The Yame Cultural and Traditional Crafts Museum is open throughout the year and is the best place to start discovering more about the wealth of traditional arts and crafts flourishing in Yame city. All of the arts mentioned on this page are on display, and workshops are held by local craftsmen on bamboo weaving, paper making, lantern painting and much more besides. Whether you want to see some a Japanese master craftsman at work or try your hand at it yourself, The Yame Cultural Traditional Crafts Museum has it all.
Traditional bamboo weaving has existed in Yame for generations, with artisans crafting a variety of household goods and agricultural tools using only bamboo shoots harvested from the surrounding mountains.
The hand crafted articles made in Yame are exemplify the trade, with craftsmen producing a range of over 120 different goods and utensils for a variety of needs.
Along Yame’s main street, craftsmen and artisans ply their trades, some of which have been handed down from generation to generation over centuries, along with the store itself, in many cases. Among these craftsmen, the fletchers and bow makers are particularly well noted across Japan for their skill and dedication to their craft. Although primarily supplying archery equipment for kyudo (traditional Japanese archery) contestants, they also craft a range of ceremonial arrows, a single one taking weeks of painstaking carving and crafting. These are used in shinto rituals by the local community, and as charms to ward off evil and bad luck by families.
During the Meiji period, Yame was one of the biggest producers of paper lanterns in Japan. Even with the onset of electricity, the popularity of these lanterns has not diminished. As well as being used locally for the Obon festival in August, they are exported and sold to towns and villages across Kyushu for various festivals, and every year the lamps are even used for ceremonies in the grand temple at Dazaifu! A red chochin, bobbing merrily in the breeze on a summer evening is a common sight outside restaurants and pubs across Japan, and many small business place commissions for these from the craftsmen of Yame. Unused stock is sometimes fashioned into other products such as handbags, which make for a beautiful, one-of-a-kind souvenir.
Along with butsudan, (Buddhist alters) the craftsmen of Yame also specialize in the manufacture of chochin (paper lanterns). Although they may look relatively simple compared next to the elaborate and ornate alters on display at the Yame Cultural and Traditional crafts Muesum, both require the same degree of time and skill to make. Artisans are required to be certified as master craftsmen in painting, carving and sculpting bamboo and paper. To make one, the craftsman painstakingly whittles down bamboo shoots to make struts, around which he carefully wraps molds paper and silk. Once the frame has set and dried, he can begin painting.
The famous Japanese doll set, consisting of an Emperor and Empress and all their attendants standing to attention in immaculate detail is without a doubt one of Japan’s most iconic motifs. Here in Yame, craftsmen have fashioned these adorable works of art for generations, and even today the tradition of displaying dolls to celebrate the birth of children remains strong. The city of Yame celebrates this traditional industry during the Bonbori Doll festival, held every year in March.
The paper made in Yame is made from mulberry bushes that are tended to by hand, chosen especially for their long fibers. Layer upon layer of pulped stalks are washed, folded on top of one another, and allowed to dry. Extreme care goes into the cleaning process to ensure that the paper is blemish free. The finished article resembles satin more than paper; silky smooth, yet strong and supple. This paper has been used in dozens of hand crafted goods for centuries, everything from kites to sliding paper doors. With a little time and effort, it is possible to even make handbags and many other unique accessories. Workshops for visitors are held at the Yame Cultural and Traditional Crafts Museum, and participants can experience this traditional art with the expert guidance of a master craftsman- they even get to keep everything they make!
Yame has a proud tradition of paper making, stretching as far back as 1595, which began with a single Nichiren Buddhist priest. While traveling through the Yabe area as part of the Emperors retinue, he was struck by the abundance of fast flowing rivers and wild mulberry, and decided to stay and instruct the locals on the manufacturing process.
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