Sunday 3 June 2018

A crafters guide to central Japan

[warning: long post] This year April my life long dream was fulfilled. We went on a road-trip to Japan with Japan Campers. I prepared a list of folk art, craft and design places to visit. We didn't make it everywhere, and on-the-go and afterwards I also discovered loads of good places that we could have visited on the way 😐 guess we will just have to come back 🙂 Just wanted to share the list so that perhaps somebody else out there can benefit. Our route in broad brush-strokes was from Narita across to Okutama going south through the South-Eastern Alps, then Fuji/Hakone to Izu Peninsula Westwards through Nagoya to Kyoto, Northwards along the coast, diving into the Northern Alps visiting Takayama and Hida Furakawa. On the North East side of alps going South-West along Takasaki finishing off with Nikko. With lots of pleasant Onsen visits on the way.

The list has been put together with the help of 2 dear craftsy friends; Liz Lau from Lump Studio in HongKong and Pek Lam, dear who lived 10 years in Japan and some bits from Lonely Planet.

With the camper-van you can park and sleep anywhere at any parking lot. We stayed at many RV-parks (on the outskirts of cities and along highways.... not so romantic) but this way I found out that the RV-park is also the ideal place to discover local craft and produce as many of those places host markets with local craft and farmers products.


In the end we skipped Tokyo all together, yes, we just skipped it!! We just launched ourselves straight into the Eastern bit of the Southern Apls which is right to the West of Tokyo. Using Ome as a gate-way which took us straight to Okutama, where we enjoyed the most beautyful cherry-blossom (Sakura) and our first Onsen bath, which left a lasting impression on us.

The plan for Tokyo was


Ginza area

Yurakucho Muji flagship store, 3-8-3 Marunouchi, Chikyoda-ku With a two-story high pre-fabricated residential unit. Muji restaurant and café close by.

Shibuya area

Plusminuszero, 3-12-12 Kita-Aoyama, HOLON-R 1st floor, Tokyo, Japan, 107-0061. This is the design-shop with wonderfully minimalistically product, the company is directed by Naoto Fukasawa. List of shops on their site

Found Muji Ayobaya, Nakajima Building 1-2F, 5-50-6 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

Harajuku area

Design festa, 3-20-2 jingumae, shibuya-ku. DIY art scene in a madhouse building.

Roppongi area

Kapital, 2-20-1 Ebisu, shibuya-ku. Probably at the expensive end of things, but premium denim, dyed a dozen times the traditional way (indigo), earthy knits and lushly patterned scarves.

Kagurazaka area

Jokogumo, 1-6 1F Shirogane-cho,Shinjuku-ku,Tokyo. This seems like a very nice interior/household shop, I chose this particular shop because they host small exhibitions, fx fujitamiho, whose crochet work of Japanese vegetables that I love had a small exhibit there just the week before we went.

Sapporo area, In Sapporo Shiroishi-ku, Higashisapporo 1 Artikel 1-chome, 7-32  dan ★ metro Tozai "Higashisapporo Station", 5 to 7 minutes walking to the 36 Route direction. This is a café where you can enjoy hand-made dishes such as cakes and knitting. @itosakusocks has a workshop there untill 8th of April to knit these cute socks with flowers


Avril, Nakamichi shopping street, Kichijoji station. The Japanese yarn-shop better known as in the Western world. Full of lovely "wabi-sabi" yarns as well as hysterical, fluffy pop yarn stuff. You can buy down to 10gram.
Above the Kichijoji station you also find Yuzawaya, a Japanese chain of craft shops. As you come out of the station, have a look for the big Parco department store, which will be diagonally to your left.

okadaya, is also a chain of hobby/crafting shops that you will find all over Japan.

In addition, because we are frugal, love vintage 🙂 and generally speaking support recycling we wanted to visit

The Salvation Army Men's Social Centre (Known as The Salvation Army Bazaar Centre). Address: 2-21-2 Wada, Suginami-ku, Tokyo 166-0012, Phone No.: 03-3384-3769. Station: Nakano-fujimichō Station or Higashi-Kōenji Station. The Bazaar is open for business every Saturday from 9.00am until 2.00pm.


Japan Hakone Marquetry, Taneita Zukuri/Zuku Kezuri Video

Izu Peninsula

Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture. 

Muji Window House, pre-fab house by Muji developed for the brand by architect Kengo Kuma.


International Design Centre in the Nadya Park complex, Kokusai Dezain Sentaa. National and international design. Also host to crafting workshops.
Arimatsu tie-dyeing(shibori) museum. Exhibition, demonstration and workshops


Avril (Habu textiles) Kyoto

Avril (Habu textiles) Kyoto. Too much yarn to handle

AVRIL pépin Ichijoji Kyoto, 20-1, Ichijoji Takatsukicho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto
D&Department, garden, diy and household items. 〒600-8094 Kyōto-fu, Kyōto-shi, Shimogyō-ku, 高倉通仏光寺下ル新開町397 本山佛光寺内
Yuzawaya 〒600-8216 Kyōto-fu, Kyōto-shi, Shimogyō-ku Located in: Yodobashi Camera Multimedia Kyoto
KOU-AN Glass Tea House by Tokujin Yoshioka. At Seiryu-den which is in a precinct of Tendai Sect Shoren-in Temple designated as one of National treasures in Japan.

Shugakuin, the imperial villa, level one

Shugakuin, the imperial villa, level two

Shugakuin, the imperial villa, level two

Shugakuin, the imperial villa, level two

Shugakuin, the imperial villa, level three

Shugakuin, the imperial villa. The villa and garden are located on the outskirts of town, and you need to apply for entrance with the imperial household agency. I did that online and was lucky enough to get entrance. The tours are guided in Japanese, but there is an English audio-guide. Along the path you visit the garden and villas. You cannot enter the villas, but the sliding doors are open so you can look inside, and as the villas are not too big you can get a quite good view.

Fukui Prefecture

Fukui city

A DJ turned buddhist monks holds techno memorial services at the Shō-onji (照恩寺) temple in Fukui City. He's using modern lighting techniques such as 3D mapping to express paradise and hopes to revive Japanese faith with these ceremonies. (seems to be a while ago this actually happend)

Gifu Prefecture / Hida mountain


Unfortunately we had to miss out on Shirakawa, it was just not convenient on our route. The road from Komatsu to Shirakawa through the mountain pass was closed :-(
Hida Takayama


Yoshijima Heritage House, 1-51 Ojinmachi, Takayama City, Hida Mountains, 1907. A beautiful old ware-house (sake brewery) with a beautiful and visible beam structure. Also nice about this place that you are actually allowed to walk through the rooms.
Kusakabe Folk craft museum, 1-52 Ojin-machi. This this old beautiful building is housing a collection of folk art such as various bags, boxes shoes and clothes. Very beautiful to see this collection of everyday objects.
O Tsuki San's antique kimono's completely blew me away. A beautiful collection of kimono's in traditional painting, in Shibori as well as work-man's clothes in Kasuri, self-striping yarn that create minimalistic patterns of dots and stripes. I especially love this last part. This shop was really a gem, it was so overwhelming that I was unable to choose anything. 32, Kami Ichinomachi, Gifu Takayama, Japan.

the layers, transparency, proportion so typical of Eda period

indoor fireplace where you keep your tea warm

O Tsuki San's antique kimono's

Hida Furakawa 

Old town of old brown wooden houses and lush cherry-blossom. so pretty
Takumikan Crafts Museum.

The master craftsmen of Hida became famous during the Nara period (710-794) because of their superbe technical skills, no nails, bolts or clamps used. They played an important part in the construction of shrines and temples in Nara.

In the museum there is a carpentry skills hands-on exhibition where you can learn about traditional carpentry by using wood to complete lattice and framework puzzles. There is an exhibition of traditional carpentry tools (carpenter's square, ink marker and adze) and miniature wooden house frameworks.

Handwoven studio YUHKOUBOU, 5-12 Ichinomachi Furukawacho Hida city tel: 0577-7066
The studio is housed in a beautiful old house build by Takumi (imperial builder in Taisho period) and is a very valuable cultural property.
Hidakanton is still hand-woven here, using the natural dyed yarns using the Hida mountain material such as: Ichiizome (orange), Sawakurumi (brown), Yamamomo and ai (green).
The lady of the house is extremely knowledgeable about plants of the Hida mountain and the old ways. This was probably our most profound experience during our journey, the lady of the house is very hospitable, polite and friendly, she showed us the whole house, including the weaving room and also demonstrated the fire-place.

the most kind and friendly lady from the shop

inside the shop

The natural materials from the mountain used to die the yarn

setting the coal for the fireplace

The weaving atelier

view on the garden

The owners children shoes

Gunma Prefecture


Tomioka silk mill (Unesco world heritage), 1-1 Tomioka, Tomioka was once the biggest producer of silk in the world. The buildings are beautiful industrial heritage buildings and a lot of the museum is emphasizing the buildings and the history of the mill, but poorly curated. Was slightly disappointed that there was very little about the actual production of silk. It in part turned to be because the most important silk exhibition was not included as a item on the audio tour guide.

Ueda, Nagano

We passed the most amazing utensil shop. The owner was an old man, the business has been in the family for a long time. It really seemed you could get everything here, also parts to repair hand tools. He had these amazing home-made overview boards. If you are ever in the neighbourhood I strongly recommend to visit.

Perhaps I should also mention that at several occassions along the way we gazed through windows into Tatami matrasses workshops. Amazing how these are made. At one place where we looked, it was still completely made by hand. Perhaps I shall dedicate some future posts to the makers and craft we saw on the way.


  1. Great read, thank you!

    I'm going to have to find a map and look up all these places on it, so I can picture your journey!