Sunday, 11 March 2012

The 66 traditional crafts of Kyoto: A review of Fureaikan

I did not know what to expect from the Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts (Furaikan in Japanese). The information online is, well let's say, mysterious. Since it's also the week of Traditional Crafts I thought there would be a temporary 'stall' and not a complete museum. But that was indeed what I found.

If you would look for anyone carrying a warm hart for the traditional arts of Japan, I think you would find a picture of me (tried Googling already?). In that aspect my hopes were maybe a bit high for the museum, to be honest.
Every point of criticism aside, you can not visit this place and not be in awe of all 66 traditional crafts that are still performed in Kyoto to this day! Many are only performed in Kyoto with techniques that didn't change since the beginning of their craft.

Even so, I think it's not unfair to say that the museum lacks 'spirit' and 'atmosphere'. That the museum is situated in the Miyako Messe does not help in the first place. As the picture so painfully demonstrates. It would be so much more fitting to for this 'topic' to one of Kyoto's old but vibrant neighborhoods with low, wooden buildings and sliding doors.
And, indeed, every Sunday there is a Seasonal Dance performed by real Maiko (student Geisha) and every day artists demonstrate their crafts. I've seen at least seven artisans working on their tatami mats, hunched and crafting away. Only one of them seemed inclined to tell a bit about what she was doing. The expected language barrier does not help, I understand, but some friendly recognition of your existence would make visitors feel more welcome. Specially because there were only about three other visitors at the time.

So why were there so few people visiting Furaikan? Well, even though in their own brochure they say Furaikan is the place 'Craftsmen techniques and the beauty of traditions are Alive today', it doesn't feel that way. And the 'NO PHOTOS!' signs, not even from the demonstrations, are not very welcoming. Pictures that would have been great to add to this post to pass on the interesting side of visiting the museum.
Maybe it helps to enthuse to know that the admission is free, you WILL learn something and if you did not like it, there are many other interesting things to visit in the direct vicinity.

Here is a link to the website of Fureaikan.

And a list of the 21 most interesting traditional crafts shown at Fureaikan:
(in order of appearance)

Kyo-Ishi-Kogeihin - Stonework
Zoen - Landscape gardening
Fusa-Yorihimo - Tassels
Nishijin-Ori - Woven Cloth
Tabi - Tabi footwear
Hana-Kanzashi - Ornamental hairpins
Tsuge-Gushi - Combs
Kyo-Meichiku - Bamboo
Wagasa - Bamboo & Japanese umbrella's
Chochin - Paper Lanterns
Harikago - Bamboo boxes
Take-Kogei - Bamboo craftwork (e.g. baskets)
Kyo-Sudare - Bamboo blinds
Kyo-Sensu - Folding paper fans
Kyo Yaki/Kiyomizu-Yaki - Ceramics
Kyo-Sikki - Laquerware
Kyo-Hanga - Woodblock prints
Kogei-Gashi - Confectionary
Nihonshu - Japanese sake
Zogan - Inlaid ivory work
Kirigane - Goldleaf work

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