The Sumida Ward, where the Tokyo Sky Tree Tower stands, is an area full of traditional crafts that have been handed down from the Edo period. Mukojima town, at the base of the tower, is home to many old arts and crafts shops. They are family owned and maintain the nostalgic atmosphere of older days in Japan. Their techniques have been developed to enhancing product usability, and some are even very aesthetic. Several popular shops, where you are able to see their work and collections, will be introduced in this article. Three of them hold workshops for visitors. (Advanced reservations are required)
1.Tools used daily by Japanese people.
2.Made to order socks?
3.Artistic Portable Walls? (★Workshop Available)
4.Lanterns made of paper? (★Workshop Available)
5.A kimono cloth pattern born during the Edo period. (★Workshop Available)
*Click the number and you will find the shop name and the address.
Tools used daily by Japanese people.
Daikoku-ya (大黒屋) is a chopsticks shop and studio. Their products are called “Edo wooden chopsticks” and have the appeal of old Edo (old Tokyo). They select the best quality wood, which is carved by well-trained craftsmen. The shop owner believes chopsticks should fit an individual’s hands and be easy to grip and pick up food. There are more than 200 chopsticks on display, all in different shapes.
They are so proud of their products, that they are willing to repair their chopsticks when requested. Japanese foods are becoming more and more popular around the world, so why not have your very own, personalized chopsticks to take home?
Open: 10.00-17.00, Mon-Sat except 2nd and 3rd Saturdays of the month
http://www.edokibashi.com/（Japanese text only）
Made to order socks?
2. Mukojima Myogaya
Tabi socks have a unique shape that coincides with Zori (草履) and Geta (下駄) shoes. The sock covers the four toes together and the big toe separately (similar to mitten gloves). From my personal experience, wearing Tabi socks is not very comfortable. Unlike modern socks, Tabi are often made of calico (tightly woven and starched cotton) and connected to the ankle with metal straps. The foot in Tabi socks also has relatively lesser flexibility.
For people who regularly wear Kimono, comfortable socks are necessary. Myogaya offers made to order socks. To make the socks, the craftsman takes 30 measurements of their customer’s foot. Then, cuts the best quality cloth with a rounded knife. Sewing is the most difficult part, with 6 different sewing machines (90 years old) forming the 3 dimensional sock. Lastly, he custom sews the final parts.
It’s a cozy shop with a very traditional atmosphere. The age-old tools for making Tabi socks can be observed in the shop.
Open: 9.00-18.00, Mon-Sat
http://www.mukoujima-meugaya.com/content/index.html (Japanese text only)
Artistic Portable Walls?
3. Kataoka Byobu Shop (★Workshop Available)
Byobu (屏風) is common furniture for the Japanese.
Kataoka Byobu Shop (片岡屏風店) specializes in producing Byobu walls. Byobu are a gift from the Chinese dynasty, which are folding screens that were used to stop blowing winds and to separate spaces during the Nara period (8th century). They are also suitable for preserving drawings, and as a result many famous works of art decorate them. You’ll commonly see traditional Byobu art masterpieces at museums and traditional architectural structures in Japan.
Grid squared wood is the fundamental structure of the Byobu. Layered washi paper (和紙：tough and durable Japanese paper) connects individual screens together without the use of hinges.
In modern society, Byobu walls are not as popular. They are however, used on occasions such as wedding ceremonies (behind the bride and groom) and for Hina-doll (ひな人形) decorations.
This shop is exploring more ways to use Byobu. Its small museum exhibits many different types to raise awareness. Making reservations in advanced to visit the museum is highly recommended in order to completely learn about Byobu from the staff.
Kataoka’s Byobu Shop has workshops for visitors. The handmade Byobu workshop starts at 1500yen (depending on what you make). You are able to create your own original Byobu with your favorite paintings or patterns simply by cutting and gluing the paper and wood. The minimum number of people is 10 people. A foreign language translator is also needed.
Wouldn’t it be nice to take home an original Byobu wall that you made yourself?
【Kataoka Byobu Shop】Museum & Workshop
Open: 10.00-17.00, Mon-Sat
Advanced Reservations Required
Minimum number of people: 10
Price: from 1500 yen/ person
Time needed: ～1 hour
http://www.byoubu.co.jp/(Japanese text only)
Lanterns made of paper?
4. Atelier Sogeikan (★Workshop Available)
Have you seen the famous lantern at the gate of Sensoji Temple in Asakusa?
Traditional Japanese lanterns are usually made of paper and are amazingly enough, able to be folded up. It is said that the techniques of making lanterns are even used in the aviation industry!
Atelier Sogeikan (アトリエ創藝館) is a lantern shop where you can create your own drawings on a lantern.
Assembling the lanterns and the designs on it were two completely separate jobs. According to the shop owner, in the past, the design profession was called “Chochin-ya” (lantern shop) and billboard painters in Japan derived their techniques from this profession. It could be said the Japanese lantern has a role in advertisements, as well as for general lighting purposes.
Their workshop offers you the opportunity to paint your favourite design on a Cho-chin lantern. The staff recommends writing your name through Kanji (漢字: Chinese character) with Sumi (墨: Black ink for Japanese calligraphy). It’s better to have a language translator with you. You may also try copying the techniques of the craftsman.
Open: 10.00-18.00, No Scheduled Holidays
Time needed: 1hour~
A kimono cloth pattern born during the Edo period.
5. Daimatsusen-Kojo (★Workshop Available)
Edo Komon (江戸小紋) is a famous Kimono cloth pattern that was developed during the Edo period. Daimatsusen-Kojo (大松染工場) is a dying factory that specializes in Edo Komon. Komon basically means ‘small patterns’. You will stencil a pattern on paper and piece the pattern carefully in order to avoid misalignments. The process requires fine concentration and patience.
Edo Komon looks relatively simple and subdued, because the designs were applied to Samurai uniforms (裃) from the beginning. There were very intricate patterns, however they were too small to distinguish from a distance. People knew that this would be truly fashionable for Edo period people.
Edo Komon in our age is mostly for women who love wearing Kimono. More colourful and modern Edo Komon cloth can be observed in the Daimatsusen-Kojo Museum. I strongly recommend this museum to people who are interested in textiles. It might also be fun to compare Kyoto and Edo Kimono cloth.
Participants in the workshop are able to use professional tools to make a place mat. Choose your favourite from several patterns and use golden glue to stencil the design. You will also practice making consecutive patterns on white cloth while learning about Edo Komon. A foreign language assistant is needed. Have an enjoyable and meaningful experience!
《Museum》Open: 13.00-17.00, Mon-Fri.
《Workshop》Mon-Fri, Advanced Reservations Required
Minimum number of people: 2.
Price: 5000 yen/ person
Time needed: ～3 hours
http://edokomon-daimatsu.com/ （Japanese text only）
Small examples of traditional Japanese crafts were presented in this article. All those traditions can be seen at craftshops in Sumida, near the Tokyo Sky Tree Tower. I hope you will find real artisanship and learn more about it.
Stepping into the area surrounding the Tokyo Sky Tree Tower, you will feel the nostalgic atmosphere of Edo downtown everywhere.
Sumida Ward is also home to many Sumo related institutions, because the Sumo Stadium Rogoku Kokugikan is located here and it’s where grand tournaments are held 3 times a year. See the links below if you are interested in visiting Sumo related areas.