One night in early 19th century, a cabinet maker dreamt about an extremely beautiful, majestic Buddhist building. Inspired by his dream, he enlisted the help of work mates and together they built a Buddhist household altar. This is the story behind the origins of the Yamefukushima Household Buddhist Altars. It was not until about the middle of the 19th century, however, that production techniques became established and altar making in Kyushu really got its start. By the end of the Edo period (1600-1868), the craft had developed into a small industry employing 18 finishers, 14 craftsmen making the fittings, seven sculptors, seven sculptors making images of the Buddha and ten specialists preparing the wood needed.
This form of marquetry began at the post town in the mountains of Hakone about the middle of the 19th century. At first it was mainly an unstructured form of marquetry or one using a simple pattern. Then in the 1870s, marquetry skills from around Shizuoka were introduced and now Hakone marquetry is well known for its extremely fine handwork and as being the only craft of its kind in Japan.
Recognized as one of the six old kilns or Rokkoyo in Japan, the origin of Shigaraki ware dates back to the making of roofing tiles for the Shigaraki palace by Emperor Shomu during the Tenpyo period beginning in 730. Water jars and large pots for seeds were made during the Kamakura period (1185-1333) and then during the following Muromachi and Momoyama periods spanning the next 300 years, large numbers of tea bowls and other articles associated with the tea ceremony were produced, some of which became extremely well known. With the introduction of noborigama, the distinctive climbing kilns, a great variety of everyday goods was produced alongside tea jars. It was mainly hibachi (charcoal braziers) that were produced in the period from 1912 up to the beginning of World War II. Today, however, such things as tiles, flowers vases, tableware and ornaments rooted in daily life are being produced, making the most of the qualities of the clay from which they are formed.
Elements of tubs dating from the 15th and 16th centuries have been discovered at the former site of Akita castle. Records dating from the beginning of the 17th century kept by one of the old families of the Akita clan, make it clear that tubs were being used at a sake maker within the present-day district of Ogatsu-cho. There are also 19th century examples of different types of barrels and tubs preserved by the Aoyagi family of another district, Kakunodate-cho. They have a coating of lacquer and both copper and bamboo bands were used, and the shapes are the ones which are followed today.
Returning from a campaign with Toyotomi Hideyoshi on the Korean peninsular, the feudal lord, Mori Terumoto brought back with him to Japan two Korean potters, Li Sukkwang and Li Kyong. It was these two brothers who were responsible some 400 years ago for doing work, which marked the beginnings of Hagi ware.
Beaten copper work really began in the Tsubame area during the middle of the Edo period (1600-1868) when specialists from Sendai in present-day Miyagi prefecture come to the area and passed on their skills. Kettles were some of the first articles made using copper from a locally mined source. During the latter part of the 19th century there was an active exchange of ideas and techniques with other areas and Tsubame beaten copperware became established as an art craft to include the use of chasing. Subsequently this led to the development of a metal processing and treatment industry centered on the city of Tsubame.
The origins of this ware date back to an earthenware called sueki that was made about 700, during the Nara period (710-794), although the traditional skills, techniques and nomenclature of Akazu ware that are still in use today were established during the early years of the Edo period (1600-1868). It was the period slightly prior to this that saw the establishment of glazing techniques that are still in use, namely shino, oribe, kizeto, and ofuke.
The maki-e technique of laying down gold and silver powders was preceded by techniques which first came into being during the Nara period (710-794), when Japan was under the influence of Tang dynasty China. The same techniques continued to be used and were developed during the Heian period (794-1185), when the capital was moved to Heian-kyo, now Kyoto. Kyoto lacquer ware prospered at the center of the country's lacquer ware industry from the Muromachi period (1333-1568), when it expanded along with the tea ceremony, which was flourishing in Kyoto at the time. The many fine pieces of work and technical know-how that was handed down by the famous lacquerers became the driving force of this craft, coupled with a superiority of craftsmanship both in terms of quality and design.
Kagawa lacquer ware started at the end of the Edo period (1600-1868), by Tamakaji Zokoku, a famous lacquerer with the development of new techniques that came into being by combining traditional Japanese techniques with skills such as kinma and zonsei which had been brought to Japan from Thailand and China. These locally developed techniques have been handed down over the years and many of these characteristic pieces, which are referred to collectively as Kagawa lacquer ware, are being produced around Takamatsu. It is undoubtedly the country's top lacquer ware producer in terms of variety, producing everything from tables to display shelves to trays, coasters and candy bowls.
Nibutani Ita is a craft that has been passed down for over 100 years by the Ainu people living in the Saru River basin region. There are records that indicate that round and half-moon shaped trays were presented by the people of this region in the latter half of the 19th century.
Pewter ware was first introduced to Japan some 1,300 years ago by envoys from China. Later during the early part of the Kamakura period (1185-1333), the Zen monk Eisai visited Sung dynasty China and returned with a maker of tea urns. His skills with pewter are said to mark the real beginning of this craft in Japan. It was not until the 18th century, however, that a production center was established in Osaka.
Early in the 17th century, Hagiwara Kiuemon, a resident of a small village in Uchiyama district went to learn how to make paper in Mino, itself famous for its handmade papers. On returning home, he began making paper and from these simple beginnings, the craft flourished in this area where the heavy snowfalls have contributed to the techniques of this fine handmade paper.