1,200-year-old history of traditional crafts in Kyoto. All 74 products are exhibited at
Text & Photo by Kenta Baba
When I walk around some alleys in Kyoto, I encounter workplaces of craftsmen all of a sudden. Traditional craftsmen are still living in this city. It makes me feel happier somehow when I think of it.
What if you start feeling like getting to know about a traditional craft and how to produce it, then what are we going to do? We can’t just visit them without appointment, so it is really hard to know about ‘living knowledge’. However, I recommend the place called in the underground of ‘Miyakomesse’ in Okazaki area.
At , they exhibit 74 traditional crafts in Kyoto and you can learn how to produce and see actual objects with your own eyes. They also have English interpretation for each crafts and not only streaming a film of production process, but also a real craftsman will show you the actual way of produce. You definitely can enjoy it without knowing anything.
In order to enjoy this facility deeply and fully, the director of the museum, Seiji Hatta told me some interesting points here.
4 reasons that make this museum as an extraordinary place although it is free admission for everyone.
The director of Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts. He started working here 5 years ago. Before that, he spent 35 years at the Agency of Industrial Science and Technology going back and forth between a tradition in Kyoto and the latest technology. It has been 40 years since he started working with a traditional industry in Kyoto.
1. Knowing a traditional crafts in Kyoto means that you are going to know the origin of the entire traditional Japanese crafts.
Mr.Hatta says, “A beginning of a traditional craft in Kyoto was about 1,200 years ago. All these 74 crafts here at this museum has a history since Heian era. Traditional industries everywhere in Japan were achieved in the development of the technology in Heiankyo (ancient Kyoto) first and it became their own later. After all, the origin of all the traditional crafts in Japan is here in Kyoto with all these 74 items.”
When I first visited , I honestly didn’t know that there were a number of traditional crafts in Kyoto that much. So many kinds of crafts were there, so I wondered if some crafts were pretty much famous in different prefectures rather than Kyoto.
However, like Mr.Hatta said, every traditional crafts had their roots here in Kyoto already.
He says, “Edo-sashimono is famous nation wide, but people in Edo era arranged the original into something simple color and decoration.”
“Edged tool is famous in Sakai and Niigata, but the origin of the production was way back at the court in Heiankyo. Paper making skill is also the same as everything.”
This facility exhibits only Kyoto crafts, but you can see the origin of traditional Japanese crafts from all of the prefectures.
This is the most important point of .
2. Watching a demonstration of real craftsmen and a traditional dance by Maiko-san.
I don’t think that there would be a lot of opportunities to see and watch how real craftsmen produce.
They give a demonstration at everyday.
What I saw today was Kyoshu embroidery craftsman. They use 1,000 kinds of threads the most and stitch them like a painting.
They carry almost about 100 colors usually.
Once you take a look at them closely, a color scheme is so delicate that you can’t even think it is a embroidery at all and you will get overwhelmed by its thread touch.
This size is the biggest he can do in a day.
He answered me for whatever I asked for.
Moreover, in every third Sunday, you can see a dance stage of Maiko-san without any admission, which is also known as ‘traditional walking craft’. They mainly make a commentary on things that Maiko-san has and also their seasonable traditional dress.
Usually, if you are going to see them dancing at a certain place, it will cost a lot, but this is something that we can’t imagine I guess.
3. They sell some of the crafts they exhibit.
There is one big difference from a normal museum which you can only see and walk through. Some of the crafts they exhibit has price tag and you can buy them. This idea was proposed by the director of the museum, Mr. Hatta.
Each booth has its own film showing a process of a production. After you watch this film, I am sure that you are going to think that the price they have on those amazing crafts are very cheap somehow.
Not only at exhibition halls, but there is a shop that you can buy and look for some souvenirs easily. I got the best 3 items that people from overseas buy;
No.1 Mini Byobu (small folding screen)
No.2 Furoshiki (a cloth wrapper)
No.3 An accessory of Kyozogan
Easy to bring back home is the important point of choosing a souvenir. I actually saw a craft that I can use in my daily life so I bought it for myself.
4. You can ask anything you would like to about a traditional industry in Kyoto.
There are various updates everyday at led by Mr. Hatta.
Because of 400 years of celebration for Rinpa, you can see the items of RIMPA400.
Absolutely they change the display often and also they plan some events related to a traditional industry.
Any proposals and questions about a traditional craft in Kyoto at are welcome.
If you would like to see craftsman face to face, or if you look for some craftsmen who would satisfy your request, then they first ask craftsmen about the request and if they say yes about it, they can introduce them to you for sure. I heard that someone asked them that she wanted to learn Koto (a long Japanese zither) so far.
Sometimes, designers and creators from overseas request them for a collaboration with Kyoto craftsmen.
‘A traditional craftsmanship’ supported every single situation such as our normal daily life and also cheerful festival and its own stages.
Once you get to know about this place, you are able to know something ‘other side’ of a traditional craftsmanship in Japan rather than only in Kyoto. If you look for a job or something related to a traditional industry, then you need to visit here and ask them anything you concern.
The day I interviewed Mr. Hatta, I met two ladies from UK who enjoyed a lot at . I asked them how they thought of that place and they happily said, “It was amazing trip and fantastic. I was able to learn something about Kyoto much deeper than ever and we were incredibly lucky that this museum opened on Monday since a lot of others closed.”
ADDRESS : 9-1 Seishouji-cho Okazaki, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto city (MAP)
HOURS : 9:00 a.m. ~ 5:00 p.m. (the entrance will close after 4:30 p.m.)
CLOSED : August 17th and 18th (summer season rest) December 29th ~January 3rd (New Year’s holiday)
PHONE : +81 (0)75-762-2670
ADMISSION : FREE
WEB SITE : http://www.miyakomesse.jp/fureaika/index_eng.php