In Nagasaki Prefecture, traditional craft techniques have been passed down through the generations since long ago. On the doorstep of the Asian continent, Nagasaki has a history and culture that has flourished through interaction and exchange with overseas countries, and the prefecture’s traditional crafts, which intertwine with the social climate and spiritual features of the region have thus been honed to perfection.
Pottery of Nagasaki
Mikawachi-yaki and Hasami-yaki ceramics are traditional crafts that have been made in the area for 400 years.
Due to their unparalleled design, Hasami-yaki wares have been the most coveted ceramics in Japan since the Edo period. During Japan’s period of national isolation, Japanese sake and soy sauce were exported to Europe in Hasami-yaki bottles.
Mikawachi-yaki ceramics were traditionally used to pay tribute to the Imperial Family and the Shogunate. Their elegant, elaborate design also made them popular in Europe, to where they were exported under the name “Hirado-yaki”, starting in the 19th century.
The autumn festival “Nagasaki Kunchi” has been held at Suwa Shrine since the Edo Period. The designs stitched into the festival attire are examples of Nagasaki Embroidery. Nagasaki Embroidery techniques originally made their way into Japan by way of Chinese people who had come to live in Nagasaki when it was opened to the outside world in the Edo Period. This superb embroidery is dazzling and lavish, showing exquisite handwork. Moving forward to the present day, in 2013 a great task was completed: at the Kunchi Festival, each district (machi) carries a large umbrella-like “kasaboko” as a marker, and for the first time in around 200 years, the curtains of Yorozuya-machi’s kasaboko, with a sakana zukushi fish design, were made anew. The individual who undertook this was Kase Teruta, who has been preserving and continuing the tradition of Nagasaki Embroidery all by himself. He completed the sakana zukushi project over a ten-year period. The red sea bream, spiny lobster, stonefish, and octopus, sewn and stuffed thickly with cotton, present a vibrant and magnificent beauty swimming under the skies of a day perfect for the Kunchi festival.
Counted as one of the three major clay dolls of Japan, these are the Koga Dolls. Their story began in 1592, affording them a history that spans over 400 years. The designs of the dolls are based on concepts such as the “Western Lady” and “Acha-San” (a nickname for Chinese people), portraying foreigners that resided in Nagasaki during the period of national isolation. The dolls are characterized by a bold use of colors and the distinct simplicity of the clay. In total there are about 90 different types of Koga Doll designs, which have been passed from generation to generation since the Edo period. No new designs have been created, meaning that the techniques that exist now have been carefully passed down. Today, there is only one artisan left who still makes these dolls. That person is Ogawa Kenichi, the 19th-generation descendant of the original maker. He carefully constructs each doll by hand from start to finish, from kneading the clay, to the firing and coloring of the dolls.
Sasebo Spinning Top
With its daintiness and exotic colors, this spinning top shaped like a Chinese onion is famous all around Japan. This top is said to have made its way via China to Nagasaki. The use of the colors blue (or green), red, yellow, white (or the natural wooden color of the top) and black are influenced by the Chinese theory of Yin-Yang and the five elements. At the tip of the top is a sharp point that has been hammered into the body. These tops are played with in groups of two or more so that participants enjoy smashing them together in top fights.
Nagasaki Handmade Blades
Nagasaki has a long history of blade-production. With the use of specially-selected materials, and high-quality water and blade clay, along with traditional techniques and diligent tempering, Nagasaki’s cutlery gains unprecentedly high ratings for its sharpness and tenacity. Cutlery products have varying characteristics between different regions. Famous cutlery products include Omura City’s Matsubara sickle and kitchen knife, the Kayaki kitchen knife from Kayaki-machi, Nagasaki City, and Shimabara City’s agricultural equipment.
The place where glassware was introduced: Nagasaki. Glasswork was introduced to Japan in 1542 by the Portuguese during the national isolation era. “Vidro”, originally from Portuguese, is used to mean “glassblowing” in Japanese. Furthermore, the Dutch word “diamant”, borrowed into Japanese as “giyaman”, is used to refer to the multifaceted cut glass, which is crafted using diamonds.
Nagasaki Kites and “Vidro Yoma”
A Hybrid Kite Mixing Eastern, Western & South Asian Elements
During Japan’s era of national isolation, kites were introduced from overseas via Dejima. Japanese traditional culture harmonized with overseas cultures to produce 200 different types of Nagasaki kite, which can be easily recognized as an art form. The basic inspiration for the kites is the tricolor flag of the Netherlands and signal flags used on ships, while the shape came from Indonesia. Japanese paper (washi) dyed with vibrant colors and other washi used as a foundation are pasted together to construct a Nagasaki kite. Even today, Nagasaki kites are flown from hills and fields with the onset of the spring wind.
Vidro Yoma is yoma (kite string) coated with powdered glass, which is used in kite battles to cut the opponent’s yoma. It is said that an international kite battle was once held in the sky over Dejima.
Goto Baramon Kite
Goto Baramon Kites are traditional crafts of Goto that celebrate children’s growth. Local people fly their baramon kites to pray for the healthy growth of their children.
Ondako (kite with a demon motif)
An Ondako is a huge kite with a demon motif. It is a traditional toy from Iki island that tells the legend of a hero who drove out demons from the island. This kite has been designated as a Traditional Craft of Nagasaki.
Goto Camellia Oil (Tsubaki Oil)
Camellia Oil has been used in Japan for centuries, for skincare and hair care, as well as for cooking. Goto Camellia Oil is obtained carefully by cold-pressing the seeds of the wild Camellia japonica flower, and is well-renowned for its excellent quality.
Nagasaki Prefecture is one of the foremost pearl-producing regions in Japan, and is especially renowned for the large size of its pearls. The Ninety-Nine Islands in Saikai National Park and Omura Bay are among the main production sites. Pearls are processed into various objects such as tiepins and earrings. At the Umikirara Aquarium in the Saikai Pearl Sea Resort, visitors can try pearl extraction for themselves, and take the pearl home as a gift.
Nagasaki Design Award
Traditional flavors inherited from the land, gifts born out of the rich history of Nagasaki, and new flavors that make use of natural ingredients; even in the packaging used for all of these things can be found ingenuity and unique designs that tickle the fancy of purchasers. There are many products found only in Nagasaki that you will want to buy for yourself or send to someone special. *All of these products are winners of the Nagasaki Design Award.
Original Bag (Kite Series)
The “Original Bag (Kite Series)” features a kite motif that is very much typical of Nagasaki.
Karasumi Pasta Oil
“Karasumi Pasta Oil” provides an easy-to-use taste of dried mullet roe, a luxurious delicacy.
Special Selection Castella Cake
“Special Selection Castella Cake” is the classic Nagasaki souvenir.
Mudenpun Goto Maki
Made without using starch, the “Mudenpun Goto Maki” (Starch-Free Goto Roll) is a kamaboko (fishpaste cake) product.
Mini Shoyu (Soy Sauce) Flask
The “Mini Shoyu (Soy Sauce) Flask” is both beautiful and easy-to-use.
Foliage Bisque range
The “Foliage Bisque” range: a set of modern tableware that makes the most of traditional Hasami Pottery techniques.
“PosTea”: Japanese tea, packaged and ready to mail as a gift - just stick on a stamp!
Yamaneko no Nikukyu
“Yamaneko no Nikukyu” (The Mountain Cat’s Paw) is a lovely confection made from candied scarlet runner beans.
The “BARAMON” range of products features charming designs characteristic of the Goto Archipelago.
The “Lily Series” brings flowers to the dinner table.
Original Knitted Fabric
Charming forest-like patterns adorn the ”Original Knitted Fabric: Fleece-Lined Forest”.
Baby clothes that are safe, comfortable and easy on the skin: “Underclothes for Newborns made with 100% Organic Cotton”.
PRESENT BOX Chopstick Rests
“PRESENT BOX Chopstick Rests”: A trompe l’oeil style captures the eye.
“Chiyori” - bite-sized versions of the traditional Chinese snack, Yoriyori (mahuar in Chinese).
Okita no Nameraka Wa Jam
Monaka wafer cakes and a jam-like sweet bean paste come together in a set called “Okita no Nameraka Wa Jam”.
Japanese ceramic art meets with Western jewelry. A beautiful example of Nagasaki culture.