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Japanese Folk Art & Design Books 1964

Text & photos: Joanna Kawecki


The Japanese Folk Art and Design Books series published in 1964-66 are an incredible capture of history of folk craft tools and traditional living in Japan — documenting tools, textiles and handmade goods all based on their functional use and the basis of food, clothing, shelter. Published by Tokyo-based publisher Keiyusha, the series includes 4 volumes (each at 174 pages hardcover book with a cardboard slipcase).

Volume 1 features items from the daily life of merchants in the Edo period. During the time of feudal Japan, merchants were regarded as the lowest social class, but since the turn of the 18th century they had soon become better off than the samurai. Volume 1 documents sign board design for pipe-makers, locksmiths and stone-cutters, to business instruments such as portable inkstand to everyday utensils such as folding spectacles or a cask for sake. Volume 2 highlights the life of farmers and their folk craft — which at the time, were all mostly made of wood, straw and bamboo. Volume 3 investigates folk implements that people in mountain and seaside villages used to support their lives. As many lived in isolation separated by valleys and shores, they relied on pure self-sufficiency, creating hamageta wooden shoes or a straw-woven backpack in Niigata, to hikinawa (ひきなわ) fishing hook used in Tokyo. Volume 4 focused on the folk crafts of Southeast Asia, utilsing materials mostly from vegetable fibres such as bark, hemp and cotton. In addition, highlighting the foundations of indigenous cultures such as the Oroke, Gilyak, Ainu and Korean peoples.

Joanna Kawecki
Tokyo-based Editor and Journalist specialising in design and architecture. She co-founded Ala Champ Magazine in 2009, and also leads Champ Creative, an international consultancy, editorial production and special projects studio in fashion, art and design.

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