Beautiful Handicrafts of Tohoku, Japan
The Japanese archipelago stretches over a long distance from Hokkaido in the north to Okinawa down south. Tohoku is the geographic region covering the wide area between Hokkaido and the northern part of the Kanto region. It encompasses 6 prefectures; Aomori, Akita, Iwate, Miyagi, Yamagata, and Fukushima.
In the early twentieth century, Soetsu Yanagi, the founder of the mingei movement, became fascinated by the beauty of local handicrafts while traveling around the Tohoku region, and began collecting utensils and implements found during his visits. Other influential members of the movement, like potters Kanjiro Kawai and Shoji Hamada, textile designer Keisuke Serizawa and leading woodblock printmaker Shiko Munakata, were also deeply impressed by handicrafts in Tohoku. However, the local handicraft techniques of the region have not all been passed down or preserved. With changes in the economic structure and the shift of population to large cities, the handicrafts and skills of the era when Yanagi and others encountered them have gradually been dying out. Of the great wealth of handicrafts that once flourished in the Tohoku region, this exhibition therefore presents mainly works that are comparatively well preserved and passed down to this day.
The handicraft works on display encompass all kinds of genres including pottery, lacquer ware, textiles, metal work, and wood and bamboo craft. In addition to the beautiful traditional craftwork of these utensils and textiles, the exhibition presents works created by artists who, inspired by the beautiful craftsmanship of folk crafts, reflect the cultural climate and spirit of Tohoku.
Although this exhibition focuses on Tohoku, highly developed handicraft techniques have been passed down in many other parts of Japan. By introducing such craft traditions overseas, I hope we can transmit an appreciation of Japan’s aesthetic sensitivity and master craftsmanship to people around the world.
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