The next step of my project will take us from the island of Kyushu to Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan with a unique history of ancient craftsmanship still very much present today.
In stark contrast to the workshops and studios we have visited so far, Kyoto Council is in a busy modern building, a large office on the 4th floor.
We met with Hideki Kishida, The associate director of Kyoto prefectural government Textiles and Crafts division.
He explained the work they are doing to preserve and promote the traditional craft industry and provided a good insight into the current state of affairs along with some figures and projections for the current year.
The main points they are focusing on at the moment is:
–Developing manufacturing : producing new crafts which are suitable for modern lifestyles using ancient techniques.
-Developing human resources: conserving and inheriting traditional techniques, and nurturing relationships that will lead to future generations learning the crafts.
-Developing the industry environment : promoting a lifestyle culture which utilises tradition and increase base demand for traditional crafts.
Mr Kishida also talked about the Kyomono traditional crafts festival:
Supporting businesses in traditional industries to cooperate with other businesses and or producers and designers so they can develop products that meet the needs of the market. By Connecting businesses to create products that fit into the every day lifestyle Means the 74 different crafts in and around Kyoto can extend their skills with new innovative markets.
He also provided us with the figures for the number of employees the Craft industry contributes to Japan’s economy.
Kyoto council have helped create opportunities for craftsmen to attend Milano expo – to expand overseas market of Kyoto crafts and develop manufacturing.
He also explained about the subsidies they provide for people working traditional industries. One of the major problems in Japan is the availability of the tools the craftsmen use, so Kyoto council provide subsidies to purchase new equipment and train people in each of the processes of labour to provide more jobs.
They also have a scheme where they commend highy skilled experts as ‘Kyo no Meiko ‘or Kyoto Masters (over 60 years old with over 30 years working experience as a craftsman – so far 1,184 craftsmen have been commended) and to foster new craftsmen for the next generation they have begun to certify designated young artisans as ‘Kyomono Nintei Kougeishi’ or certified craftsmen of Kyoto traditional crafts (under 40 years old with over 5 years working experience as a craftsmen – 129 young craftsmen have been certified so far).
Part of the work of Kyotos craft council division is to promote the preservation and handing down of high level techniques by having both the experienced master craftsmen and the younger craftsmen work together on project to restore and recreate traditional craft pieces such as precious cultural assets like shrines and temples.
They also talked about the practical training they provide to young people who wish to work in the traditional craft industry and provide their salary for 6months-1 year. Between 2013-15 they have trained a total of 34 new craftsmen, 29 of which are either employed in the business or have started their own company.
They provide workshops for young craftsmen on product development and marketing over 3 years (last year they trained 38 budding craftsmen who exhibited their new products at Japan Expo, Paris)
Finally they are doing a lot of work to encourage young people to wear the kimono once more which in turn helps the kimono weaving and dyeing industry to survive and the cultural tradition to continue.
They organise exhibitions and fashion shows as well as classes on how to wear the kimono at high schools and university’s which is proving to be very successful.
In conjunction with this they have created a ‘Kyoto kimono passport’ which gives the wearer benefits when they visit temples, shrines and museums to boost the demand for wearing the kimono around Kyotos city centre.