Japan travel guide




Japan Travel Guide

Art, crafts, and souvenirs in Japan

Japan is famous for its wealth of arts and crafts, many dating back thousands of years, and handed down from generation to generation. Though the best are phenomenally expensive, there are plenty at more manageable prices which make wonderful souvenirs. Most department stores have a reasonable crafts section, but it's far more enjoyable to trawl Japan's specialist shops, even if you do pay a little extra for the pleasure. Kyoto is renowned for its traditional crafts, and even in Tokyo you'll find a number of artisans still plying their trade, while most regions have a vibrant local crafts industry turning out products for the tourists.

The many and varied traditional handicrafts of Japan enjoy official recognition and protection and, owing to the folk art movement, are much in demand. Some enjoy status as a meibutsu or regional specialty. Each craft demands a set of specialized skills. Textile crafts, for example, include silk, hemp, and cotton, woven (after spinning and dyeing) in forms from timeless folk designs to complex court patterns. Village crafts evolving from ancient folk traditions also continued in weaving and indigo dyeing in Hokkaido by the Ainu peoples, whose distinctive designs had prehistoric prototypes, and by other remote farming families in northern Japan.

Traditional Japanese paper (washi), made from mulberry or other natural fibres, and is fashioned into any number of tempting souvenirs. You can buy purses, boxes, fans, oiled umbrellas, lightshades and toys all made from paper, as well as wonderful stationery. Indeed, some washi is so beautifully patterned and textured that a few sheets alone make a great gift.

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