Travel and Learn: 7 Traditional Workshops Around Japan

Sep 5, 2017


Japan is a country full of tradition and culture, and once you visit, you might be tempted to bring back home with you a keepsake of such cultural heritage. Most people opt to just buy a souvenir, but what if you could make one yourself as you travel? Surely it will bring more meaning to your stay in Japan. Moreover, you may bring the experience home to become your new hobby if you really end up enjoying it. Here are 7 hobbies you can pick up and learn while in Japan, along with their main locations.

 

 

Kintsugi

Kintsugi is the art of repairing broken pottery. Instead of throwing away a broken glass or a vase like most people do, Japanese people often choose to repair them at home instead, using this method. This method finds roots in the Japanese concepts of wabi-sabi, which appreciates things as they are even when imperfect, and believes that nothing is ever broken beyond repair. The result is an art in itself, as each repair is different and can even look more beautiful than the initial unbroken state. In order to fix pottery using the Kintsugi style, you have to use a mix of lacquer or resin with metallic or gold powder. To be able to learn this art, you can attend workshops in Tokyo from around 5,000 yen.

 

Ukiyo-e

Many foreigners are familiar with ukiyo-e, a Japanese traditional artwork made from woodblock prints. Ukiyo means “floating world” and pictures in Ukiyo often depict the good side of life in Japan. When it was first introduced, Ukiyo was mostly in black and white or monochrome colors. Nowadays, Ukiyo-e consists of vibrant colors and utilizes a more complicated process to finish as it requires more than one woodblock. In the past, the process of Ukiyo-e utilized 3 artisans: one to draw the pattern, one to carve the pattern in a woodblock, and one to transfer the painting from woodblock to paper. In a workshop you be will less likely experience all of the steps. However you can experience firsthand how to paint using this method, through workshops available in Asakusa, Tokyo.

 

Washi Paper Making

The Japanese have also cultivated their own paper using a traditional method called washi. The texture of this paper is a bit rougher than your average printer paper, but it is adorned with pulp from the Hoso plants, which are used as the base of this kind of paper. To learn how to make washi paper, you can visit Washi no Sato, a paper-making factory which UNESCO acknowledged as a Human Intangible Cultural Heritage in Chichibu, Saitama. Or you can visit Udatsu Paper and Craft Museum in Echizen, Fukui, which is the home of Echizen Washi.

 

Nishijin

Nishijin is the art of weaving, often using silk in the past when it was first introduced from China. The result is unique and is often found in Japanese kimono or in obi, the traditional sash for a kimono. In order to learn how to do Nishijin, you can visit Nishijin Textile Center in Kyoto.

 

Wajima Nuri

Wajima Nuri is a lacquerware-making art famous in Japanese traditional household products. This form of lacquer work adorns many traditional kitchen wares in Japan. The steps in Wajima Nuri are extremely complicated—it is said that one lacquerware takes around 124 steps to finish. The process is also extremely dangerous. The materials used to make lacquerware, the tree resin and minerals called jinoko, can be poisonous to the skin. Therefore, such skills are difficult to teach in a workshop. Wajima Nuri businesses is often inherited through family lineage, and the place in which such works are manufactured is called a kura. Even though it is not possible to experience a full Wajima workshop, many Wajima Nuri stores and work stations in Wajima, Kanazawa offer a walk-through of their kura, complete with a brochure in English if you find it difficult to understand the Japanese.

 

 

Amezaiku Making

Amezaiku is the art of sculpted candies. Today, only around 40 Amezaiku artisans remain in Japan. In order to sculpt a candy properly, the candy mixture has to stay at a temperature of around 90 degrees Celsius for it to be moldable, and you have to finish your work in less than four minutes before the mixture hardens. You can learn about this endangered art and make your own Amezaiku in Sendagi, Tokyo.

 

Yatsuhashi Making

Yatsuhashi is a traditional Japanese confectionery made from rice flour, cinnamon, and sugar. It was first made as a way to utilize rice leftovers. It is usually sold in three types: baked as cookie sheets with a rough texture, unbaked (nama-yatsuhashi) with the texture of mochi, or unbaked and filled with red bean paste. It is one of the popular sweets tourists buy when they come to Kyoto, and in Otabe, the main manufacturer of these sweets, you can learn how to make one. Otabe is located in Kyoto.

 

 

Yulinda / INDONESIA

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