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Views A Tokyo Skytree Tour
Traditional Crafts in the Modern Day
Meeting Sumida’s Master Artisans and Craftsmen

The city of Sumida in Tokyo has a history of craftsmanship and light industry dating back to the seventeenth century. That influence remains strong even today. We look at a selection of the area’s shops, all of which have an original take on traditional techniques and crafts.

The Tradesmen and -Women of Sumida

The history of Sumida, Tokyo, is closely tied to the development of Japanese craftsmanship.

In the Edo period (1603–1868), local industries developed along the Sumida River, which was used to transport tiles, lumber, dyes, and other materials. A rich culture of craftsmanship blossomed in the area, which became the birthplace of Japan’s light industry by the start of the Meiji period (1868–1912). A wide variety of factories sprang up in the area, handling everything from metalworking and glass-making to the manufacture of celluloid toys and fiber and leather products. Following the Great Kantō Earthquake of 1923 and the bombing of Tokyo during World War II, the area’s industry supported the general populace as a base for the production of daily goods and various components.

Even today, Sumida is known for its smaller enterprises, and the municipal government is actively developing the area with craftsmanship as the focus. The development features a variety of policies intended to foster industry and pass on the skills needed for the traditional crafts to future generations. These strategies are also part of the policy of raising brand recognition for the Sumida area. One example is the establishment of a category called Sumida kōbō shoppu (Sumida craft workshops), or outlets where crafted goods are both made and sold. The idea is to make the world of craftsmanship feel more familiar to consumers.

The area around Tokyo Skytree is dotted with such shops that offer charming items with original ideas and designs based on traditional crafts. Here we visit places that make traditional Japanese paper, folding screens, and chopsticks to convey the spirit of the tradesmen and -women who work there.

Exploring the Craft Workshops

  • [2012.08.10]
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