Amazing craftsmanship at the Nara Craft Museum

The Nara Craft Museum, or “Nara Kogeikan”, is a museum that exhibits the work of specially chosen Nara artists. I went to the craft festival, held between the 27th of October to the 3rd of November, 2015. There were 38 new works of art, and I was able to see the “Akishino” hand knitting technique, a workshop on making ceramics, lacquer ware, and “ittobori”, a work of art created by carving a single piece of wood.

A work of art created by carving a single piece of wood


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How and Who makes the traditional crafts in Nara? Let’s see how they work!

There are many opportunities to see the work by the craftsmen of Nara, but there are very few opportunities to meet the actual people who create them. You might wonder how and who creates these works of art, so please visit Nara Craft Museum.

Ittobori
Ittobori, a work of art created by carving a single piece of wood

Ittobori, a work of art created by carving a single piece of wood
Ittobori, a work of art created by carving a single piece of wood

A simple creation by carving a single piece of wood

Ittobori, or a work of art created by carving a single piece of wood, is also called a Nara Ningyo doll. Nara is strongly connected to Buddhism and sculptors of Buddhist images have started making toys. The feature of Ittobori is its simplicity. The dolls are simply carved out of a single piece of wood and designed with some gold foil and mineral pigments. It is known as one of the traditional crafts of Nara. At first I thought that the craftsmen would be 70-year-old seniors, but they were actually 30-year-old men, which surprised me. It’s nice to know that the technique has been passed down through generations.

Mother of pearl
Mother of pearl
Nara lacquer ware
Making mother of peal for decoration
Nara lacquer ware
Nara lacquer ware

Nara lacquer ware showing the splendor of Tenpyo culture.

Nara has flourished as the final eastern destination of the silk-road. The influence of the silk road culture can be seen in Nara lacquer ware. During the Nara period (710〜794), splendid patterns were developed called “Tenpyo” patterns, and replicate the shells of Abalones, Yako shells, and Cho shells. Other Techniques like the “Hyomon” and “Kingin-heidatsu” were also commonly used during that period.
I was able to see the shells that show the process of making mother of pearl. It’s rare to see these shells in Nara, because of it’s distance from the ocean. I imagine that these shells were special gifts in Nara at that time. The origin of mother of pearl is in Persia and Greece, which intrigued me.

Souvenir shop
Souvenir shop

Get some traditional Nara crafts for your family and friends.

You can buy some souvenirs at the shop inside the museum. They are all made by craftsmen in Nara, and they often represent new techniques and new culture. Take a look at the many kinds of Nara crafts offered and then go choose what you like on Sanjo street or Nara machi. The Nara Craft Museum is free of charge, so go visit and find that special piece of art in Nara!

Map

1−1 Azemamechō, Nara city, Nara Prefecture〒630-8346

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AUTHOR

kyoami

kyoami

Writer/ Translator

I love Japanese folkcraft article, traditional handicrafts and antiques. I’m seeking the Japanese people’s religious outlooks and its origins that are behind Japanese people’s unique sense and techniques rooted in the ordinary life.

Information

Address 1−1 Azemamechō, Nara city, Nara Prefecture〒630-8346
Hours 10:00〜18:00 Last entry 17:30
Close Monday (Except National Holiday) Next day of National Holiday (Except Saturday and Sunday) 26 December to 5 January
Access 7 min walk from Kintetsu Nara station 15 min walk from JR Nara station
Phone 0742-27-0033
Website http://azemame.web.fc2.com/index.html (Japanese only)