Marei, I want to buy a Japanese “XYZ” but I have no idea where to find it. Help meeee!!! Oh, I’ve heard this cry for assistance so many times. Actually, it’s not as easy as it seems to buy authentic Japanese crafts (not the plastic ones you can find at any touristic location). Don’t worry! I have good news for you.
The “Japan Traditional Crafts Aoyama Square” is a gallery and shop for traditional crafts from all over Japan. The large shop has Japanese tableware (cups, lacquer ware, cast iron goods), fashion (kimonos, sachets, scarfs), woodblock prints, paper crafts and much, much more!
The traditional crafts displayed at Aoyama Square are specially selected by the Japanese Ministry of Economy. They have to fulfill several requirements to count as “traditional crafts”. For example, the manufacture has to be older than 100 years (that’s clearly for the “tradition” part), and they have to be crafted by hand in exactly the same way with the same materials as 100 years ago. The number of official “traditional crafts” in Japan is about 225.
There’s so much to see!
Walking around in the gallery is great: there are so many beautiful items from all over Japan. You can clearly see explicit differences in styles and materials. Every item has Japanese and English explanations and – even more important – the price written on a card. You might think that the handmade items by professional craftsmen are too expensive to buy. I thought so, too. But that is not the case!
The price range of the items starts a about 1,000 Yen. There are pricey silk kimono sachets as well as reasonably priced animal figures which Japanese people display at the entrance area of their houses. Therefore, you can find lots of items suited as gifts for your family and friends.
Old techniques for new products
Another specialty of the shop is its huge range of modern products made with traditional techniques. For example, the usually black iron teapots from Northern Japan are now sold in cute fun colors. These new style teapots gained popularity among foreign tourists and are one of the top-selling items of the store.
In the middle of the gallery sourrounded by all of those beautiful crafts is a special display space. The display changes every other week. When I visited, the theme was “Hina matsuri” (doll festival for girls). Also, there is a space for craftsmen (and women) who travel to Tokyo to display their skills. It’s a great opportunity to see how Japanese crafts are created and to chat with the professionals.
How did you like “Japan Traditional Crafts Aoyama Square”? If you are ever searching for any kind of traditional craft item: here is a good place to start looking! Even if you don’t know what you’re looking for, you’ll find something beautiful here. Be careful of your budget – it’s a dangerous and oh so great place!
Japan Traditional Crafts Aoyama Square
8-1-22, Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo
6 minutes on foot from exit 4 of Tokyo Metro (Ginza and Hanzomon Line) and Toei Subway (Oedo Line) Aoyama itchome station
(Most of the commonly used credit cards are accepted)