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The rural beauty of the Echizen region

Echizen is the name of a region in Japan’s Fukui prefecture that is home to a wide range of traditional crafts. Centred around the city of Sabae, Echizen is famous for its production of washi paper, urushi lacquer ​, chef’s knives, woodwork and ceramics. Surrounded by tall mountains and far stretching rice fields, Echizen offers a glimpse of what the old Japan looked like. This idyllic setting hasn’t made Echizen lose touch with modern times. Due to the influx of young, entrepreneurial craftsmen and artists, Echizen boasts one of the most lively and innovative crafts scenes in Japan. Under the watchful eyes of skilled and experienced craftsmen, young people are encouraged to develop their skills whilst coming up with new ideas for traditional crafts to stay relevant in the lives of contemporary people.

Most of the Echizen lacquer is produced in the small town Kawada, where many small lacquer producing companies collaborate under the banner of the Echizen Lacquerware Cooperative. Companies are one man business or have staff up to 10 people. The Cooperative promotes collaboration by matching experienced craftsmen with young designers and promoting the new products in the Echizen Lacquer Community Centre. 

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The Echizen Lacquerware Centre exhibition space
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In 2015, the Echizen lacquerware community invited professor Arisumi Mitamura to the town to assist with their artistic development and to explore new markets. Several Japanese and international art students school graduates were holding regular design sessions with the local craftsmen, resulting in two new product ranges aimed at the European market: the Echizen Modern Classic and Echizen Metropolitan series. One of the first results of their collaboration – Washi Bowl- led to Echizen winning a design prize at the 2017 Tableware Festival in Tokyo.

Echizen is often visited by tourists with an interest in traditional crafts
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A design session with local craftsmen and Japanese and European designers