Japan is divided into eight regions, each having its own particular craft traditions that have developed over the country’s long history. The country’s unique crafts, which range from fine pottery to basic household products, represent both past and a bright future.

The quality of Japan’s wood, bamboo, and metal handicrafts is well-known. Many adore Japanese blades for their poetic steel, as well as their cast-iron vessels. Likewise, the country’s ceramics are admired for their simplicity on the one hand and complexity on the other. The washi paper lanterns popularized by Western mid-century moderns, origami (paper folding), kirigami (paper cutting), and wagasa (oil-paper umbrellas) are also among Japan’s famed elegant papercrafts. Despite their long history, Japanese crafts are constantly evolving. Due to the fragility of craft knowledge, the country has established a system of officially recognized master craftspeople and labeled some of the best persons working in each area as “living national treasures” to encourage appreciation for—and continued work in—these areas.

Japanese architect Kengo Kuma believes that the natural gentleness of Japanese crafts is the source of their power. Even the swords and knives have a calmness about them that symbolizes the amount of time and effort that has gone into them. Kuma considers Japanese crafts to be a philosophical gift to humanity.