One way to enjoy your trip is to hunt for gifts for your friends and family who are awaiting your return home. But rather than taking the expedient route of gift shopping, why not consider giving them something particularly special by trying your hand at local crafts and making your gifts yourself?
You can create items that will serve as the perfect gift through the many handicrafts practiced in Fukushima. Come experience the profound world of traditional crafts and folk art long preserved in these communities, and find yourself with an original gift item that is unique in the world.
The items produced through local traditional craftsmanship and folk art are made with techniques and skills preserved by the people here over many generations. Among the items, there are those highly valuable as works of art that are made by a limited number of craftsmen by hand, one by one. Many of these traditional crafts, unique to each area, are still preserved in Fukushima, and are popular as gifts.
For example, there is the Miharu-Goma papier-mâché horse doll from the Nakadori region, long valued as a charm for the healthy growth of children, or the historic E-rosoku picture candles from the Aizu region imprinted with colorful pictures of flowers once loved by the upper class in earlier times for their gaiety. Also from the Aizu region, there is the Akabeko bobble head toy, which is a red cow with a head that wobbles humorously. Incidentally, the “beko” in the name is a local word for cow.
In each case, you can observe the craftsmen creating these items by visiting their workshops. The scenes of these works being completed with skillful mastery are artistry in motion. You will certainly also get a sense of the warmth of the handiwork not found in mass produced goods. After taking a tour, we recommend that you participate in a workshop where you can add your own finishing touches, such as adding color or painting pictures. These workshops are typically only 30 minutes long give or take, so this is something you can easily add to your itinerary without worrying too much about time. Also, don’t worry if you’re not sure you can do it well, as the craftsmen and artists will provide careful guidance. And of course you can take the finished work home with you. It will certainly serve as a wonderful gift that evokes fond memories of your journey in years to come.
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The reason why handicrafts are particularly popular here is because Fukushima is snow country. As it was impossible to work outside during the snowy winters, work that could be done indoors flourished. Many such traditional crafts and folk art originate in the Aizu region of the prefecture where the snowfall is particularly heavy, including a wide array of crafts other than those already mentioned, such as lacquerware, textiles, amikumi zaiku (traditional basketry woven with vines), woodworking, and Japanese paper.
These handicrafts, born through coexistence with nature and climate, represent the very heart of the people of Fukushima. They combine simplicity with depth, durability with beauty. They will remind you of things we may have lost as the world became ever more convenient.
In addition to the workshops where they are made, these traditional crafts and works of folk art can also be purchased at gift shops, so take a look when you have the chance. Each area will also typically have a museum with collections and information on the traditional crafts and arts which are worth the visit if you are interested. They will provide you with deeper knowledge on the history of each.
We hope you will come to experience some of the local appeal of Fukushima, found nowhere else, through these traditional handicrafts.