12 Traditional Japanese Handicrafts From Iwate Prefecture

Iwate Prefecture, located on the eastern coast of Japan’s remote northern Tohoku region, teems with nature and culture. Much of this culture can be found in its rich history of traditional crafts, which include an array of local pottery, lacquerware, woodwork, and more. In this article, we’ll show you 12 of the best traditional Japanese crafts from Iwate!

Check out our writers’ top Japan travel ideas!

This post may contain affiliate links. If you buy through them, we may earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

1. Nanbu Wooden Spoon (南部木杓子)

This is a traditional hand carved spoon made of magnolia tree. The beautifully smooth surface shows how much care had been put in to carve out this spoon. And for that reason alone, it is extremely popular to this day and purchased for souvenirs.

Our Top Tips

Japan Shinkansen, Narita Express (N'EX) & Express Train Tickets

Plan ahead by booking your shinkansen, airport train, and express train tickets online in English. Have the tickets sent to you by mail or collect them at the station once you're in Japan.

2. Appi Nuri Shikki Kobo (安比塗漆器工房)

Former Ashiro-town (now part of Hachimantai-city) is known for producing fine natural woods and lacquer. The lacquer ware produced in this area were known as Arasawa Shikki「荒沢漆器」and widely reputed during Edo period.  Appi Nuri「安比塗り」inherits its technique by using domestic lacquer and applying more than 10 layers to produce each product.

www.appiurushistudio.com (Japanese only)

3. Kajichō-yaki Kamamoto (鍛冶丁焼窯)

Kajicho pottery are made of clay from Hanamaki-city, together with sand from the upper stream of Toyosawa River, using traditional pottery wheel and climbing kiln. Tea cups, drinking vessels, jars, and vases with Kajicho-style are simple and mainly for daily use. They have distinguished green and milky white colors.

4. Dai-yaki (台焼)

Dai-yaki is a slightly dim white-coloured ceramic with dye and glaze. Ceramics with color dyeing are rarely seen in the Tohoku area, which makes Dai-yaki quite unique. Patterns of chrysanthemums and arabesque are also applied. Blue-green colored glaze called 'Namakoyuu' (海鼠釉) adds vivid touch to the pottery and is the recent trend, but it is not overly decorative and brings out the goodness of this folk art.

www.takumi.leadkonan.jp/work/page28.html (Japanese only)

5. Tōno Kyoudo Ningyou (遠野郷土人形)

Tono dolls were so-called 'Tsugimoshizunzō' with their origin found at the end of Edo period. Production ceased at the beginning of the Meiji era but after almost 120 years, it resumed in 1985. It is said to inherit styles of Fushimi Dolls of Kyoto, Sendai's Tsutsumi Dolls, and Iwate's Hanamaki Dolls.


6. Iwaizumi Pure Wooden Furniture (岩泉純木家具)

This furniture is made of native broadleaved trees that are more than 100 years old.  The longer you use, the more they tint and become attractive, just like antique furniture. Each piece of furniture is made with care by craftsmen who are in their sixties or older.

www.junbokukagu.co.jp (Japanese only)

7. Fujisawa-yaki (藤沢焼 粉香木窯)

The unique feature of Fujisawa-yaki pottery is that it takes days to create in a kiln made by digging a hole with burning logs of red pine trees. The ashes of red pine create a distinctive color and style of the pottery. Mr. Shinichi Honma is the leading ceramist in this field.


8. Kokuji-yaki (小久慈焼)

Kilns of Kokuji-yaki are based in Kuji-city, located in the north east of Iwate.  Its origin can be traced in 1813 and boasts of its long history of more than 2 centuries. The timeless beauty of the glazed Kokuji pottery will make a perfect souvenir gift.


9. Kuji Amber (久慈琥珀)

Amber is a fossil of tree resin. Its beauty has mesmerized people for centuries and  has been commercially traded. With the discovery of those containing rare insects and plants, amber has become significant in terms of scientific research in recent years. You cannot help but think of ancient times when you see an amber glowing with fossils of insects trapped inside.


10. Nanbu Kiri Pillow (南部桐まくら)

This is a pillow filled with tiny marshmallow-shaped wooden chips of Iwate's native paulownia tree.  It is gaining popularity as the pillow doesn't get damp and has head massaging effects.

www.nakayou.ftw.jp/index (Japanese only)

11. Torigoe Bamboo Work (鳥越竹細工)

Bamboo work has been produced in Torigoe area of  Ichinohe-town in Ninohe District, using native Suzu Bamboo「すず竹」.  Each craft is made by hand. Bamboo craft is typically associated with agriculture and symbolizes rural parts of Japan.

www.nakata.net/rnp/area/14730/ (Japanese only)

12. Hanamaki Umbrella (花巻傘)

Producing umbrellas started as a manual side job for samurai in the Edo period, but after the Meiji Restoration and warrior class was abolished, it turned into a main job. Sadly there is only one specialist today but ornamental umbrellas like miniature versions or for wall hanging are ever so popular.

There are various charming craft works you can buy in Iwate, so why not find a memorable souvenir to take home?

Tohoku Feature

The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.

tsunagu Japan Newsletter

Subscribe to our free newsletter and we'll show you the best Japan has to offer!

Subscribe Now!
Get your Japan discounts here!

About the author

  • Check out our writers’ top Japan travel ideas!

Restaurant Search

Sign up to our free newsletter to discover the best Japan has to offer.