What is Kogei?

Kogei means "traditional arts and crafts" and englobes all the traditional Japanese crafts.

Categories and most famous crafts

Woven textilesNishijin brocade, Yuki tsumugi silk, Kurume traditional resist-dyed textiles etc
Dyed textilesKaga textiles, Kyo textiles, Tokyo fine-patterned dyeing etc
Other textilesKyo braided cords, Iga braided cords, Kyo embroidery etc
CeramicHasami ware, Kutani ware, Shigaraki ware etc
LacquerwareWajima lacquerware, Kamakura bori lacquerware, Tsugaru lacquerware etc
Wood, bamboo craftsHakone wood mosaic, Odate wood carvings, Sendai traditional chest etc
Metal worksNambu ironware, Takaoka copperware, Yamagata cast iron etc
Household Buddhist altarsOsaka Buddhist altar, Hikone Buddhist altar, Kawanabe Buddhist altar etc
Traditional Japanese paperMino traditional Japanese paper, Echizen traditional Japanese paper, Tosa traditional Japanese paper etc
Writing toolsKumano brushes, Ogatsu inkstones, Akama inkstones etc
StoneworkMakabe stone lanterns, Okazaki stonemasonry, Kyo-ishi craft etc
Semiprecious stone craftworkKoshu crystal and precious stones carving, Wakasa agate craft etc
Dolls, kokeshiHakata dolls, Kyo dolls, Iwatsuki dolls etc
Other craftsEdo kiriko cut glass, Koshu lacquered deer leather, Kyo folding fans etc
Industrial art materials and toolsKanazawa gold leaves, Ise paper stencil printing, Shogawa woodcraft etc

What is Kogei Japan

Kogei Japan lists items designated as "Traditional Crafts of Japan" by the the Ministry of Economy. There are 5 requirements to be recognized as a Traditional Craft of Japan:

  • 1. The crafts must be made for every day life use
  • 2. The main parts of the manufacturing process must be handmade
  • 3. The crafts must be created using traditional techniques
  • 4. They must use raw materials that are extracted and then used in a traditional way
  • 5. They must be made in a designed area and must come from a certain region in Japan

How is Kogei different from other crafts?

Japanese crafts have a deep meaning going way back in history.
Kogei artists traditionally wish for their work to be used, to serve a purpose in every day life and not be considered as a "simple artwork".
They believe(d) that each work has a duty to fulfill and only becomes more and more beautiful when it is used.
This way of thinking is still present today as Kogei artworks are still meant to be appreciated by all 5 senses.

Each region of Japan mastered in specific crafts depending on what their soil had to offer and of their traditional culture and life.
Craftsmen slowly became artisans as a desire for more elaborate pieces grew with the economy and the succeed they met in exporting the works.
They passed along the craft traditions from master to student in order to give a meaning and a soul to their work.
Every artisan has their own techniques and particular choice of material they use.
Most artisans materials from specific regions in Japan that are special to them or that they want to help growing as they contribute a lot to the support and development of the countryside too.
Each artisan would then pass on their methods and way of thinking to their student who would then pass it on to their student etc.
Even now, strict rules are protecting the traditions surrounding the crafts, giving them more value and spirit.