Experience Kyoto: Crafts

Kyoto is a city of many layers of Japanese culture accumulated through time. The cultural experience of the people in each historical layer can be found chronicled in every corner of the city. However, we cannot help but see that modern society’s infatuation with technology and economic growth is causing the abrupt loss of these myriad memories ingrained within the city and its architecture. They are contained in fragile elements like paper, wood, and clay walls and their succession to future generations is by no means assured. We need to redevelop the mind-set and spirit with which to appreciate these qualities that make up the true nature of our culture.
— Kinoshita Ryoichi, KJ 27
Kyoto has a wealth of beauty which is not surpassed anywhere in the world. Once more we touch on one of the fundamental differences between Europe and the Far East. Florence is Western beauty displayed for all to see; Kyoto is Eastern; its beauty is concealed, a secret to be wrested from it little by little. …the things that matter at Kyoto are tucked away in little valleys, in green alcoves between the folds of the hills. Its beauties do not present themselves, but have to be sought out.
— Fosco Maraini from Meeting with Japan, I960

General InformationAccommodationsMuseumsCraftsGalleriesFoodGetting AroundIro Iro




Traditional Crafts
Kyoto Prefecture’s brief introductions to over 60 studios, shops, exhibition centers etc mostly offering hands-on experience of a wide variety of local crafts; Japanese language or interpreter/Japanese companion most likely required.

Traditional Japanese Crafts in Kansai
One among a bunch of extensive and comprehensively informative sub-sites (this one has 178 featured subpages) on Kansai Window site’s “Kansai Encyclopedia,” provided by KIPPO, a.k.a. The Foundation for Kansai Region Promotion. Others, each with numerous fascinatingly diverse postings include:
Kansai World Heritage Archives (17 sub-pages)
Japanese Architecture in Kansai (188 sub-pages)
Washi (31 sub-pages)
The Artisans of Kansai (85 sub-pages)
Kansai’s Modern Architecture (151 sub-pages)
Japanese Food (31 sub-pages)
Traditional Performing Arts of Kansai (82 sub-pages)
Structures in Kansai (Modern Architecture) (151 sub-pages)
Hands to Nurture, Hands to inherit (25 sub-pages)
The Virtual Museum of Traditional Japanese Arts
Well-presented sections on Fine Arts, Crafts, Performing Arts, Pastime Arts, Martial Arts and other artistic and cultural assets, including videos of festivals etc – under “Café”)

“For well over millennium from ancient times, Kansai has developed as Japan’s political, economic and cultural center, prospering around the ancient capitals of Osaka, Nara and Kyoto. About 60% of Japan’s National Treasures are to be found in Kansai, five of which have also been designated UNESCO World Cultural Heritage sites. Kansai is equally well known as the birthplace of Japan’s three principal classical performing arts, Noh, Bunraku and Kabuki, which have been designated UNESCO Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. “

Chronology of Kyoto Culture
Kyoto City Web’s history pages, providing historical overview of Japan, with focus on Kyoto, including evolution of literature & the arts.

Traditional Crafts of Japan
Japan Traditional Craft Center: the Association for the Promotion of Traditional Craft Industries. Exhaustively comprehensive, on all traditions in textiles, ceramics, lacquer, wood, bamboo, metal, Buddhist altars, paper, stationery, stone, dolls, etc.

“Much more than the quantity of handcraft activity in Japan, what is of interest and value is that Japan has been and still remains a repository of continental Asian craft techniques, many of which have disappeared long ago on the continent. Also of value to the history of technology are Japanese crafts that developed to high levels, such as the making of carbon steel for blade tools; the production of a great variety of fine papers, including gold-decorated papers; the development of a wide spectrum of shaped-resist (shibori) textile dyeing techniques, and so on. The use of superlatives in the description of a number of these crafts is not simply bragging or cheap PR copy, for indeed they may have been equaled, but remain unsurpassed elsewhere.”

Japan Information Network Japan Atlas
“The ‘Japan Atlas’ homepage offers visual presentations on a variety of topics to anyone interested in the nature, traditions, and current social trends of Japan. This extremely informative homepage will give you a comprehensive picture of the attractive beauty of Japan from many angles. Two indices, “by region” and “by area of interest,” let you search around the site for the information you need, offering easy access to unique features of each region. You can also cross-reference to compare among different regions within specific areas of interest.”

A Kyoto museum of traditional industry featuring 66 crafts of Kyoto, free admission, in Okazaki, basement of Miyako Messe exhibition hall.

Raku Museum
Four-hundred-and-fifty years of teabowl mastery, over 15 generations.

Kawai Kanjiro’s House

The former home and studio of a mingei ceramicist, in Higashiyama.

“When you become so absorbed in your work that beauty flows naturally then your work truly becomes a work of art,” he wrote in an essay titled “We Do Not Work Alone.” He continued, “Everything that is, is not. Everything is, yet at the same time, nothing is. I myself am the emptiest of all.”

Aizenkobo indigo workshop
“Aizenkobo is an indigo-dyeing workshop that has been in operation for three generations. Aizenkobo produces and promotes indigo handicraft work using the traditional Japanese method. Its “eggplant” blue is impossible to reproduce with artificial chemical pigments. Various items, from clothing to tapestries, are displayed in the shop.”

Japanese Porcelain
An excellent resource.
“Porcelain (called “jiki” in Japanese) was introduced to Japan in the 17th century by Korean potters, and was influenced greatly by Chinese Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644) porcelain techniques. In the next two centuries in Japan, the growing popularity of porcelain — plus the widespread introduction of mass-produced ceramic ware — caused the traditional single-chamber anagama to be largely abandoned in favor of porcelain kilns and the multi-chambered noborigama.”

Kurotani Paper Village
In Kyoto prefecture en route to/from Japan Sea. Step-by step photos of process.