Every place in the world has things that you can find only there; food, drinks, dance, language, crafts and special traditions together with weather and people's race build the culture and history of such places.
In Kagoshima, the most popular food and drinks are shouchu, satsumaage, kurobuta, and green tea. How about Kagoshima's traditional crafts? Do you know what are Kagoshima's traditional craftwork? Perhaps you know the Satsuma-yaki pottery or the Satsuma cut glass, don't you? Well..., it is more than that; There are over 30 different kinds of craftworks in Kagoshima prefecture, which are chosen as Prefectural traditional craftworks. This time I will introduce some of the most representative traditional Kagoshima craftworks.

Satsuma Suzuki / Satsuma Tin Ware

Tin was discovered in Kagoshima City in 1655. Tin became big business of Kagoshima, at that time. It was very expensive metal, same as gold and silver. Tin wares were produced only for Shimadzu family, the lord of Satsuma (now Kagoshima). Once the production of tin ware was established, it spread to the local people. Before the World War 2, there were over 15 tin workshops in Kagoshima City. However, now only 2 shops have taken over the traditional tin wares in Kagoshima now. In general, the process to make tin ware is as follows; Heat and melt pure tin. Mold out the tin. Grind and polish the tin. Draw picture with lacquer, and put the tin in acid.
There are many tin wares like sake pots and cups, wine cups, tea leaf case, plates, flower vases. It's said that tin is effective to purify the water. Sake warmed in a tin pot is said to be especially delicious.

Asada Tin workshop has been taking over their tradition.
"Tin is good to the Earth. You can recycle tin many times"
Shinichiro Asada (the Second master) says "To become a tinwork professional, it takes at least 30 years! 10 years for casting, 10 years for shaving and 10 years for drawing. I have been producing tinwork over 30 years, but I am still in training."

Asada Tin Workshop (Mr.Asada):
Taenokuchi-cho, Kagoshima City
/ 099-222-2752

Satsuma Kiriko
/ Satsuma Cut glass

Crimson, dark blue, golden red, yellow, purple, green.... beautiful cut glass. It is said that Satsuma cut glass was influenced by Chinese and Europe cultures. The cut glass work started in Kagoshima under the direction of the lord of Satsuma in 1855. Although cut glass production stopped for a while, it started again in 1985.
Take Seihin
/ Bamboo Craftworks

Kagoshima is the home of bamboo. Kagoshima's bamboo area is the biggest in Japan. Many bamboo products have been produced here for a long time. There are many bamboo products like flower vases, Japanese tea tools, cooking tools, bags, etc.
/ Japanese Paper

It is said that the production of Japanese paper started earlier in Kagoshima than in other regions of Japan, because Kagoshima used to have a lot of trees. Kamou paper is known as high quality white paper which is usually used for ink calligraphy. Tsuruta paper has been used for paper bags of Japanese tea for a long time. The paper is light brown and difficult to burn.

Chiran Kasa Chochin / Chiran Umbrella Lantern

An umbrella shaped lantern is made of bamboo and Japanese paper. It started as a samurai's job about 150 years ago. At that time, only samurai were allowed to make umbrellas. It is said that Gosuke Tominaga got the idea of the umbrella lantern, while he was making an umbrella. The lantern was used as a lantern, an umbrella, and sometimes as a weapon at that time. It was used mainly by high class people. In the period around Taisho to the beginning of Showa, umbrella lanterns were made of thin silk with gorgeous paintings for interior decoration. These beautiful lanterns were exported to America as decorative pieces before the war. After the war started, the production of lanterns stopped for about 40 years, until the 4th Imao Tominaga restarted the tradition again. Now, he is the only producer of this beautiful traditional craft work. It looks simple to make, but there is many processes and needs very sensitive skills. Cut a bamboo into 32 equal part, and put it together after shaving each parts finely. Paste Japanese paper on an umbrella shaped bamboo top and bottom. Put two umbrellas together with Japanese paper and a lantern is formed. To produce beautiful work, you need to be patient and have accurate skill. When it is lit, the soft light through the Japanese paper shows you the beautiful harmony of bamboo lines and colorful Japanese paper. Not only popular in Japan, there are sometimes orders from abroad. Mr. Tominaga has become the last remaining artisan of this beautiful traditional craft.
Every process is all hand made by Mr. Tominaga, therefore he can produce only 1 lantern every 2 day. To purchase, one must place an order. He has order for up to a year in advance. (Lantern costs about 13,000 ~16.000 yen.)
"Fake umbrella lanterns made of plastic (not bamboo) are sold sometimes. So.. please look carefully"

Tominaga Kaguya Mingei (Mr. Imao Tominaga):
Koori, Chiran Town, Kagoshima
/ 0993-83-2058

Kawanabe Butsudan / Kawanabe Buddhist Altar

Kawanabe is located on the Southwest of Kagoshima City. This place was well linked with Buddhism in ancient times. Therefore some Buddha were carved on the rock or mountains, and Buddhist calligraphy are left in Kawanabe Town. At those times, religious people used to produce many Buddhist things, and this was transferred to their descendants. That's why there are many factories of Buddhist altars in the town nowadays. The altars are all hand made and made in 7 steps (making wood material, making central palace, carving, metal works, gold lacquer, paintings, assembly).
Satsuma-yaki / Satsuma Pottery

Satsuma-pottery is one of the most well-known of Kagoshima's traditional craftwork nowadays. It has over 400 year history, and It was created by Korean potters who were brought to Kagoshima by Shimadzu, the Lord of Satsuma. They created and spread around Kagoshima prefecture an original satsuma pottery for the Lord. There are 2 types of satsuma pottery: White and Black satsuma.
Yakusugi Seihin / Yaku Cedar Craftwork

Yakushima island is one of the World's cultural and Natural heritage site. There are beautiful sceneries and mountains over 1000m where you can find the yaku cedar which are more than 1000 years old, usually called "Yakusugi". Yakusugi is known as high quality wood in Japan. There are many yaku cedar products like tables, shelves, alcove posts, flower vases, tea saucers, plates, etc.

Tai Kuruma / Seabream Shaped Toy Koubako / Incense Box Hatsu Tsuzumi / Paper Drum Toy

Chosa Clay DollSeabream shaped toys and incense boxes are toys related to the god, for which Kagoshima Shrine in Hayato Town was dedicated. There is a legend; One day, the god went fishing in the sea, but he lost a fishhook. Then he went to the underwater palace to look for it, and find a seabream fish with a hook. He helped the fish and took off the hook. This seabream fish is the model of the toy.
Paper drum toy is usually used for the Hatsuumasai festival in Hayato town. This is the traditional festival to celebrate the good condition of cows and horses. At the festival, there is a parade with decorated horses holding paper drums. The drum toy is the model of the drum. It is made of bamboo, Japanese paper and beans. The paper drum toy is called as "pon-pachi" in Kagoshima. You can buy them at Kagoshima Shrine, Hayato Town.

Koubou MIYAJI (Ms. Yuriko Hanami):
Uchiyamada Hanato Town, Kagoshima

Oshima Tsumugi / Oshima Silk Pongee Fabric

Oshima tsumugi silk is known as one of the famous textiles in Japan. It is the oldest dyed fabric with a tradition of more than 1300 years. It is said that it was brought from China via Okinawa, and it has been produced primarily on Amami Oshima island. This silk is very light and doesn't crumple easily; the deep blue-black color comes out by a special method of "mud dying," and the beautiful patterns are hand-woven. Making the Oshima pongee is a quite delicate and complicated process. 1) Making the thread for splashing spot: Cotton threads are used for warp and silk threads for woof. Cotton threads prevent dyestuff from penetrating the silk threads. 2) Dyeing: rub in the solution of Sharinbai tree fifty to sisxty times, then knead in the muddy rice field four or five times to oxidize the threads in order to give them a beautiful black color. 3) Weaving: Skilled workers weave the threads. They check the cross warps and woofs carefully, every 7~8 cm and adjust these by using needles. It takes more than 40 days to complete 1 tan (12m x 32cm in length) As it is a very delicate process, Oshima pongee kimonos are expensive. There are many products like kimono, tie, bags, tapestries and clothes.
Tane hasami / Scissors

The scissors were introduced by a Chinese blacksmith who was on the ship, when the Portuguese introduced guns to Japan in 1543. The first landing place in Japan was Tanegashima island.

Chousa Tarumizu Ningyo / Clay Doll

The doll is made in a mold, fired and colored. It is a simple but unique doll. It follows a tradition of more than 400 years. It is said that it was originally created by Korean potters. There were about 40 producers of Chosa clay dolls before, but only one person has taken over the tradition now.

* Cooperaqted by : Kagoshima prefectural Tourism Federation, Mr. Asada, Mr. Tominaga and Ms. Hanami
Update Newsletter - No. 150 / March 2003-