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Culture Art & Design Article - 11.02.2020

Spotlight on Traditional Crafts of Japan


In Japan, crafts artists create their work intent of serving a purpose in everyday life. They distinguish crafts not to be decorative artwork. The beauty of the craft is created as the object is used in daily life is still present today as kogei artworks are still meant to be appreciated by all five senses. 

Since 1974, the Ministry of Economics in Japan carefully appoints the treasured national “Traditional Crafts of Japan” and there are 225 crafts are named under this honor. In the Hida region of Gifu prefecture, there are several crafts. Of several crafts, we are highlighting two crafts from TAKUMI exhibition.   

Hida Shunkei Lacquerware

The Hida Shunkei lacquerware craft began early in the seventeenth century, when the older brother of the lord of Takayama enlisted the services of lacquering master San-emon Narita to coat a sawara cypress wood tray, which he wanted to preserve.  

The Hida region is home to vast forests of Japanese cypress, which features a fine, straight grain. The translucent Shunkei lacquer technique brings out the unique and striking characteristics of this grain. In the nineteenth century, Hida Shunkei lacquerware became a popular and widely used tableware due to its beauty and light weight. In 1975, the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry deemed the traditional Hida Shunkei lacquerware as a National Treasure Craft. 

Three Nesting Boxes of 6.5 Sun
Round two-tiered bento box
Traditional two-tiered handled box
Mage Mizusashi Hegime (Bentwood water vessel with kusabi joinery)
Nesting boxes
Five-sun two-tiered box
Square bento box
Shingen bento box

Fukujyu Shunkei Lacquerware Studio (established 1850) 

Ichii Woodcarvings

Ichii Woodcarvings (called Ichii itto bori in Japanese) are produced in the Hida region of Gifu prefecture and made specifically from ichii wood (Japanese yew), the prefectural tree of Gifu. Carvings are created with a single instrument, a chisel. The pieces are not painted, highlighting the beauty of the wood grain and natural colors of the red center heartwood and the outer white sapwood.  

Ayayuki Kosaka Ⅱ (b. 1969)

Ichii Woodcarving was established by Sukenaga Masuda, a Netsuke maker, during the Edo period (1603-1868). Netsuke are small ornamental pieces, usually of carved wood, which were used as toggles to hang a medicine box, pipe, or tobacco pouch from the obi (sash) of a man’s kimono. 

Over time, the Ichii Woodcarving craft spread through the Hida region and continues to be passed from generation to generation. In 1975, Ichii Woodcarving was designated as a National Traditional Craft.   

Turban Shell
Beshimi noh mask
Menpou miniature noh mask

Ayayuki Kosaka Ⅱ (b. 1969) 


Related Articles

TAKUMI | The Arts and Crafts of Hida Takayama

HIDA Pottery | Shibukusa Ware

Special Thanks

JAPAN HOUSE Los Angeles would like to thank the City of Takayama for the opportunity to be able to share this unique collection of remarkable craft, TAKUMI-The Arts and Crafts of Hida Takayama, in concert with our exhibition HIDA | A Woodwork Tradition in the Making. This exhibition from Hida Takayama is traveling to Denver later this year to mark the sixtieth anniversary of the sister city relationship between Takayama and Denver.

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