Trying out some Japanese crafts is one of the best things to do in Japan to get involved with Japanese culture and history, plus it is very fun! You’ll probably leave the experience having learned a new skill, made some beautiful memories and you’ll probably have a memento to remember the experience by too!
If you’re looking for things to do in Japan on a rainy day or as the weather gets cold, perhaps you’d like to try out some of the Japanese crafts listed below. From Japanese textiles to origami, to kokedama, there are so many things to do in Japan.
It’s no secret to the world that Japan has some of the most unique and intricate pottery practices. Potters and aspiring potters travel from so many different countries to experience a pottery class with a Japanese pottery sensei, it is one of the most famous Japanese crafts internationally. If you are spending any time in Japan, a pottery class is one of the many therapeutic and exciting things to do in Japan.
Some of the most popular ceramic Japanese crafts include Bizen ware, which originates in Okayama prefecture. It’s popular in interior design for its raw aesthetic, the Bizen pottery is unglazed and made using special clay from deep underground which when fired (at a very high temperature) creates beautiful markings. Arita is a small town in Saga prefecture, and it is the birthplace of porcelain in Japan. Raku pottery is a style that originated in Kyoto, a Japanese craft famous across the world for the patterns that are created when the ceramic piece is forced to cool quickly once taken out of the kiln.
All these areas will have various pottery workshops where you can enjoy a pottery class. If you ever find yourself in any of these areas and can take a pottery class, you’ll get to try out a unique ceramic craft local to the area.
It’s worth bearing in mind that a pottery class will usually involve three different processes; first, you make the shape, either on a pottery wheel or building it by hand, next once the clay has dried up, you can neaten your piece and add any finishing touches. The piece then goes into the kiln for a ‘biscuit firing’ and the third step is when you glaze the piece, adding the colors to it, after which it goes back into the kiln. You’ll need to allow time for the clay to dry and for the firing processes, so it usually takes more than one pottery class to finish a whole piece from start to finish!
That being said, there are plenty of pottery classes that offer a one-time experience, even a lot of Japanese pottery workshops will offer these too. If you’re attending a one-time pottery class, often you will make your pieces and select your glazes in the class and afterward the pottery sensei will neaten up your pieces and apply the glaze after the firing. You can then arrange to collect the pieces or get them posted depending on the place!
There are plenty of Japanese crafts that involve nature in some way or another, think bonsai, ikebana kado (flower arranging), bamboo crafts. Pretty much all the crafts are inspired by nature somehow and kokedama is no exception. The art of bonsai takes a lot of time so bonsai classes might not be an option for a lot of people, but fortunately for any plant-lovers searching for things to do in Japan, kokedama can be made in just one workshop.
Often called a poor man’s bonsai, kokedama-making is tied into the art of bonsai. It involves taking the roots of a plant and covering them in a special mud/clay soil called akadama which is formed into a ball around the plant roots. The kokedama ball is then covered in green moss and this is tied together using nylon or aluminum string.
Kokedama makes a beautiful accent piece and they can even be tied up and suspended in the air for more of a mystical feel.
Weaving Japanese textiles
There are so many different kinds of Japanese textiles to learn about. Spending time at a loom weaving some fabric might be just what you want if you are looking for relaxing things to do in Japan.
There are various woven Japanese textiles for kimono weaving, such as Nishijin-ori from Kyoto which involves weaving silk, or Kurume-gasuri from Fukuoka which involves weaving cotton.
If you are looking for Japanese crafts to try out, why not try working with Japanese textiles? There are various places offering weaving workshops or fabric dyeing workshops too.
Okinawa and the Okinawan islands are also famous for their textiles, you could try making Miyako jofu which is a traditional Miyakojima textile.
Something that often appears on various lists for things to do in Japan is origami. This Japanese papercraft has so many breathtaking designs you can try out, no wonder it is one of the most popular Japanese crafts.
An origami workshop will usually be much cheaper and shorter than some of the other crafts workshops on this list and it is easy to find an origami workshop pretty much anywhere in Japan!
Shodo (Japanese calligraphy) is a beautiful traditional Japanese craft that is still so prevalent in modern Japanese life. Shodo is one of the subjects in Japanese schools.
There are calligraphy classes all across Japan. From how to hold a brush to the stroke orders, there is so much to learn about Japanese calligraphy that we recommend you try it out!
As a bonus, for anyone who doesn’t know Japanese, you’ll get to learn some Kanji and perhaps even figure out the kanji for your name!