The Ten Best Must-Buy Traditional Crafts in Gunma
The Tomioka Silk Mill was recently registered as a World Heritage Site, located in the outskirts of Gunma. Here are the ten best traditional crafts that make Gunma an even special place.
Dec 06 2015 (Sep 09 2020)
1. The Takasaki Maneki-Neko (Beckoning Cat)
The original Beckoning cat would be a piece of pottery, but the ones handcrafted are actually papier‐mâchés, or in other words, made out of paper. Since the sericultural industry was booming in the area and many people wish to god so that the mice wouldn't attack their monetary source, silkworms, they started making paper beckoning cats to drive away these predators. They were also used as toys.
2. Takasaki Daruma (Bodhidharma)
A lucky charm, the daruma is crafted all across Japan having distinctive characteristics depending on region to region. In Takasaki, they usually insert "thriving business", "pray for good household" into the shoulders and put "happiness and prosperity" into the belly to wave in good spirits, and pray to become fortunate. After they make a purchase, they paint in a black dot in the right eye upon making a wish, and if the wish actually realized, they would put in a dot on the other side.
3. Gunma kokeshi dolls
Simplistic yet expressive, the kokeshi doll is widely appreciated as a wonderful gift. Given the fact that Gunma used to be the major producer for toys, it's counted as one of the most famous makers of original kokeshi dolls.
4. Silk Products
If you're a mad fan of silk, how about getting a bath pail made entirely out of Gunma-made silk? Once you brush your body up with these silk products, you'll definitely get a skin-touch as smooth as silk. Silk socks are also highly recommended.
5. Kiryuu fabrics
Kiryuu Fabrics have been produced for over 1300 years. They've kept on producing Kimono textures using their special silk, but nowadays, they are highly praised for their woven knitwear made by high-quality and high-standard woving techniques. Why wouldn't anyone use accessories made out of handmade beautiful cloth in their everyday lives?
6. Jyosyu-Takasaki Hand Towels
In Takasaki, they use a skill called Tyusen, or dying a piece of cloth and designing the cloth by undergoing the process of resist painting. Since they hand-print the cloth using dress patterns, the tenugui has a conspicuous and handmade tone unlike printed by an electronic machine. Why would anyone fell disappointed receiving a light gift with cute patterns on it?
7. Kon-Kon Slippers
Weaving up into a shape of a slipper by using straw and sedge with the cloth in-between, it's called Kon-Kon slippers because throughout the process they use a hammer to mend the slippers, and the sound "kon-kon" keeps on going. The colors are bright and have a bearutiful tint, but not to mention, the stitches that stimulate the sole of your foot makes this slipper something irresistible.
8. Numata Paulowina-Wood Clogs
Made with high-quality paulowina wood and hand-carved, these wooden clogs, or getas, are only made at one place in Numata City, Gunma Prefecture. These Getas are way durable, light-weigh, comfortable to wear compared to mass-produced getas, and what is more, they're elegance is beyond description.
9. Iriyama Bento Boxes (Iriyama Menpa)
A Menpa is only made of wood, not even a single nail is used to make these oval boxes. Rich in breathability, these boxes gently preserve the food kept inside. Once you decorate the boxes with bits of cheese, nuts and candies, you may actually feel that they taste way better than usual.
10. Wooden Decorations (Kumiko)〜Kiryuu Joinery
A kumiko is a technique used to combine wood without using any metal, and it has been used over generations in Japanese architecture, especially for sliding doors (syouji/fusuma). The technique is leveraged and is utilized in these handcrafts by adjusting by units even smaller than millimeters. These delicate crafts would never make anyone bored.
The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.