This craft involves the carving of natural semiprecious stone for art objects, craft products and accessories. Its techniques in carving and polishing have developed throughout a long history and highly appreciated not only in Japan but also in many other countries.
This craft started in the Heian period (794-1192), when quartz was found in the deep mountain beyond Mitake Shosenkyo Gorge. When it was first discovered, it was used as an ornament, but by the Edo period (1603-1868), master craftsmen from Kyoto were invited to this area and they taught local craftsmen the techniques of making raw material into gems, which developed into the present Koshu crystal carving.
The production reached its peak with export growth in the postwar period, but today ornaments and items of jewelry for domestic customers are being produced. Many of these pieces have been created to make the most of the transparent colors and brilliance of the natural gem stone. They are not merely beautiful but have an uplifting feeling and sense of being alive.
Mumyoi ware is a type of pottery made of mumyoi clay, which contains ferrous oxide and is obtained near the ancient goldmine on Sado Island in Niigata Prefecture. Originally, mumyoi was used for medical purposes such as relieving symptoms of palsy, digestive problems, burns, and helping to stop bleeding.
The pottery was first produced in 1819, when they were fired at relatively low temperature. The large-scale production adopting high-temperature firing was started in 1857. Unlike other clay wares, Mumyoi ware requires extra processing efforts such as raw-polish, a process that polishes the products with cotton cloth before firing, and a process of polishing with sand after firing.
As Mumyoi pottery is fired in a kiln at a high temperature, it becomes exceptionally hard. It is well-known that Mumyoi ware produces a clear metallic sound when tapped. The more it is used, the glossier it becomes. Mumyoi ware is more suitable for daily use rather than for decorative purposes.
Tsuishu is a kind of Japanese traditional lacquer ware. In the making of Tsuishu, the thick layer of solid lacquer is engraved with designs such as flowers, birds, or landscapes. Tsuishu originated in China and was introduced to Japan during the Heian period (794-1192). Tsuishu ware was highly valued as tea utensils and house ornaments.
In the making of Sendai Tsuishu, however, the total production time, which is said to be several months at the maximum, is considerably reduced by producing many pieces of engraved lacquer ware of the same pattern out of one hand-carved prototype. The molded wood-carved intaglio is then coated with vermillion lacquer at least one hundred times. This streamlined production method was established during the Meiji period (1868-1912).
Special care is normally needed to handle Tsuishu lacquer ware, but improvements in heat and water resistance were made in Sendai Tsuish so that each item is suitable for daily use without losing delicacy and beauty of lacquer. This is why Sendai Tsuishu has maintained its reputation as a long-beloved traditional art work
Suruga lacquer ware is characterized by the use of Makie. Makie is a decorative technique in which gold and silver powder is spread over the lacquered surface to create beautiful patterns. After spreading the powder, it is dried, applied raw lacquer to fix the powder, ground with charcoal, dried again through the process of suri-urushi (applying and wiping off lacquer again and again), and given a final grind to finish. The craft dates back to 1828, when Senzo Nakagawa, a lacquerer living in the Suruga region, acquired the skill of Makie and used it in his lacquering processes. In 1830, two Makie lacquerers, Tomekichi and Senjiro Kobayashi, came from Edo (present-day Tokyo) and taught their skills to the local craftsmen, which highly enhanced Makie techniques in this region. Suruga lacquer ware was one of the representative export products from the Meiji period (1868-1912) through the early Showa period (1926-1989), but after World War II, lacquer ware was considered as expensive luxury not suitable for daily use. Today, articles such as suzuribako (box for writing equipment), trays, fubako (letter box), flower vessels, geta (Japanese sandals), and accessories are being made.
Naniwa bamboo craft is characterized by its beautiful combination of straight and curved lines of quality matake bamboo, which is over-woven many times. The craft was designated as a prefectural Traditional Craft Product. Currently it is produced mainly in the cities of Osaka, Tondabayashi, and Sakai, Osaka Pref. In the Nara period (701−794) there were a lot of high quality bamboos growing around this district and the local people began to make bamboo baskets for agricultural use. Later in the Edo period (1603−1867), when flower arrangement and tea ceremony were flourished, flower vessels and charcoal baskets began to be made. Thus by the middle of the Edo period a large producing area had been formed. A cut bamboo is split into strips with the equal thickness and width, which are called higo. Then higo are woven over and over to form the main part called do. Next, a cut rattan is also sprit into strips with the equal thickness and width to be used for the frame of a vessel. After the shape is formed, it is dyed in hot water twice, dried, and polished with a rotten stone. Finally urushi lacquer is applied and polished again to give it gloss. It this shine black finish that characterizes Naniwa bamboo craft works. At the present, items such as flower baskets, large food baskets, and other articles of daily use are produced.
Hearing of “a dharma doll” people usually imagine something red and round,
however, Urushi Dharma specially made in Obama City, Fukui Pref. is largely
different form this image. It is colorfully painted triangular pyramid
dharma. This kind of dharma doll is very unique and cannot be found anywhere
else in Japan. It is made out of a block of famous colorful lacquer of
Wakasa lacquer, which is clotted in a vessel, cut into a small piece and
grinded to finish. Its strength and gloss unique to urushi lacquer, original
coloration and shape has received high recognition. Made of 100 % lacquer,
it looks solid, its base is firm, and it never turns over. As it never turns
over or “fall over”, this dharma is very popular among students taking
entrance exams for universities as a lucky talisman. Urushi Dharma is
specified as the folk craft product of Fukui Pref..