Beauty: Craftsmen

This display brings together some of the smaller items in the collection, which demonstrate the skills and techniques of Japanese craftsmen.  From skilfully painted porcelain and ceramic, to the inlays seen on the dress accessories and lacquer boxes, each piece demonstrates high levels of craftsmanship.

The unprecedented peace and prosperity of the Edo prompted an increase in artistic, cultural and social development. Japanese craftsmen (shokunin) worked in the flourishing towns and cities, which developed distinctive styles, such as those of Kyoto, Osaka and Edo (modern Tokyo).

The demand for crafted items was particularly high in large cities. Many skilled craftsmen gathered together to form neighbourhoods based on a particular trade. Kyobashi (a district of Edo) was one such community with areas named after the type of craftsmen who lived there, including Tatami-machi (Mat-maker’s village), and Minami Kaji-machi (South blacksmith’s village).

Urban craft guilds’ controlled trade within such towns and offered training. Apprentices could work for ten years under a master craftsman, learning and developing a high level of skill before starting to work on their own.

Despite their skill, craftsmen and artisans had a relatively low social standing – below farmers, but above merchants.

Discover the objects in more detail:

Front Left of Case

Back Left of Case

Front Centre of Case

Back Centre of Case

Front Right of Case

Back Right of Case