Translated by Briony Dunbar
Edo Shitamachi Traditional Crafts Museum
Edo Shitamachi Traditional Crafts Museum is a place that was established to spread the love of Edo arts and crafts over Japan and to inform people all over!
Written by Hiromasa Uematsu
The central part of Tokyo is split into 23 wards in total. Tait ward, where Asakusa is located, is the smallest ward but is the place where the most traditional arts and crafts producing workshops are gathered in all of Tokyo.
In such a craftsmanship-centered neighborhood as Asakusa, there is an establishment where all the traditional arts and crafts in Tokyo are gathered. This is the Edo Shitamachi Traditional Crafts Museum, which we will introduce in this article.
Appreciate Edo’s Arts and Crafts all at Once
If you continue down to roughly the middle of Asakusa Hisago Avenue Shopping District, immediately next to Japan’s oldest amusement park Hanayashiki, you can see a large curtain with “takumi” (匠) written on it. That is the sign for Edo Shitamachi Traditional Crafts Museum.
Originally, “Edo” was Tokyo’s old name, used until around 150 years ago. The arts and crafts history that is protected even now in Taito has lasted since the era called the Edo period.
That is why the place that was established to spread such splendidness of Edo arts and crafts over Japan and to inform people all over the world is called the Edo Shitamachi Traditional Crafts Museum.
The 2nd floor exhibit of Tokyo arts and crafts
The 1st floor inside the building is a lobby that includes an information desk, and the 2nd floor is an exhibition corner where you can appreciate arts and crafts.
We shall introduce you to the arts and crafts that we’d like you to know, out of the 45 different industries of Edo arts and crafts.
This is a type of furniture called sashimono. In Asakusa, which has been densely populated since ancient times, the technique of everyday furniture like this was developed.
In Kyoto there is "kyo-sashimono”, which has elaborate designs carved into it, but this Edo Sashimono has a different characteristic.
Edo Sashimono’s pure design uses the wood grain, and isn’t particularly decorated with carvings or other such ornaments. The simpler it is, the more tasteful it becomes, so this is a handicraft with lots of fans even today.
These beautiful, shiny cups and pots are copper crafts made of beaten sheet copper. The small, fine indentations on the outside of the receptacle are proof that the sheet copper is all hammered by hand by the craftsmen.
In Asakusa, there are festivals starting with the Sanja Festival right through the year. What springs to mind when one thinks of festivals is the mikoshi (portable shinto shrine).
Hence, in the area of Asakusa there are also craftsmen who work on crafting the gorgeous ornaments for mikoshi.
The model of a five-storied pagoda seen above was made by a mikoshi craftsman using his techniques.
If you look up close, you can notice the elaborateness of the detailing. This kind of technique underlays Japan’s festivals.
Whilst they do not have the showiness of a work of art, these files (yasuri) are very interesting. Although it is merely an instrument for filing and polishing, for some reason there are lots of different types on display.
The long, thin file in the middle of the photo is used for the mounting of a Japanese sword, called a katana no tsuba. The tsuba, or mounting, is an ornamental part used to partition the grip of the Japanese sword and its edge.
This file in the shape of a propeller is used for the polishing of a shoe heel.
This file is used for the installation of the straps on Japanese sandals, called geta.
As this is a neighborhood where craftsmen are gathered, it was developed both as a craftsman’s tool and as a handicraft.
The craftsmanship stage show, exhibited every weekend
Every Saturday and Sunday, between the tatami mats of the 1st floor, there is a traditional arts and crafts stage show held by the craftsmen.
For those who want to watch the craftsmen showcase techniques in person, please stop by on the weekend by all means!
Fascinated by Edo Arts and Crafts? Check out the Gift Corner!
There are traditional arts and crafts made by hand by the craftsmen that are the same as the exhibition items being sold at the 1st floor counter.
If you were fascinated by the exhibition on the 2nd floor, how about buying some Edo arts and crafts here? If you find anything you fancy, go ahead and buy it!
At Edo Shitamachi Traditional Crafts Museum, they also hold auctions, where they knock down the prices of the 2nd floor exhibition items, and a “handicraft classroom” where you can experience making crafts for yourself! As the exhibitions are held irregularly, it might be difficult for travelers to make arrangements, but if the timing is right you should definitely give it a go!
Edo Shitamachi Traditional Crafts Museum
Address: 2-22-13 Asakusa, Taito, Tokyo (within Asakusa Hisago Avenue Shopping District)
Hours: 10:00–20:00 (*the stage show held by the craftsmen is held at 11:00–17:00)
Other Languages: Some English
Phone Number: +81(0)3-3842-1990
Website: Edo Shitamachi Traditional Crafts Museum (Japanese)