- Other Fiber Crafts
- Pottery and Porcelain
- Buddhist Altars and Accessories
- Miscellaneous Crafts
- Craft Materials
How and why the craft of stone working developed so early and has continued with such vigor to this day in Japan remains unanswered. There is evidence that this craft accompanied Buddhism from Korea in the middle 6th century, and it is likely, though not documented, that stonework in the Izumo area dates from this early time. Stonework in Kyoto probably started in the late 8th century, mainly as foundations for temples and palaces, stone lanterns for temples, religious images, pagodas, and the like. Not only did Kyoto have the market for stone objects with the imperial palace and the court, but there were excellent granite deposits outside the city. In later centuries, the sensitivity to stone as a substance extended to "natural" stone settings in gardens, both wet and dry. Perhaps because the country is so mountainous and rocky, the Japanese have a keen feeling for stone and for statements only stone can make, whether worked or left alone.
Today the market for stonework revolves around gravestones, but there is still a market for stone lanterns of all configurations and sizes, basins for tea houses, steps and gateposts, bridges, garden pagodas and shrines, and sculptures and figures of all kinds, both religious and secular. Part of the stone craftsman's job is to give his pieces a patina, so they do not look too crass and new and so they blend into their settings well. The tuffaceous stone of Izumo has an advantage over the dense and impenetrable granite mainly used for decorative pieces in that it is porous and quickly acts as a matrix for moss to grow.
The crystal-working craft of the town of Kofu started because of the supplies of quartz in the area. Today there is little native Japanese crystal of high quality to be found, but this mature craft in Kofu continues in the making of decorative figures and objects with imported crystal as well as semiprecious stones.
The agate craft of the village of Onyu, on Wakasa Bay, is something of a novelty in the world's stoneworking traditions. Sometime in the middle of the 18th century, a worker in precious stones discovered that when agate is subjected to heat over an extended time, the iron in the stone oxidizes and the result is a brilliant red, a color that is extremely rare in natural agate. Thus a craft was born, and today decorative objects are first formed, polished, and then given the long, slow firing that will transform the stone into its flame-red color.