TOPArt & CultureOur Favorite Japanese Artisanal Items Made by Local Craftsmen and Designers

Our Favorite Japanese Artisanal Items Made by Local Craftsmen and Designers

Looking for something quintessentially Japanese?

By Weekender Editor

For the production of our special Made in Japan issue, we sifted through our past Shop Japan posts to round up our favorite Japanese artisanal items. Keep reading for bamboo coolers, designer cutlery, chado-worthy teaware and more.

BAMBOO COOLER by ICCIKU Culture Value Inc.

This is a handmade bottle cooler that was developed with the purpose of revitalizing the value of bamboo. Simply insert a chilled bottle into the cooler and enjoy the transformation in aroma and flavor as the temperature gradually changes. As well as being practical, these coolers also make for stunning interior design additions to your home. 

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Itteki-Hassenya Special “Japanese Ao-sansho Oil” by Itteki Group Inc.

These homemade seasoning oils are perfect for people who want to enjoy the taste of professional cooking while staying at home during the pandemic. You’ll be amazed at what a few drops of the Ao-sansho oil can do. An original Japanese ingredient, it has a very strong and fresh aroma with a unique and elegant flavor. It’s very different to the commonly used Chinese sansho and goes well with various dishes including udon, pasta and sashimi. 

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The 360 Degree Toothbrush POPOTAN by STI-IR Co., Ltd.

This is a new model of the 360-degree toothbrush with rounded tip bristles that provide an unprecedented level of softness to help reduce dentinal hypersensitivity. The bristles also help to enhance plaque removal, reduce remaining residue and boost the polishing effect. Known for their unique shape, these brushes are very easy to use.

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Pure domestic Tomioka Silk Braid Hat by YM AGENCY Co., LTD

These silk braid hats are handmade using 100 percent raw silk thread. They’re produced at Tomioka Silk Mill, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Silk blocks over 95 percent of UV rays and protects your scalp and hair from the heat in summer, as well as keeping you warm in winter. The hats are available in white, black, navy, beige and light purple.

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SUMU Cutlery Series by ZIKICO INC

These translucent black and white cutlery pieces enable the user to savor the true taste of food as the heads are made from zirconia. The founder noticed that soup was more flavorful consumed directly from the bowl than with a spoon as the metallic odor from the spoon hid the true taste. He subsequently decided to find a solution using a zirconia ceramic which is even more durable than metals.

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Wooden straw by AQURA HOME CO., LTD.

Made by slicing thinned wood into 0.15-millimeter-thick sheets, these wooden straws are an eco-friendly alternative to plastic straws. The technique of shaving wood very thinly, known as “kanna-kezuri,” also contributes to the promotion of sustainable forest management. Through these straws, the company hopes to show the quality of Japanese technology, while at the same time, encouraging consumers to think more seriously about forest and marine conservation.

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This unique memo pad looks like a normal memo paper cube at first but as the paper on the pad is used up, intricate paper art embedded inside is gradually revealed. This includes famous architectural landmarks of Japan, world heritage sites and national treasures, as well as Japanese culture in general. Each sheet is uniquely and intricately designed using traditional Japanese colors. 

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ON THE UMAMI Dashi Packs by FUTABA Co., Ltd.

Using scientific and sensory analysis, these packs have been developed to allow people to easily enjoy authentic Japanese broth. The umami flavor of each ingredient is brought out and illustrated on a tongue or taste map that is easy to understand. In addition to the soup stock, there are also recommended recipes for how to use the content of the packs. 

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This is an organic cosmetic brand that uses an endangered native plant from Higashiomi in Shiga Prefecture called Nihon Murasaki Shikon (purple gromwell root). The company is simultaneously protecting and promoting one of Japan’s rarest plant species while at the same time avoiding the use of any coloring agents or petroleum-derived additives. The product received a Sustainable Business Award from the Ministry of the Environment in 2018. 

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SISUI hai by SanYoshi Lacquerware Co., Ltd.

These Japanese sake cups are made from 100 percent biodegradable plastic and coated with an exquisite urushi lacquer. This is a natural resin material that uses the Aizu lacquerware technique, which dates back more than 400 years. By making these cups, SanYoshi Lacquerware began its commitment to achieving carbon neutrality and started taking action on SDGs.  

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This is an elegant line of dishware infused with carbon that uses a special firing method inspired by the manufacturing of smoked roof tiles. The Suigetsu Teapot, co-developed with a local tea farm, helps to bring out more flavor in the drink by reducing caffeine and other properties from the tea. It was designed for ultimate usability, removing the handle so that it can be held by either hand. 

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Kimono Tumbler® by Asakusa Tatsumiya

This item comes from a traditional kimono shop established in 1936. They have created a new style of tumbler combining the traditional beauty of Japan with Western culture. Handmade by kimono craftsmen, it’s created using the most beautiful patterns of Nishijin silk belts. There are only a few with the same pattern in the world, making it a precious item. Elegant and beautiful, you are sure to find one that you like.

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Tree’s bento box by ICHIBA MOKKO CO., LTD.

Created meticulously at a female-only workspace, this set of wooden toys resembles a Japanese bento box. The set contains two onigiri rice balls (hinoki), a hamburger steak (bigleaf magnolia), two rolled omelets (hinoki), a mini tomato (hinoki) and lettuce (felt). As well as being popular as a birthday gift, it also looks good as an ornament. In consideration of the environment, it’s mostly made from air-dried wood. 

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Nori of Wasabi roasted flavor by NORINO RINSYU CO.,LTD

As Japanese cuisine is garnering attention around the world, it’s time to discover this new, luxurious nori seaweed flavored with wasabi, a traditional delicacy. The lineup includes the “strong” type which is spicy and has a rich wasabi fragrance and the “mild” type that has a concentrated umami flavor and less spice. The seaweed can be enjoyed by itself or with sashimi, rice and other dishes.  

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Amanatsu Natural Wine by Masanobu Fukuoka Natural Farm (Nihon sogo engei Co., Ltd.)

This fruit wine is made using amanatsu oranges (also known as Japanese summer oranges) that are grown without using any pesticides or chemical fertilizers. When chilled, the refreshing amanatsu flavor instantly spreads in your mouth. It can be enjoyed as an aperitif and a refreshing drink during a meal. It pairs nicely with both meat and seafood dishes. 

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All featured products are part of Omotenashi Selection, a project that brings together fine handcrafted items from around Japan and shares them with international audiences.