Explore Tokyo's craft culture
Cutting beautiful geometric patterns into colourful glass is one of Tokyo’s homegrown crafts, known as edo kiriko. You’ll find small edo kiriko sake cups and glasses in department stores, but of course, making your own is way more fun. You can try your hand at Sumida Edo Kiriko Kan near Kinshicho, where you’ll design and then cut your own pattern in mere 90 minutes, leaving you with that rare thing: a souvenir you’ll actually use in the future.
A type of traditional Japanese sweet, amezaiku are beautiful little sugarwork statues, usually depicting animals. The art of sculpting them involves heating rock-hard candy, and then shaping it quickly by hand or with scissors before it cools and hardens.
At Ameshin, they’re dedicated to keeping this time-honoured yet laborious tradition alive. If you’re just looking for a pretty piece of candy or to admire the master’s work, head to Ameshin’s Tokyo Skytree Solamachi shop.
To get your hands all sweet and sticky, meanwhile, you should go straight to their Asakusa workshop. In just under two hours, you’ll be taught how to make a cute little rabbit. It’s challenging but fun and a totally unique experience – where else are you going to learn how to create a sweet piece of art? Book a class by emailing email@example.com. Note that classes are taught in Japanese, but English manuals are available.
Both a studio and a retail store, this leather shop stands out from the rest. Leather artisan Yuichiro Murakami, who used to be an architect, really puts his heart – and the traditional techniques he learned in Italy – into the products. Oozing simplicity and functionality, his pieces also make for great gifts. A number of items from M+ are also sold in other stores nationwide, including at Ito-ya in Ginza and Loft in Shibuya. However, this Kuramae outlet also offers exhibits on how the leather ages, so you can check both what you pay for and what you will have paid for.
There seems to be a specialist store for everything in quiet Kuramae, and this one is exclusively focused on items made using the traditional kusakizome dyeing technique. You'll find a wide range of fabrics dyed with natural liquids extracted from flowers, leaves and roots, from sakura pink and rubia red to mulberry yellow. We have to recommend the gorgeous, hand-dyed scarves, which are supposed to maintain their shine for decades – if properly cared for.
Ever wondered how indigo-dyed items are made? Learn more about aizome (indigo dyeing) at Kosoen Studio, a serene spot situated way out west in the city of Ome, an hour and a half by train from central Tokyo. Surrounded by lush mountains and clean air, Kosoen has been developing and dyeing with aizome since the early 1900s.
The Murata family that runs the company has been in the textile business for over a century, but two of the Murata brothers decided to open Kosoen Studio in 1989 to continue the craft of natural indigo dyeing, colouring everything from garments to interior decor. The studio offers a dyeing experience for those interested in trying out aizome (from ¥1,600), as well as an adjoining store selling clothing and accessories that the Muratas have designed and dyed themselves.
Tucked down a quaint street in Asakusa, Wanariya is one of the few aizome shops in the city where you can shop for beautifully indigo-dyed garments and a plethora of accessories including hats, bags and scarves. Did you know that there are 48 different shades of indigo? The shop does a great job at offering a wide array of those, with products ranging from the lightest of blues to deep dark indigo hues.
For those who want to try dyeing something themselves, the shop organises walk-in classes where you can try colouring a handkerchief or Japanese ‘tenugui’ hand towel for only ¥1,920. The entire aizome process takes about 30 minutes, making it the perfect activity to add to your day in Asakusa. They also have a separate studio (1-8-10 Senzoku, Taito-ku), where you'll be able to dye T-shirts, bags and more (reservation only).
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