Creating Japan's Cultural Crafts

Japan is a country which is celebrated, the world over, for its dedication to craft and artisanship. From indigo and denim making in Okayama Prefecture to the cultivation of perfect rice and sake in Niigata, Japan isn't afraid of showing the world the levels of expertise that humans can achieve. The Tohoku region of Japan is renowned for its craftsmanship and dedication to traditional and ancient arts and crafts. From paper toys and glassware to supreme lacquerware and wood carving Tohoku leads the way in appreciating and showcasing Japanese artistry to the world.

Akabeko, Fukushima

Akabeko is a charming craft which symbolizes the Aizu region of Fukushima. Akabeko (red cow in local dialect) is essentially a papier-mache cow made from hand-crafted wood and washi paper. Based on a local legend that a red cow helped to build the Enzo-ji temple, Akabeko has been made, in Aizu, since the 16th century and is well-loved and adored by Fuskushima and all of Tohoku. There are only around a dozen family-owned workshops who craft Akabeko and these families have been doing so for generations. With distinctions being made by each family each craft is very much a symbol of artisanship and local pride. Akabeko is famous for its wobbly head which makes people laugh and is, ultimately, an enduring legacy of the Aizu region and its legion of artisans and love for arts and crafts.

Tsugaru Vidro, Aomori

Tsugaru Vidro glassware is a proud emblem of Aomori Prefecture. Created by a team of highly experienced artisans who have a passion for creating aesthetic and functional glassware, Tsugaru Vidro is highly collectible and makes superb souvenirs of any trip to Japan. Connected, deeply, with the four seasons and the colors which envelope Japan the glassware expertly reflects the vibrant hues of every micro-season and the local festivals which are celebrated throughout the Tohoku region of Japan. Tsugaru Vidro, then, is a perfect representation of the quality artisanship which for Japan is renowned.

Makie Experience, Fukushima

Maki-e is the Japanese word for lacquerware sprinkled with gold or silver powder and celebrated the world over as a symbol of Japanese artisanship and desire to preserve ancient artistic methods which are still being passed down from generation to generation. Aizu and Tohoku are renowned for maki-e and there are workshops where visitors can try designing their own creations which would make perfect mementos from their trip to Japan. It's a centuries old craft in which Japanese artisans excel. It's also a method and glimpse into the Japanese notions of patience and perfection.

Yamagata Shogi Sculpture, Yamagata

The Yamagata town of Tendo is known throughout Japan as Shogi-mura (‘chess town’). Japanese chess, or shogi, is the symbol of this area of Tohoku and shogi pieces and sculptures can be found everywhere. In Shogi-mura, visitors can even try their hand at crafting some shogi pieces and, on top of that, purchase some amazing hand-crafted shogi sets to take home with them. Shogi is still loved in Japan whose players take it very seriously. It's a battle of wits but also a celebration of Japanese craftsmanship as every board and piece is painstakingly made infusing centuries of tradition and culture.  

  • Akabeko, Fukushima
  • Makie Experience, Fukushima
  • Yamagata Shogi Sculpture, Yamagata

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