Japanese Industrial Crafts

“…life for art’s sake…”
The Winter Equinox.  Many people in the UK have been waiting for this day—the shortest day after which each one becomes a little longer.

Christmas Day is fast approaching and the New Year is just a few more days away.  For many people around the world this is a season of merry making and, for some, a time to relax and do some reading on the subject of Japanese crafts perhaps.  I do hope so.

A few years ago I was alerted to the existence of a series of books on many aspects of Japanese culture.  The series was published in English by the Board of Tourist Industry, Japanese Government Railways in a handy size clearly aimed at the tourist market.  There are forty volumes in the original series first published between 1934 and the early part of the 1940s.

The original volumes are particularly appealing.  The printed pages with photographs are excellent for the time.  The covers are an absolute delight, made from a matt coloured paper with an attached coloured illustration and a dust jacket of glassine—like a thin tracing paper.  The covers are unmistakably Japanese.  A number of hardback volumes were subsequently published in the 1950s roughly following the same format but looking far less “Japanese”.

It is the introduction to the volume on Japanese Industrial Arts that I would like to present.  This volume was copyrighted and published in 1941and written by Seiichi Okuda (who seems to be 奥田誠一).

Please note that the way Japanese is now commonly written in roman letters has changed.  In this piece, bizyutu is now usually written as bijitsu.  Industrial arts are referred to as kôgei but these days this word is used as a general term for craft, although often referring to a repeatable craft item as well as studio craft.

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