Over the past decade, Juxtapoz has spent much time in Japan, both in artistic research and on holiday, and of course, we have become obsessed with the long tradition of handmade art from locally known and internationally renowned Japanese artists. From fine art ceramics to everyday objects, Japanese artisans have the unique tradition of carefully crafted artwork that both has a function but also something wholly original in its craftsmanship. Through January 5, 2020, we are excited that Japan House in Los Angeles is hosting Japan 47 Artisans, an exhibition that explores the diversity of Japanese craft traditions through the eyes of contemporary designers. This show is one of the most extensive looks into a younger generation of Japanese artisans that we have seen in the United States. 

And of course, one of the features of the exhibition that we love is that Japan has itself 47 prefectures, all with their own unique craft traditions covered here. Each of Japan’s 47 prefectures has its own history, ecology, and regional flavor, leading to unique craft heritage across the nation, from the lacquerware of Iwate to the woodworking of Okayama. These artisanal forms evolved over centuries to be beautiful, useful, and sustainable – qualities essential to design practice today.

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To us, this is what makes Japan so unique. The work is eclectic! And that craft heritage is an inspiration to D&DEPARTMENT, a design studio founded by Kenmei Nagaoka that prizes “Long-Life Design” and focuses on presenting the design, products, customs, and identities of Japan’s 47 prefectures. Through “d47,” a hybrid museum, shop, and restaurant in Tokyo’s Shibuya district, and other initiatives across the nation, D&DEPARTMENT showcases the kaleidoscope of these prefectures, and the way contemporary designers engage with them.

From Japan House: "For the traveling exhibition JAPAN 47 ARTISANS, D&DEPARTMENT has curated works by 47 young artisans selected from each prefecture who bring a fresh twist to the traditional crafts of their hometown. Some are continuing a long family lineage – such as Maki Morisawa, a 4th-generation paper artisan (tosa washi) from Kochi Prefecture, who learned her techniques from her grandmother. Others are trying to innovate by demystifying their practice – like Iwate Prefecture’s Jun Tashiro, who wants to make lacquerware more fun and accessible for the public. All are bringing to life their craft heritage for today and tomorrow."