The opening of the Hokuriku Shinkansen (high speed train) line to the capital of the Ishikawa Prefecture, Kanazawa, has created an entirely new area to explore for foreign visitors, as well as made travel more convenient for local people. As tourism companies, as well as people planning their own trips, think of where to go and what to see, one particular museum should be high up in their lists. The Ishikawa Prefectural Museum of Traditional Arts and Crafts is an absolute shining example of Japanese culture, history and of course crafts. There are 36 designated traditional crafts in Ishikawa, and here all in one place you can see them all.
The friendly staff are always gracious to their visitors in true Japanese style, and feel strongly about letting people feel and observe traditional skills which have been developed over centuries in this region. It is also perfectly located near a multitude of historical, cultural and craft related places, as such one can wander the Kanazawa Castle Park, visit other museums such as the Ishikawa Prefectural Museum of Art or even experience the wonders of the Kaga Yuzen Traditional Industry Center or the Ishikawa Prefectural Products Center.
The Ishikawa Prefectural Museum of Traditional Arts and Crafts itself is in a Japanese style park adjoining the Kanazawa Castle Park, it is certainly recommended that you enjoy the walk through the park first as it is will definitely get you into a more ‘Japanese’ mood. There are beautiful paths, waterways, and even little bridges. If you are coming through the park then towards the south side you will notice a small, Japanese style wall, behind which the building of the Ishikawa Prefectural Museum of Traditional Arts and Crafts will appear.
Upon entering the museum you will find a cafe, toilets, lift and stairs to your left, and an exhibition area, reception and museum shop directly ahead. The museum prides itself on the fact that in the museum shop you can feel and touch crafts which have been handmade by local artisans, and of course you are welcome to purchase them and take them home. A particular point that needs to be emphasized is that the museum is eager to not only present the beauty of Japanese crafts, but also show how they are still useful, and can still be used today. It is a very compelling spirit as it serves as a reminder that we don’t just need to stare at traditional crafts from behind a glass window, every craft still has its place in a home, or elsewhere, and is ready to be picked up and used.
In connection with this the permanent exhibition is classified into groups such as “Clothes,” “Food,” “Houses,” “Praying,” “Festivals.” A rather pointed reminder of the use of crafts!
Kaga Yuzen Silk Dyeing
This beautiful dyeing is characterized by the traditional colors of “Kaga Gosai”
(Kaga five colors), which are dark red, indigo, Chinese yellow, grass green and antique purple, and the naturalistic design where motifs from the nature such as the flora, plants and landscapes are commonly used.
The Ushikubi pongee is famous for its strength. It is said that even if the textile is caught on a nail, the nail will be pulled out. Therefore, it is referred to as “Kuginuki-tsumugi” (nail pulling pongee). The thread is spun directly from twined cocoons, making the thread thick and durable yet a natural look is still maintained.
The characteristic of the Kaga Embroidery is the style where the same pattern is embroidered on both the outer and inner sides of the fabric, allowing easy repair in case a thread is cut. Also the gorgeous yet delicate presentation created by the techniques such as gradation and padding embroidery are other features of the Kaga Embroidery.
The Noto Linen has an established reputation for its correctness of weaving from one hundred and twenty to one hundred and forty crisscross “kasuri” patterns (splashed patterns) into the breadth of the linen, and it is acclaimed as the linen with the highest quality.
Kanazawa Japanese Umbrella
Some features of these umbrellas are durability resulting from the four layers of paper in the center, and two to three threads wound around the outside to strengthen the easily breakable parts. These strong and long lasting umbrellas still have their popularity today.
Kaga Paper Stencils
This is a special method of cutting paper stencils used in Yuzen or in dyeing fine designs for kimono fabrics. Thin Japanese paper made from mulberry is pasted using the astringent juice of the persimmon, which is then cut using special tools to make the stencils.
The essence of Kutani lies in its gloriously painted and overglazed decorations. Among them are the simple yet dynamic “Ko-Kutani style” (Old-Kutani style), the “Mokubei style” where human figures are painted in red, and the “Shoza style” famous for the motifs of flowers, birds, hills and waters painted in various colors and gold.
Wajima Urushi Lacquer Ware
The characteristic of the Wajima Urushi Lacquer Ware is the durability owing to the careful craftsmen work, by repeatedly coating layers of lacquer containing “Jinoko” (local earth which is a type of diatomite). The Wajima Urushi Lacquer Ware is a beautiful and practical product, and its beauty is enhanced as it is used.
Yamanaka Urushi Lacquer Ware
The woodturning carving technique is the characteristic of the Yamanaka Urushi Lacquer Ware. The decorative woodturning technique where grooves are carved in the wooden surface is the forte of Urushi lacquer ware. This ware has an established reputation for its production of tea utensils where the gorgeously raised Urushi lacquer work is also applied.
Kanazawa Urushi Lacquer Ware
Kanazawa Urushi Lacquer Ware is appreciated as a piece of art rather than a mass-produced product. Main products include furnishings and tea utensils. It is famous for its durable Urushi lacquer coating as well as the high quality and delicate gold Urushi lacquer decorations which include the raised Urushi lacquer work and clouded/scraped gold Urushi lacquer.
The Suzu Pottery, an unglazed ceramic, was once disappeared completely, and the current Suzu Pottery was revived in 1976. Although the pottery is unglazed, the soil in Suzu region is rich in iron, therefore when it is fired at 1200℃, the ashes of the firewood melt and turn into a natural glaze, creating the charcoal gray color of the Suzu Pottery.
Kanazawa Ohi Ware
Ohi Ware has a deep relation with the tea ceremony. Although most of the items produced are tea utensils, tea bowls, pitchers, flower vases, tableware are being manufactured as well. Individual pieces are hand-made, and the simple yet warm touch of the reddish yellow glaze matches the scenery in the snowy regions.
Kanazawa Tea Ceremony Kettle
The tea ceremony kettle is made of iron from old kettles and other everyday items. Cast iron is poured into the space between the inner and outer molds to form the design (shape), and then iron oxide is used to color the outer surface. This is a craftwork that has been preserved in Kanazawa region due to the flourishing of the tea ceremonies.
Kanazawa Gold Leaf
Kanazawa gold leaf is pounded evenly to a thickness of 0.0004 mm without losing its brightness. A piece of gold in the size of a Japanese 10 yen coin is pounded evenly into the size of a tatami mat (approx. 90 cm x 180 cm) and over 98% of all Japanese gold leaves are from the Kanazawa region.
Ishikawa’s Washi Paper
Under the patronage of the lords of Kaga, high-quality papers used for official documents, such as the “Kagahosho” (thick Japanese paper), “Sugihara-paper,” and “Koudan-paper” were made in Futamata of Kanazawa region. Others like “Ganpi-paper” from Kawakita region and “Gasen-paper” from Wajima region can also be found here in Ishikawa prefecture.
Kanazawa Paulownia Ware
Crafts with brilliant lacquer work designs harmonizing with the beauty of the grains of wood are very scarce nationwide. Taking advantage of the features of the paulownia, humid and fire resistant firepots, flower vases, ash trays and confectionery dishes are created.
We will introduce the rest of the other crafts found at this museum soon!
Many thanks to the staff of the Ishikawa Prefectural Museum of Traditional Arts and Crafts for their help with this article!
Address： 1-1 Kenroku-machi, Kanazawa-shi, Ishikawa-ken
Museum Hours: 9:00 am－ 5:00 pm (last admittance at 4:30 pm)
April to November: 3rd Thursday of the month (except Holiday Thursdays)
December to March: Thursdays
The year-end and New Year holidays
Seniors (65 and older) ¥200
Students (17 and under) ¥100
Children (6 and under) Free