One of the things many people want to do when they come to Japan is “buy traditional crafts.” In this article, we will introduce traditional crafts of Japan, particularly those recommended in the Kansai region (Osaka and Kyoto).
For over a thousand years, Kansai has been a historic capital and the birthplace of Japanese culture. The traditional crafts we will introduce this time have been passed down from that era. Using them will allow you to experience the culture of Japan during the time of the samurai. When you come to Japan, be sure to at least visit the shops and take a look.
Sakai Knives (Osaka)
Let me introduce “Sakai Knives” from Sakai City, Osaka Prefecture. Sakai City is one of Japan’s three major blade manufacturing areas, with a history of making knives for over 1500 years. It is widely renowned within Japan, and in the realm of professional chef’s knives, it boasts a significant share of the domestic market. Skilled craftsmen, specializing in three different processes – forging, sharpening, and attaching handles – meticulously handcraft each knife. The unparalleled quality of these knives is truly captivating, and their excellence sets them apart from other knife-producing regions.
One of the main features is its sharpness. Made based on the manufacturing techniques of Japanese swords, some people even say it can split stones. Sakai knives are well-known, and you can purchase them all over the country. However, if you visit a knife shop in Sakai City, there are stores with staff who are fluent in English and can assist you in finding the “perfect one.”
Kyoto Folding Fans (Kyoto)
Folding fans are traditional tools used in Japan to cool down by fanning oneself with the wind. Among them, the ones made in Kyoto and Shiga are called “Kyoto Folding Fans.” While fans are available all over Japan, Kyoto Folding Fans are known for their delicate craftsmanship and exceptional durability due to the large number of ribs, called “senkotsu,” used in their construction. Skilled artisans create these fans, ensuring smooth and graceful opening and closing.
Folding fans are so authentically Japanese in their design and shape that they make the perfect souvenir to bring back home, allowing you to feel the essence of Japanese culture while staying cool. Many of these fans are crafted from bamboo and washi paper, giving them a distinct Japanese scent. They are not only great for personal use but also commonly given as gifts in Japan to celebrate special occasions or show gratitude. So, why not consider presenting a folding fan as a thoughtful gift to your family or friends?
Shigaraki Ware (Shiga)
Shigaraki Ware is a thriving pottery produced in the vicinity of Koka City, Shiga Prefecture, where ninjas once lived. It has a rich history dating back to the time of samurai and ninjas. There is a wide range of pottery products available, including mugs, pots, and planters, all crafted from Shigaraki Ware.
Another highly recommended item is the “tanuki” figurine. Even people who are not familiar with Shigaraki Ware in Japan often know about these tanuki figurines because they are so famous. They are considered lucky charms that bring good fortune, and many people decorate their front entrances with them. The typical size of a tanuki figurine is around 50cm, which might be too large to take back to your home country. Some shops offer mini-sized ones, so those would be a great option!
Takayama Chasen (Nara)
The bamboo whisk used for stirring and kneading matcha to make delicious green tea. It’s an essential tool when enjoying a cup of tasty matcha. While chasen is made all over Japan, the “Takayama Chasen” crafted in the Takayama region stands out for its top-notch quality and holds the highest market share domestically.
Also, chasen comes in two types: one for making strong matcha and the other for making weak matcha. It has various uses, so it’s recommended to purchase one at a store to suit your specific needs. Keep in mind that chasen alone isn’t enough to make matcha; you’ll need other utensils as well. By the way, some places even offer matcha-making workshops for foreign travelers, so joining one could be a great idea!
Nara Brushes – Nara
Calligraphy, the art of writing characters using ink, requires an indispensable tool known as the brush. While brushes can be found all over Japan, the Nara Brushes, produced in the vicinity of Nara City and Yamatokoriyama City in Nara Prefecture, stand out for their rich history, deep-rooted traditions, and renowned quality.
The brushes are made from animal hair and crafted individually by hand, without the use of machines. The bristle quality is entirely natural, but it can vary due to differences in the source and the time of collection. In other words, you can purchase a one-of-a-kind brush that is unique in the world. When you come to Japan, be sure to see and feel them in person, and find your own favorite brush that suits your preferences.
Japanese traditional crafts are unique in their materials and designs, showcasing the essence of Japanese culture and history. By purchasing and taking them back to your home country, you can experience Japanese culture anytime you want.