Other crafts

Other kinds of art crafts include glass art, shippo (Japanese cloisonné), gem carving, inkstone carving, decorative metal cutting, and ivory carving. All of them have a long history and rich, distinctive traditions, and at the prestigious Japan Traditional Art Crafts Exhibition are exhibited in the category "Other Crafts."


Glass art

photo Glassblowing


Glass melted in a high-temperature furnace is applied to the tip of a stainless steel pipe called a blowpipe. The glassblower blows into the pipe and causes the glass to inflate like a balloon, creating various forms. The glass is then placed in a cooling furnace known as an annealing furnace, and slowly cooled until it is finished. In the style called free-blowing, the breath blown into the pipe forms the shapes freely, and different shapes can be created depending on the way of blowing or moving the pipe. In mold-blowing, glass is blown into a wood or metal mold, and large numbers of the same form can be created.

photo Cut glass

Cut glass

Whetstones or diamond wheels of various shapes are attached to a rotating grinder and pressed against the outside of a glass vessel to create geometric design or curves. The finishing touches are put on the design with a fine whetstone, then it is polished and is complete. Famous styles include Edo kiriko and Satsuma kiriko.

photo Gravure


In this technique, abrading agent mixed from oil and sand is applied to the surface of a glass vessel to carve out designs, using a compact grinder with a copper plate attached. Glass can be freely shaped into various forms such as plants and animals.

photo Pâte de verre

Pâte de verre

Pâte de verre is a technique in which a form is fashioned with clay, which is used as the basis for a plaster mold. Glass powder is mixed with a special kind of paste, and the mixture put into this plaster mold and fired. The heat causes the glass to melt and take on the form of the mold. Then it is slowly cooled and removed from the mold, and it’s finished.

photo Enameling


Enamel paint can be applied to the surface of a glass vessel to make a design. This is then fired at a low temperature of around 600 degrees Celsius in an electric furnace. When the enamel is fired, its surface takes on a beautiful sheen.

Shippo (Japanese cloisonne)

photo Yusen-shippo


Wire-like lengths of silver are used to delineate compartments in which colors will be applied. This is the most basic technique of shippo.

photo Shotai (backless) shippo

Shotai (backless) shippo

This technique is the same as yusen-shippo except that at the end the metal (copper) vessel acting as a base is dissolved with acid so that only the enameled surface remains. In shippo, the base metal that acts as backing is known as tai, and sho means to omit, which is the origin of the word shotai-shippo.

photo Doro-shippo


An opaque shippo (cloisonne enamel) work produced using muddy enamel glaze, which results in a unique texture different from glass enamel glaze. Brass wires which are suitable for classic muddy glaze are used for contours of shapes and colors.

Gem carving

photo Gem carving

Jade, agate, crystal and other hard precious stones are known as gems. These materials are carved to create objects such as tea bowls and incense containers.

Inkstone carving

photo Inkstone carving

An inkstone is used for rubbing charcoal to create ink, which is used for writing characters with a brush in Japanese calligraphy. It is an extremely important stationery supply, as the process of rubbing the charcoal with the stone calms the mind before writing. To turn a rough stone into an inkstone, you carve it into its basic shape and then use a long-handled chisel to create the flat surface for rubbing the charcoal and the indentation where the ink collects. Lacquer or wax is applied to the finished product.
Some of the most popular types of stone for making inkstones are amahata (slate) from Yamanashi Prefecture, akama (volcanic tuff) from Yamaguchi Prefecture, and horaiji (shale or slate) from Aichi Prefecture.

Decorative metal cutting

photo Decorative metal cutting

This technique was originally used to create beautiful decorations for Buddhist statuary and so forth, but today it is used to create artworks such as decorative boxes.
Decorative metal cutting begins with heating gold leaf as thin as paper in a charcoal fire and layering it to create thickness. The layered gold leaf is cut with a blade into fine patterns such as lines, squares and triangles. Then a brush is used to apply further gold leaf to the pattern, and the work is complete.

Ivory carving

photo Ivory carving

Ivory comes from elephant tusks. During the Edo Period (1603-1868), ivory was a popular material for netsuke (a kind of decorative carved toggle on a cord) because of its ideal hardness, viscosity, and lovely sheen.
In ivory carving, tusks about 15 centimeters in diameter are cut into shapes using chisels and files. A small blade is used to smooth the bumps on the surface, and it is further burnished with polishing powder or powdered deer horn. The carved ivory may then be dyed with blue or red dye and designs made with fine lines in the technique known as bachiru, which dates back to the Nara Period (710-794) and has been revived in modern times.

"What Are Traditional Crafts? -A Guidebook to Seeing, Learning, and Enjoying-"
Edited by the Japan Kogei Association Eastern Branch. Published by Unsodo / List of works English translation: Kazuko Todate (Art critic / Art historian)


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Famous local brand

photo Edokiriko


Edo Kiriko, cut glass ware, is produced and sold throughout the Tokyo region; they are characterized by the sparkling prismatic light created by skilled and exquisite cutting.