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Culture

6 DIY Japanese Arts and Crafts You Can Try at Home

Find your next hobby through the wonderful world of Japanese arts and crafts!

By 5 min read

You might feel that ethereal, long-lived Japanese arts and crafts are beyond mastering, that you need ancient tools and whispered words from a master to create the next One Piece. But that’s far from the truth.

Plenty of arts and crafts in Japan are easily accessible for the average person. You can create an impressive gift or start a new hobby with like-minded individuals within your reach. Or you’re just bored in the countryside.

No matter the reason, if you are looking for a creative endeavor to pass the time, you might find a spark of inspiration from this list.

Shodo (Japanese calligraphy)

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Rewrite history.

You don’t need to be a kanji expert to pick up a Japanese calligraphy brush. However, it helps if you are planning on stroking out the most difficult kanji of all time or the current kanji of the year. So I’ll stick to ki (木) and kawa (), thank you very much.

With its noble history, ties to Buddhism, and undeniable passion, shodo is a mediative hobby that requires a steady hand and a love of Japanese vocabulary. There is no “true way” to do calligraphy. Instead, find your own way through expressive strokes unique to you.

What you’ll need:

Kintsugi

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You’ll end up breaking dishes on purpose.

Whoops! It looks like I’ve dropped another priceless family heirloom. But fear not, that newly gauged chip doesn’t necessarily mean the trash. Instead, a creative solution might just give that 10,000-yen vase—or 100-yen bowl—a new lease of life.

Kintsugi is an ancient art that invokes the sentiments of wabi-sabi, the beauty in imperfections. By using lacquer mixed with precious metals, you can fill in the cracks of battered crockery. You can bring scattered pieces together and bleed golden veins into worn-out items. The outcome is stunning and can look better than when the dish was new.

What you’ll need:

Uchiwa

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I’m sure a fan.

You’ll spot handheld and rounded fans, uchiwa, all over Japan, especially in the heat of summer. Often given out for free covered with a garish advertisement, they are versatile and can be used not only to cool you down but also to express a message—literally.

Hand-designed uchiwa are often seen waving in the crowd at concerts or encouraging someone through the last leg of a marathon with “ganbatte!” (do your best!) scribbled on the front. This is the beauty of uchiwa. You can design it any way you want, whether that’s professing your love or painting an elaborate dragon design.

What you’ll need:

Origami

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All you’ll need is patience and paper.

While not the craft for quitters (guilty), origami can be challenging and relatively easy, depending on what you want to create. The sky’s the limit, as seen with complex designs that have taken hours, and sometimes days, folding and twisting paper. I can’t imagine the paper cuts.

Dragons, palaces, warriors and, of course, the iconic paper crane have all been crafted using one material: paper. So there is only one rule, don’t use scissors or glue.

What you’ll need:

Manga

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Read between the lines.

Many budding artists worldwide have the shared dream of becoming a manga-ka (manga artist) for centuries. So much, so that whole floors in Japanese stationery stores are dedicated to the art, with aspiring manga-ka forgoing the digital avenue for traditional pen and paper.

This world of traditional manga creation can be daunting for a newbie. While it requires some natural talent, you also need the dedication to overcome screen tone paper, perfectly crafted panels and composition. So it might be worth looking up a few tutorials before getting started.

What you’ll need:

Mizuhiki (rice paper cord)

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Tie me up, buttercup.

Want to impress a loved one with an elaborately decorated gift? Then learn the art of mizuhiki.

In the West, a neat bow tends to be the crown of many presents, but in Japan, ribbons can be replaced with rice paper cord, known as mizuhiki. Stiff yet malleable, several strands are melded into an intricate knot or pattern. You will often see mizuhiki on the annual otoshidama (new year money) envelope or hugged tightly to a thank you card.

If you want to take it a step further, you can even try your hand at making show-stopping sculptures.

What you’ll need:

Where to go for supplies

  • Sekaido: The name on every artist’s lips. This mammoth of a store has manga materials, kintsugi kits, calligraphy brushes and everything else
  • Bumpodo: 100-year-old Bumpodo is a haven for creative types and contains a host of supplies
  • Yuzawaya: Found on e-commerce websites like Amazon and Rakuten, they will satisfy your every hobby need
  • Tokyu Hands: Not exclusive to art materials, but they still dedicate floors for crafty individuals
  • Loft: Similar to Tokyu Hands, while not containing everything your heart desires, they cover the basics
  • Okadaya: The place for those who love to sew, knit and felt

Have you tried Japanese arts and crafts at home? How did it go? Want to try it yourself? Let us know in the comments below!

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