A must-see for crafts lovers! A department store offering handicraft experience, “Kyoto Handicraft Center”
Okazaki/Shogoin area within Sakyo-ku is bustling with tourists throughout the year, since it offers many attractions such as Heian Jingu Shrine, museum district including Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art, and Keage Incline, a place famous for cherry blossoms. Did you know that in this area, there is a facility where those who love handicraft experience can’t help dropping by, some sort of a “department store/big theme park of traditional crafts”? The facility is called “Kyoto Handicraft Center.” The establishment opened more than 50 years ago. As a shrine of craft products, this place has been a facility loved by tourists and handicrafts enthusiasts for a long time.
A variety of menu offering “Understanding/Shopping/Learning” and “Creating”
“Kyoto Handicraft Center” is a towering construction at the north side of Marutamachi-dori. It is divided into two buildings of East and West; each floor sells decorative swords and craft products including ceramics, lacquerware, and damascening from around Japan but mainly from Kyoto. There are restaurants serving Kyoto cuisine offering the view of Higashiyama mountain range up close, so the facility is also convenient for those planning to take the time to shop.
In addition, among visitors from Japan and abroad, this place is very popular for hands-on classes called Craft Workshop. The facility offers nine types of courses where you can experience production of traditional crafts connected with Kyoto．
“Kyo-zogan,” the art of dazzling gold and silver on lacquer
First of all, let us introduce Kyo-zogan. Zogan, or demascening, is one the oldest handicraft art in Japan with a history of more than 1000 years. Among many styles, Kyo-zogan is made by embedding pure gold/silver in iron which is dressed with lacquer; it has a distinctive beauty with gold and silver glowing in jet-black background. This style was used in decorating weapons such as Japanese swords between Muromachi and Edo era; many craftsmen were born.
The craftsmen were scattered by World War II, but Shintaro Amita, the founder of Kyoto Handicraft Center, reassembled them in Kyoto and supported the sales of Kyo-zogan products after the war. So, this art has a strong tie with the facility.
You place the diecut parts made of pure gold/silver into the material with narrow grooves to create your braided phone strap or pendant. After you fill in the grooves, professional artisans will finish your product deliberately, and will send it to the designated address in about three weeks. The workshop lasts for about 60 minutes, and the fee is 4,100 yen (tax included, the same hereafter).
Children may participate. A colorful “Cloisonne without contours”
Make a colorful, lovely accessory using cloisonne techniques which were employed on ornaments in the era of Tutankhamen of ancient Egypt and imported to Japan around 6th century B.C. After you choose your favorite material, you top it freely with glass powders in ten colors. Staffs will bake your product in a hot kiln of 800℃, and after adding fittings for pendant or key chain, it is complete. This workshop costs 1,950 yen, lasting for about 60 minutes.
There are many other Craft Workshops.
One workshop offers painting of lovely ceramic bell like this one (about 60 minutes; 1,950 yen)...
Another offers multicolored woodcut experience using six colored blocks (about 40 minutes; 1,950 yen).
There are also courses to make Kyo-koma (Kyoto-style spinning top) (about 40 minutes; 1,950 yen), and painting Kyo-ogi (Kyoto-style fan) (about 70 minutes; 3,025 yen) as well as novel workshop of blending Shichimi-togarashi (a seasoning consisting of seven sorts of spices) (about 40 minutes; 1,950 yen). These nine courses will surely match a variety of visitors’ preference.
A convenient, tourist-centered service; each floor has staffs that can speak English
Kyoto Handicraft Center provides so many attractive alternatives that aren’t easy to select instantly; tourists may enjoy the whole day in this establishment. Therefore, each floor has staffs that can speak English. You can also pay in currencies other than yen, exchange currencies, and of course, send your purchased items abroad. The facility offers full fledged service for tourists.
I live in Kyoto and often go past this building by car; I have always been overwhelmed by the number of tourists crowding to this facility in tourist buses, thinking “My, this place is popular.” However, when I learned about the diverse Craft Workshops and services provided, I was fully convinced of the secret of its popularity. Even if you’re not a traditional crafts enthusiast, you might not want to miss it!