1931

Folk Crafts of Tottori Prefecture

Tottori Prefectural Government

At the heart of "beauty of use" that originates from the land and its people, a tradition passed down through generations

The land and culture that nurtured folk crafts
Surrounded by abundant nature, Tottori prefecture possesses vast natural resources that include forestry -- which supplies wood production -- and quality sand iron found in the Chugoku mountain area -- which is used for metalworking. The prefecture has been home to a variety of handicraft products over the centuries.
History: Yoshida Shōya
Yoshida Shoya (1898-1972) was a local medical doctor, who worked tirelessly in his promotion of Tottori prefecture's folk crafts. In addition to being a doctor, he was active in producing folk crafts in the prefecture, and even helped establish a trade organization to assist in the planning, designing, production, distribution, and sales of the crafts.
History: Yoshida and Yanagi and the instruction on the creation of Ushinoto Ware
In 1926, Yanagi Muneyoshi (1889-1961) coined the term "mingei" to express the aesthetics of crafts made by anonymous artisans. He developed and transmitted this idea by collecting folk crafts, writing, and lecturing. Sharing Yanagi's ideas, Yoshida Shoya also joined the Mingei Movement. When Yoshida began his profession at a hospital in Tottori City in 1931, he also started a project to develop new designs for traditional Ushinoto ware ceramics, which until that time had been produced for for everyday use. He also began buying and selling Ushinoto ware.
TAKUMI Folk Crafts Shop, Tottori 
In 1932, Yoshida opened the TAKUMI Folk Crafts Shop in Tottori City as an outlet to distribute and sell the folk crafts that he designed and produced. 
TAKUMI Folk Crafts Shop, Ginza
In the following year, he opened a Tokyo branch in Ginza to further expand his sales channels. The Ginza shop not only carried new works of folk crafts from Tottori, buy also functioned as a distribution center for folk crafts from all over Japan.
Tottori Folk Crafts Museum
The Tottori Folk Crafts Museum was opened in 1949 with the mission to serve not only as an introduction to the "beauty of folk crafts," but also as a repository of historical reference materials to guide artisans in the own creations. The periodic rotation of the museum's exhibits is done in collaboration with local artisans, and the museum continues to function as a place for educating on the traditions of folk crafts.
Located near JR Tottori station, the Tottori Folk Crafts Museum showcases works of folk crafts from Japan, Korea, China, Mexico, and Western cultures that were collected by Yoshida, as well as his very own creations of folk crafts that include examples of furniture and dishware. The TAKUMI Folk Art Shop next door also promotes and sells folk crafts not only from the San'in region (in which Tottori is located), but also from other regions in Japan and the world. The TAKUMI Japanese Restaurant next to the museum offers local specialties, including "Susugi nabe" -- a wagyu hotpot created by Yoshida himself. The restaurant uses local ingredients, and folk craft dishware made in various parts of Japan. It has become a popular destination for foreign visitors in recent years. 
TAKUMI Japanese Restaurant
In 1962, Yoshida opened TAKUMI Japanese Restaurant next to the museum and shop to offer local dishes served on mingei ceramic tableware. The idea was to give visitors the opportunity to learn about folk culture at the museum, experience it through dining at the restaurant, and then provide the chance to acquire their own pieces at the shop. Yoshida wanted visitors to not only appreciate pottery and ceramic wares on display at the museum, but to experience and enjoy such wares in their daily life -- hence giving it the name "Museum for Daily Living."
Protecting cultural properties
Yoshida also devoted himself to the protection of cultural properties through activities that included: pushing for the designation of Tottori Sand Dunes as a recognized natural monument; working to preserve the Bukemon Gate of the Minoura Family, the ruins of the Tottori Castle, and Jinpukaku Hall; and promoting the conservation of Lake Koyama and its natural surroundings. In addition, he built Amida-do Hall with tearoom overlooking the hills around Lake Koyama, where cultural minds could meet to exchange ideas. (Photo: (from left) Bernard Leach, Hamada Shoji, Sadao Kawakami, and Yoshida Shoya)
Shinsaku Mingei
Yoshida referred to folk art pieces that he himself conceptualized as "shinsaku mingei," which means "new fold crafts." Using traditional techniques, he designed items for daily use in modern life, including dishware, furniture, and fashion accessories. He was rightly referred to as a "producer of folk arts," for he not only designed objects -- ranging from pottery to wood/metal/bamboo crafts, and from dyeing and weaving to making washi -- but he also handled the distribution and sales. Such "new folk crafts" conceived by Yoshida continue to be made and sold today, after more than 80 years. The following are some of his longest-selling products.
Somewake (separated glaze) Ushinoto ware dish, 1931
Dishes such as this seperated-glaze work with bold and powerful center design of black and green glazes are one of Tottori's best-selling mengi products. The design is representative of the prefecture's 85-year old history of folk crafts, when it was first revealed to the public. It has become a popular item among the younger generations.
Nakai kiln, Inshū kakewake and kiritate coffee cups and saucers, ca. 1960
In one set, there are contrasting designs that include distinct glazing that accentuates the simple shapes. One is solid, while the other is separated by white and black glazing. These sets of coffee cups and saucers are Japanese, while at the same time possessing a Scandinavian sensibility.  
Wooden lamp, 1950
The body of the lamp, lampshade, and lacquer finish are all done by local craftsmen, with Tottori's renowned Inshu washi paper used for the lampshade. Many variations of lampshades and stands are available, such as round and polygonal shades, and extendible stands. The well-known film director Ozu Yasujiro (1903-1963), who was known for his strong preference for authenticity and detail, used these lamps often n his movies. 
Bread knife, fruit knife and Cutting board
Yoshida studied Chinese folk crafts and interacted with local craftsmen, establishing the Huabei Shenghuo Gonyi-dian shop in Beijin in 1943. These knives are said to have been inspired by the shape of Chinese broadswords (qinlondao). The shape of the board is simple, yet beautifully rounded. There is a groove along the edge of the board for collecting bread crumbs.
Rotating wooden arm chair with bored seat 
There are some items made from Yoshida's original designs that are currently unavailable. Chinese and English chairs inspired this simple design that comes with a back and arm rests made from one single piece of curved wood. It is prized for its practical, carefully considered shape and its rich lacquer finish that enhances the natural wood grain. The chair also rotates.
Niniguri neckties
These ties were inspired by British neckties. The word "niniguri" means the secondary silk thread that was produced during the spinning of silk. It was considered a byproduct and unsuitable for finished goods. Yoshids Shoya believed in effective utilization of all byproducts to create novel opportunities for additional products and sources of income.  
Bottle openers
Yoshida conceived of these openers, working with the craftsmen to refine the designs until perfected.
Bamboo shoulder bag
Yoshida is known to have regularly used this bag made from woven bamboo. The metal fittings used to protect the corners and secure the leather strap are simple in design and add attractive accents.
Yoshida's Legacy
Current workshops that faithfully produce Yoshida Shoya's designs include the Inshu Nakai Kiln, the Ushinoto Ware Kiln, and the Tottori Mingei Mokko (woodworking).
Ushinoto Ware Kiln
Works of Ushinoto Ware were produced from the end of the Edo period (1615-1868). Yoshida first learned of these ceramics through the Gorohachi tea bowl made by the Ushinoto Ware Kiln, and immediately began working on designs for his "new folk crafts." He was assisted by key figures in the Mingei Movement including Yanagi Muneyoshi (Soetsu), Hamada Shoji, Kawai Kanjiro, and Bernard Leach. Through this joint effort, many best-selling items were created. 
Inshū Nakai Kiln
The Inshu Nakai Kiln received guidance from Yoshida Shoya and the Ushinoto Ware Kiln. Under the additional supervision of industrial designer Yanagi Sori (1915-2011), the kiln has been creating modern dishware that is celebrated for its bright colors and unique shapes. The distinct products have drawn attention from popular stores, resulting in a growing market of younger buyers.
Tottori Mingei Mokkō
The founder, Fukuda Akira, took up folk craft woodworking as a profession after studying under Torao Seiji, and receiving guidance from Yoshida Shoya. His workshop, known as Tottori Mingei Mokko, is guided by the spirit of folk craft, using only natural lacquer on solid wood. Today it is headed by the second generation, Yukata, who continues to promote the traditional spirit and designs of Yoshida. 
Tottori Mingei Today
Today, many craftsmen continue to work in the spirit of Yoshida, while establishing their own distinct styles. Their creations have received acclaim and achieved great popularity among the younger generations.
Tottori Prefectural Government
Credits: Story

Information & images provided by:
Tottori Prefecture
Iwai Kiln
Fukumitsu Ware
Enkouji Kiln
Inshū Nakai Kiln
Uradome Ware
Yamane Kiln
Kokuzō Ware
Tottori Folk Crafts Museum

Supported by:
Tottori Folk Crafts Museum
Ushinoto Ware
Tottori Mingei Mokkō

Directed by:
Tottori Prefecture & Kyoto Women's University Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Text by:
Tottori Prefecture

Photo by:
Maezaki Shinya, Associate Professor, Kyoto Women's University
Takayama Kengo, A-PROJECTS

Movie by:
Takayama Kengo, A-PROJECTS

English Translation by:
Eddy Y. L. Chang

Edited by:
Laura J Mueller

This exhibition is created by:
Taoka Yuri & Watanabe Aoi, Kyoto Women's University Lifestyle Design Laboratory

This exhibition is provided by:
Tottori Prefectural Government

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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