Beautiful craftsmanship goes hand in hand with Japanese culture. For centuries, artisans have created high-quality goods made from natural materials that tell the story of the area they come from. From products as simplistic as a bowl, to items that are detailed as a ceramic pot, Japanese craftsmanship infuses a level of sophistication that can’t be found anywhere else in the world.
There are plenty of great gifts out there for people who appreciate the beauty of Japanese craftsmanship and here are ten ideas.
1. Sake cup set
Japanese sake is a versatile beverage that can be drank in a number of ways. You can drink it at different temperatures and experiment with how you want to serve it. A traditional serving method involves small choko cups and a tokkuri (flask) that contains the sake.
This sake set is perfect for nihonshu nerds and people who appreciate how Japanese goods are produced. The choko cups and tokurri are engraved with kimono-style Japanese flowers and are crafted in a unique way.
Produced by Hirota Glass, a pioneer in Japanese glassware, the sake set has been created with a frosted technique. This provides a snowy, frosted appearance, which contrasts beautifully with the bright flowers. Raise a cup with your friends and say kanpai!
2. Daruma Wind Chime
Glass making was introduced to Japan in the 18th century by the Dutch, with the material being traded to wealthy parts of the country. It didn’t take long for local craftsmen to master the art of glass making and create their own specific techniques and produce items such as wind chimes.
The Shinohara family became adept at creating Edo Furin, which translates to wind bell from Edo. Their wind chimes are exquisite and one of the most striking is modelled on the image of the Daruma.
Seen as a symbol of perseverance and good luck, Daruma takes inspiration from the founder of Zen Buddhism, Bodhidharma. The wind chime can be hung from multiple places in the home and makes a sound that can be relaxing and thought-provoking.
3. Den Japanese Lacquer Table Centre
Lacquerware is another popular product in Japan and a brand that is famous for its high-quality craftsmanship is Den. The business was set up in collaboration with a workshop for lacquerware and designer Satoshi Umeno. Abalone shell, Japanese lacquer and glass are combined to produce magnificent tableware.
An example is Den’s Lacquer table centre that is minimalist and tasteful. Sturdy and versatile, the table centre has been created in such a way that it’s meant to emphasise the objects that are placed on it.
4. Nousaku Flower Vase
The tradition of Takaoka bronze casting in Japan stretches back to the beginning of the Edo period, when the Maeda clan of Kaga invited seven metal casters at the top of their game to work in a new workshop. The style became defined by bronze Buddhist fittings that eventually gained a reputation abroad in the Meji era.
This elegant type of design has been applied to this hand-crafted vase from the Nousaku company, who specialise in crafting pottery, table ware and more. The vase was polished by hand and can be used with flowers or left alone as a piece of history in the home.
5. Kiriko Taisho Roman Karai Dots Glass
Kiriko is one of the most beautiful forms of Japanese design. It’s a coloured glass craft that involves engraving unique patterns. The glass maker blows clear glass into a thin shape of coloured glass and then rotates until the object is formed. This creates a two-layered structure with coloured glass on the outside and clear on the inside.
A fine example of a kiriko product is the Taisho Roman glass engraved with dot patterns. The patterns have been crafted by master artisans from Hirota Glass, with the intention of letting light shine through in a special way.
6. Tomioka Hexagonal Cherry Bark Tray
There are many types of woodcraft in Japan, with Kabazaiku being one of the most intriguing. Although the literal translation is ‘birch craftsmanship’ there is no birch used in the process. Instead, cherry bark is utilised and the artform is thought to have hailed from the Akita region.
Fujimura Hikoroku, the originator of Kabazaiku, was a retainer of the Satake samurai clan in the 1780s. With the family facing financial problems, the Satake lord ordered low class samurai to be trained in Kabazaiku to bring in extra income.
The process is labour-intensive, containing 10 different steps and a product that embodies the artform is this Hexagonal cherry bark tray.
Produced by the Tomioka brand, the tray is durable, elegant and visually appealing. Made with dark mountain cherry bark, the tray is covered with urethane resin to protect it from damage.
7. Arita Porcelain Tea Pot
The city of Arita is famous for producing some of the finest porcelain products in the world. The practice dates back to 1616, when the locals discovered that the ceramic rocks near the city were capable of producing high-quality porcelain. Arita porcelain was ultimately created using a mixture of imported technology and Japanese aesthetics.
Tea lovers are sure to appreciate the Aritaware tea pot from Kinshodo. The product has been designed with an uneven appearance, giving it a playful quality. Use it to serve green tea and make it a decorative part of your kitchen.
8. Halfmoon Bamboo Handbag
Bamboo is an extremely versatile material, known for its flexibility and durability. Despite the material being widely available throughout Japan, there are as many different artistic styles as there are regions.
Suruga Sensuji bamboo craftsmanship is highly regarded for the level of precision that’s needed to make items. It’s characterised by the use of thin, round strips and the technique takes between 5 – 10 years to learn.
Miyabi Andon are specialists in Suruga bamboo production and they have created an epic bamboo handbag shaped like a half moon. Traditionally, these kinds of handbags were worn with kimonos and highlight a rich tradition that’s carried on to the modern day.
The handbag is not only beautifully crafted, it’s a sustainable product that can be used over other handbags. It’s the perfect Japanese accompaniment for a western outfit.
9. Yosegizaiku Hakone Wood Mosaic Tea Container
Hakone is a region of Japan that’s famous for the variety of wood that’s used to produce objects using a technique called yosegizaiku. Also known as wood mosaic, the practice originated during the Edo period and is characterised by colourful patterns.
The process begins by cutting out multiple blocks of wood into the same geometric shape. Then, each block is carved to produce individual mosaic pieces. The blocks are arranged into a full pattern to create a Tanegi board, with each block needing to have the exact same shape and angle.
The final stages involve using a special plane to scrape thin wood slices called Taneita from the Tanegi board and then the sheets are attached to other products. This tea container features some amazing yosegizaiku patterns and would pair well with a traditional Japanese tea pot.
10. Ishikawa Odwara Lacquer Chopsticks
Different regions in Japan have their own specialised approaches to creating lacquerware and in the case of Odwara City, the products are minimalistic. Odwara lacquer focuses on the natural beauty of the material involved rather than using extravagant colours or decorations. It’s characterised by the shine of wood and product longevity, as Odawara lacquer is known for withstanding all kinds of damage.
See the beauty of Odwara City realised in this pair of chopsticks by Isikawa Lacquer. The chopsticks are simplistic, elegant and extremely durable, thanks to the lacquered layer that protects against water, heat and alcohol damage.