[Announcement] tsunagu Japan Crafts’ “Support Mission”
Dec 09 2020 (Jan 04 2021)
The “Support Mission” From tsunagu Japan Crafts
All across the country, there are individuals and small companies who possess incredible craftsmanship and produce amazing products, but who presently find themselves confronting significant problems. tsunagu Japan Crafts’ “Support Mission” is an effort to support these artisans and introduce their creations to the world.
For example, “Traditional skills, techniques and knowledge for the conservation and transmission of traditional architectural craftsmanship in Japan” is set to be included on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List, but among this craft there are grave problems, such as a lack of young craftsmen who can carry on the tradition and a lack of raw materials. Furthermore, as these are small and medium-sized businesses (or even individuals!) with little brand recognition, they struggle to compete with mass-producers on pricing, and the corona crisis has added to their difficulties. These traditions and craft techniques were slowly accumulated and developed over the course of centuries; it would be a terrible shame if their innovative products and creations were to disappear.
Here at tsunagu Japan, we are setting up this project in the hope of helping resolve these problems. We aim to "tsunagu" (connect) future generations with these brilliant craftspeople and excellent products.
The Difficulties Traditional Artisans Face
There are numerous excellent artisans plying their trade in Japan. But craftsmen of such a high level tend to be less proficient at self-promotion, as they tend to focus single-mindedly on attaining perfection in their trade. An accomplished bladesmith who supplies knives to Michelin-star restaurants might still humbly insist that “perfection is still far away; I haven’t gotten there yet” and aim for still greater, distinguished heights.
This sort of problem - one that is very characteristic of Japan’s craftsmen - inspired us at tsunagu Japan to undertake this Support Project.
For the first installment of tsunagu Japan Crafts’ Support Mission, we were proud to introduce the works of potter Masako Niimi, whose ceramics continue to make us look at the world a whole new way.
The artist applies thick, uneven layers of glaze to the ceramics, making sure that no two of her works ever come out the same. You can even see a skilled fusion of different textures, tones, and properties within one single dish. Only Masako Niimi is capable of producing wares as mesmerizing as these, hence why we decided to introduce her works. It was that very same uniqueness that led to the success of the project!
In the second installment of our Support Mission, we introduced the Tatami Yoga Mat by IKEHIKO, a company that has achieved great success producing high-quality Japan-made tatami mats from soft rush straw that they grow and harvest themselves.
The Tatami Yoga Mat’s soft rush straw eliminates bad odors, absorbs and releases moisture, is stain resistant, and has a pleasant, soothing smell. Because IKEHIKO’s tatami products are made by seasoned craftsmen, and thanks to the mats’ versatility and design, we managed to reach our goal four times over.
Our Next Steps
We are planning to introduce, from left to right:
・Lively drinking glasses, whose decorations like white cherry blossoms and fireworks bloom in full color when they’re filled with liquid.
・Sakai Knives, well loved and used by some 90% of professional chefs in Japan and possessing 600 years of history
・Imabari Towels, the most popular variety within Japan that possesses an excellent absorptive capacity and feels comfortable against the skin. Among the selection are hand and bath towels specially customized with Western customers in mind.
The Support Mission presents the most fascinating products, as carefully selected by tsunagu Japan’s editorial staff, that showcase the best that Japanese craftsmanship has to offer. Instagram is one of the ways we have chosen to spread the love for traditional Japanese crafts.
If you are interested and would like to support this project, add your email address here! We will contact you with new item information. (Note: this is not a newsletter.)
Today, we are watching countless stores, where priceless craft skills have been passed down over hundreds of years, close down. Once gone, they will never return. Let’s do what we can to save them from this fate.
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The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.