to Owani Onsen from Onyu Onsen. The birthplace of Tsugaru kokeshi dolls, in the early Meiji era (1868-1912) and started to make kokeshi dolls from ground wood. The characteristic of Owani kokeshi dolls is the body that stretches straight out from the overstretched shoulders and the iris pattern painted on the body. The innocent smile on the face of the kokeshi gives a simple warmth to the viewer. The zuguri is a colorful Japanese toy for children in the snow country.


Pottery traditional craft in Aomori

Hachinohe Pottery

Hachinohe Pottery was fired in the mountains of Hachinohe until the end of the Edo period. Unlike Tsugaru-yaki, which was made for the feudal lord, Hachinohe-yaki is said to have been popular as a private kiln (pottery for the common people). This traditional craft once fell into disuse, but was revived by Shozan Watanabe in 1975. Today, Hachinohe Pottery is reproducing the Hachinohe Pottery of more than 100 years ago by adding ingenuity to clay collected in Hachinohe City.

Hachinohe pottery
Source: Jaran

Hachinohe Pottery is characterized generally by its “green” color, which embodies the nature of Aomori through the use of a unique green glaze. Aomori’s rich nature can be felt through the pottery.

Tsugaru Pottery

– Tsugaruyaki” has a simple but unique flavor that expresses the climate of Tsugaru

The origins of Tsugaru ware can be traced back to the Hirakiomizu ware, Osawa ware, Shimokawahara ware, and Kado ware, all of which were established by potters gathered by Nobumasa, the fourth lord of the Tsugaru domain. During the domain period, pottery was mainly used to make furnishings and daily utensils for the Tsugaru domain.

Tsugaru pottery
Source: Tsugaru-chiyozogama

However, with the opening of the railroads in the Meiji period (1868-1912), pottery from other prefectures was pushed aside and pottery production temporarily ceased during the Taisho period (1912-1926). The current Tsugaruyaki was revived in the Showa period. Today’s Tsugaruyaki pottery is mostly made with the taste of local clay and glazed with black tenmoku glaze or apple glaze made from apple wood ash. Tsugaruyaki produced in this way is attractive for its simple coloring that makes the most of the characteristics of the local climate.

Summary of traditional craft in Aomori

what do you think about  traditional craft in Aomori Prefecture? The prefecture has nurtured many types of traditional crafts. Aomori is a region of heavy snowfall, and because its logistics and infrastructure used to be quite fragile, it has traditional crafts with strong regional characteristics apart from other prefectures. It is also a fascinating place with many food specialties, so please stop by when you visit Japan.

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