Traditional crafts add local flair to Tokyo museum

The Yomiuri Shimbun
An exhibition room on the second floor where Edo kiriko cut glassware and Tokyo uchihamono cutting tools are displayed in the Edo Taito Traditional Crafts Center. Visitors are free to take photos inside the museum.

The Edo Taito Traditional Crafts Center, situated on a shopping street near the busy areas around Sensoji temple in Asakusa displays items created by a variety of local artisans.

After entering through the museum’s stylish glass exterior, visitors are greeted with a video of an artisan hammering out a piece of copperware.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The Edo Taito Traditional Crafts Center is located along the Asakusa Hisago Shopping Street.

Taito Ward, known for the popular tourist areas of Asakusa and Ueno, is also regarded as an artisanal town. The museum displays 243 traditional crafts from 43 industries, including Edo woodblock prints and Edo bekko tortoiseshell products, which have long been produced in the ward. They are all made by local artisans.

The museum wants visitors to concentrate on the visual aspects of the exhibits, so people can view explanatory notes by using their smartphone to scan

QR codes to learn about them. The explanations provide an insight into their construction methods. For example, Edo sashimono (wood joinery) consists of two pieces of wood joined together without using nails, and Tokyo uchihamono (hand-forged blades) are said to have originated when swordsmiths used their skills to make knives and scissors after swords were forbidden during the Meiji period (1868-1912).

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Edo tegaki chochin hand-painted paper lanterns. The most difficult part of creating them is writing letters on the surface.

Visitors can ask staff to show them a workshop where they can get a firsthand look at craftsmanship that still makes use of traditional techniques. The center has hosted about 100 demonstrations by artisans on weekends and holidays, but the workshops are currently suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, groups can apply for online sessions.

Many tourists are returning as COVID-19 border control measures ease. Touch panels that introduce the history and production process are available in English, Chinese, and Korean.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Kotaro Tanaka, vice president of Taito Ward’s traditional crafts promotion association, is a fifth-generation Edo sudare slatted blinds craftsman.

“We hope that visitors will experience Japanese culture through traditional crafts,” Kotaro Tanaka, 59, vice president of the association, said.

Edo Taito Traditional Crafts Center

Since its reopening in 2019, the Taito Ward-run center has attracted 97,000 visitors and counting. There are sightseeing spots nearby, such as Sensoji temple and Hanayashiki amusement park.

Address: 2-22-13 Asakusa, Taito Ward, Tokyo

Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Closed on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month. Closed on the following day if Tuesday falls on a national holiday.

Admission: Free