Artisans of Nara: Nara Uchiwa

Tadashi Ikeda, one of the last Nara Uchiwa craftsmen, shares his thoughts about the local craft revival and what makes Nara a special place to visit.

  • Paintings and woodblock prints depicting beautiful geisha holding uchiwa (Japanese fans) go back centuries, and the uchiwa created by Nara craftsmen are known specifically for embodying both beauty and practicality. Typically with fans you get only one of these two elements, but Nara uchiwa evolved from pure functionality to incorporate elaborate design and details, and became its own form of the craft.

    Artisans of Nara: Nara Uchiwa

    Artisans of Nara: Nara Uchiwa

    We met with sixth generation Nara uchiwa craftsman Tadashi Ikeda who, at only twenty-five years old, is part of a local revival of craftsmanship seeking to preserve these methods. In fact, there are only two Nara uchiwa craftsmen left in Japan, and the other happens to be Tadashi’s mother. Their shop, Ikeda Gankoudo, opened over 150 years ago and uses dyed washi paper, which is then hand-cut with intricate designs.

    Artisans of Nara: Nara Uchiwa

    Artisans of Nara: Nara Uchiwa

    Many craftsmen in Japan can be quite stubborn, and have the attitude that creating something beautiful in itself will attract customers, so there’s no need to promote their work. Being young, Tadashi is taking the opposite approach. He’s doing events and workshops, and spreading his family’s methods to others to show what real, not mass-produced uchiwa are supposed to be.

    Like much of his generation, Tadashi is much more open to tourists from abroad, and eager to share his craft with them. Still, he recognises that it’s a challenge to gain recognition with overseas people about the Nara area. In his opinion, if they focus too much on tourism, such as changing street signs to English, they will become the ‘second Kyoto’ and lose the ambiance that makes Nara special.

    Artisans of Nara: Nara Uchiwa

    Artisans of Nara: Nara Uchiwa

    Still, with Nara being less touched by tourism so far, there are beautiful and unique locations all over the Prefecture. During the spring, Tadashi recommends the sakura along the Sahogawa River, and driving up Mount Wakakusa for beautiful nighttime views of the city.

    Ileda Ganko-do
    rating

    4.0

    3 Reviews
    place
    Nara Pref. Narashi Tsunofurichou 16
    phone
    0742223690
    opening-hour
    9:00-19:00

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