Kyoto is an enchanting city where much of ancient Japan still exists. The city’s rich history boasts of many arts and crafts, ranging from elegant traditional lacquered homeware to beautiful indigo-dyed textiles. If you are visiting Kyoto, be sure to visit its many handicrafts shops and collect a few souvenirs along the way!
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Wagami no Mise in downtown Kyoto offers a variety of washi for reasonable prices. Look for the Morita Japanese Paper Company in particular.
They use the inner bark of the gampi tree, mitsumaba shrub, or the paper mulberry to make the paper, and production involves a long intricate process that is undertaken in winter as it requires cold running water which gives the paper its crisp quality. Washi is tougher than the usual paper made out of wood pulp, and is used in many other arts and crafts such as origami.
Morita offers a range of paper goods, ranging from rough country style paper to intricately patterned paper that could be used as a frame. Washi can also be used as wrapping paper, so be sure to purchase this versatile paper!
Zōhiko is the best spot in downtown Kyoto for traditionally crafted lacquer homeware. They offer a great selection of cups, bowls, trays, and various kinds of boxes that make worthy souvenirs.
The sap of the lacquer tree is traditionally used to coat many items ranging from bento boxes to Buddha statues. The substance is poisonous till it dries; therefore the art has only been practised by dedicated and skilled artisans.
Traditional Kyoto Lacquerware makes for an impressive souvenir or gift due to their traditional and intricate designs.
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Asahi-do, located in the Kiyomizu pottery district, specializes in Kyoto-style pottery and has been around since 1870. The complex (Asahi Touan) houses the widest collection of Kyoto-style pottery in the city.
Kyoto-style pottery is famous for its delicate, intricate designs, which uses bright colours. The craft gained popularity in the 17th century due to the rising trend of tea ceremonies in the area. A traditional Japanese tea set would be a worthy purchase and a great souvenir to take back home.
You can even have a try at crafting your own Kyō ware at the Biki kōbō which is within the complex.
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Every Japan enthusiast must own a wagasa, the beautiful waxed umbrellas with the intricate designs. They can be found at Tsujikura, a small store which houses a collection of umbrellas, which has been practising the craft since 1690.
The umbrellas are made from washi which is then waxed or lacquered; the frame is made of bamboo. The structure is glued together by natural glue made from tapioca. The waterproof quality of the umbrellas is given through the application of linseed oil. The intricate designs are drawn on using natural pigments.
They offer a variety of traditional designs and modern designs, the umbrella makes a great souvenir and conversation starter. The store also has a small collection of Isamu Noguchi’s famed Akari paper lamps.
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In a beautifully restored Machiya within the heart of the Nishijin textile district, Aizen Kōbō has been producing their indigo-dyed hand-woven textiles for three generations. They use the traditional technique of dyeing known as Aizome, the distinctive indigo dye is famously known as Japan Blue.
Products are hand-dyed using natural fermenting indigo and vegetable dye sourced from the Tade plant, which is native to Japan. The shade of blue depends on the level of fermentation.
High-quality textiles such as noren (curtains that hang at the entrance of Japanese restaurants), tablecloths, shirts or samu-e (traditional garments are worn by Zen Buddhist priests) can be purchased; better yet you can even get a custom-made product. Be sure to call in advance during weekends to make sure it is open.
These crafts are sure to make worthy souvenirs to remind you of your time in Kyoto. So pack your bags with these beautiful crafts and bring some of Kyoto back home with you!
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