Experience Aizu’s Traditional Crafts
Introducing spots where you can enjoy hands-on experiences of Aizu’s traditional crafts
Aizu Lacquer (Makie)
A national designated traditional craft, Aizu lacquer historically flourished even before Tsugaru lacquer and Wajima lacquer.
It features a diverse range of techniques, including mother-of-pearl inlay, lacquer painting, dry lacquer, making (lacquer sprinkled with metallic powders), and floral lacquer. In the past, beech was used as the base wood, but today, a variety of woods are used, including Japanese horse chestnut, Japanese maple, Japanese zelkova, red zelkova, Magnolia obovata, and cherry wood. The lacquer surface is strong and resistant to water stains, as well as being resistant to hot water, acids and alkalis.
It has a subdued sheen, and due to the moisture retention of lacquer, a deep, rich feel.
Suzutake Lacquerware Studio
The Grave of the Matsudaira Clan of the Aizu Domain
Try your hand at makie lacquer work on a soup bowl or small hand mirror.
Address: Aizu Lacquerware Industrial Park, Ichinoseki, Mondenmachi, Aizuwakamatsu-shi, Fukushima Prefecture
Access: 15 minutes’ drive from Onyado Toho
Bansho Hands-on Experiences Plaza
Aizu E-Rosoku (Painted Candles)
This craft is said to have started about 500 years ago, when Ashina Morinobu (1408-1451), a general of the mid-Muromachi Period (c.1336-1573), encouraged the planting of lacquer trees. Because the sap from the trees could be used for lacquer, and wax could be extracted from the seeds, lacquerware and candles became the traditional industries of Aizu. In the Tensho era (1573-1592), the daimyo, Gamo Ujisato (1556-1595) invited skilled artisans from Omi Province to Aizu, after which the quality of this craft is said to have improved even more.
Later, the Matsudaira Clan used this industry as it source of funds in the Edo Period, so candles spread throughout the whole of Japan. The excellent quality of Aizu’s candles became well known throughout society.
Hoshiban E-Rosoku (Painted Candles) Shop
Ozawa Candle Shop
Try your hand at painting a candle.
Address: 6-27 Nishisakaemachi, Aizuwakamatsu-shi, Fukushima Prefecture
Access: 10 minutes’ drive from Onyado Toho
Opening hours: 8:30–19:00 (Hands-on experience classroom: 9:00–16:00)
In 1592, when the roof of Kurokawa Castle, the predecessor of Tsuruga-jo Castle, was being built, the daimyo of the time, Gamo Ujisato (1556-1595), brought skilled potters from Karatsu to make the ceramic roof tiles. This is believed to be the beginning of the local ceramic tiles of Aizu Keizan-yaki. It was designated as a traditional craft product of Fukushima Prefecture by the prefectural government in 1997.
In a hands-on experience of hand-forming, you can shape the clay into what shape of vessel you like, then paint a picture onto a bowl or plate.
Aizu Keizan-yaki Pottery
Try your hand at painting a tea cup, plate, or mug. Students from Aizuwakamatsu-shi also come here for excursions.
Address: 67 Ishiyamatennei, Higashiyamamachi, Aizuwakamatsu-shi, Fukushima Prefecture
Access: 5 minutes’ drive from Onyado Toho
The origins of today’s Aizuhongo-yaki ceramics are believed to have emerged when a man named Sato Ibei brought the porcelain techniques he had learned in Kyoto and Arita to the region in 1800. The area was designated by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry as a traditional craft production region in 1993.
Would you like to experience first-hand the importance of making things at a traditional Aizuhongo-yaki pottery? Using the potter’s wheel, hand-forming, and painting, you can create a cup or dish that is completely original, the only one of its kind in the entire world.
Okiagari-koboshi is a good luck charm and traditional local toy that has been passed down in the Aizu region for hundreds of years. These round dolls, which are weighted so that they pop back up when knocked over, are also known as Oki-hime. At a New Year’s market called Toka-ichi, which is held on January 10 every year, locals buy one of these dolls for each member of the family plus one extra, which they display on the kamidana, or household shrine.
Because they pop right back up no matter how many times they are knocked down, Okiagari-koboshi dolls are a symbol of perseverance and resilience, sound health, and safety of the family. The custom of displaying one more than the number of people in the family came from a wish for “the family to grow.”
When choosing your Okiagari-koboshi, knock them over and choose the one that pops back up.
Aizu Bukeyashiki (Samurai Mansion)
Soba, or buckwheat, is one of Japan’s traditional crops and is actively grown in Hokkaido, Nagano, Ibaraki, and Fukushima. Fukushima Prefecture, particularly the Aizu region, is one of Japan’s major soba growing regions. Here, the crops need to be harvested before the first frost of the season. For this reason, soba noodles that are served in autumn are known as “shin-soba” or new soba.
To make soba noodles, in addition to the buckwheat flour, a variety of tools are also required, such as the konebachi or mixing bowl, the menbo, or rolling pin, and a knife for cutting the rolled dough into noodles. This hands-on soba-making lesson, using buckwheat flour is an authentic experience that includes all of the steps, namely mizumawashi, in which water is added to the flour and mixed together, neri or kneading the dough, noshi or rolling, tatami or folding, and kiri or cutting the noodles. You can then eat the soba noodles that you have made by yourself. Would you like to try this experience?
Farm experience (harvesting experience)
Experience agricultural exchange in Aizuwakamatsu, a region where agriculture has been nurtured by the blessings of nature and climate, and spend some time with the local farmers. Activities include planting or harvesting rice, vegetables, buckwheat, and mushrooms, caring for fruit crops, and hands-on nature experiences.
Programs are available for individuals and groups, including family and friends, or for school and company events.
Aizuwakamatsu Green Tourism Club