"Handmade-Japan" at CRAFT
Business-to-business exhibition at Earls Court, London
12-14 January 2014

Fifteen craft makers from Japan will exhibit hand-made works made using only traditional techniques at next year's CRAFT which takes placve at Earls Court in London. We spoke to Mr Hiroshi Yamasaki, the representative of the craft makers, to find out more about the event.
What is the purpose of exhibiting at CRAFT?

Fifteen companies, each comprising traditional Japanese craft makers, will exhibit their wares at this event. These companies create traditional craft goods for everyday use in modern day life. It will be their first time to exhibit at a trade fair outside Japan. For these craft makers, it is important for them to display their authentic Japanese works in Britain, a country which values craftsmanship. A few of these companies are sending their craftsmen to the UK for this event, and visitors will be able to view demonstrations by makers of combs, bags and broomsticks. We hope that many people will register to attend CRAFT, not just those already involved in the business side of the crafts industry, or likely to be in the future, but also people with an interest in these crafts.

You mentioned ‘traditional craft goods for everyday use in modern day life’. For example, can you suggest any wonderful objects which we can use today in Europe?

I would suggest combs made from Satsuma boxwood, which are practical for modern-day use although the technique for their manufacture has been passed down for centuries. Boxwood trees grow so slowly that there has been a custom of planting one when a daughter is born, and by the time the tree has fully grown to 10-15cm, a comb can then be crafted from its wood to be used from her wedding-day onwards. I think quite a few people in the UK, especially in winter, worry about the effects of static electricity on their hair, but in Japan boxwood combs are famous for not generating any static electricity. I think this is one item I would like the British public to try.

Kita tsuge

Will the British public be surprised by any of the traditional items on display?

While Europe has a long tradition of making bags, I would like visitors to see Japanese bags which have fine stitching and are made with precision. They also feature functional aspects such as pockets.
People may think that broomsticks are only used on tatami mats, but those which are made with carefully grown grass attached to the broom uncut are extremely useful for removing dust and dirt from thick carpets. Also, there are many Japanese make-up brushes which are easy to use and are endorsed by make-up artists around the world, and I recommend visitors to try out these brushes for themselves at the event.




I hear that the number of traditional craftsmen in Japan is declining. What will happen to these traditional crafts in the future?

Luckily, the companies exhibiting in the UK have future generations to carry on their legacy. However, certain areas of the crafts industry are experiencing shortages of raw materials and craftsmen who produce the tools necessary for the manufacturing work. For example, kimono makers are facing certain challenges due to the declining numbers of Japanese wearing kimonos and the downsizing of the textile industry, and are now experimenting with new materials.

Europe and Japan share a common a culture of looking after their own craftsmen, and this is shown by the support given to them by their Governments and Chambers of Commerce and Industry. I believe that the people of Japan and the UK both appreciate the value of works created by craftsmen. In the UK, there is the custom of repairing items so they can be used over a long period of time. I think Japan can learn from the British in many ways, with one being the way it has preserved and rejuvenated old townscapes. At the same time, I also understand the feeling in the UK that an individual wants to wear something different to anyone else. Showing one’s character through one’s personal belongings and finding ways to express one’s individuality are common traits in both Japanese and British people.

Considering it is your first time exhibiting outside Japan, what type of advice would you like to receive from the visitors to the exhibition?

We would like to get as much feedback as possible from as many people as possible. We would like to know if there is a demand for our items, if they will sell here, what colours and patterns are popular and even if there are other uses for our items which the Japanese haven’t thought of! We appreciate advice from everyone interested, not just those involved in the business side.

For details of the exhibitors at "Handmade-Japan" click here.