Enjoy traditional Japanese craft art

This three day deep-dive into the regional traditional crafts of “Mitsuboshi Kaidou” Three-star Road is perfect for art and history lovers alike. Start in the "City of Folk Art", Kanazawa, and make your way through the scenic mountain towns of Toyama and Gifu prefectures, learning about local crafts such as woodcarving and washi papermaking. Conclude your journey in Matsumoto where you can explore an old merchant district that is now a hot spot for folk art shops. As you travel, enjoy many opportunities to meet real master artisans at work, hands-on experiences making traditional crafts, and shop for beautiful and unique handcrafted items that will forever hold your memories of your visit to Japan.                                                                                   Kanazawa is conveniently accessed from Tokyo or Osaka/Kyoto by train. From Tokyo, take the Hokuriku Shinkansen Line, which takes about 3 hours. From Osaka/Kyoto, take the Thunderbird Limited Express train, which takes about 2 hours and 20 minutes. Matsumoto is also easily accessible from Tokyo, taking about 3 hours using the JR Limited Express Azusa train.

  • START

    Kanazawa Station

    25min
  • 1

    Kutani Ware Kutani Kosen Kiln

    A Hands-on Experience with Kutani Ware Ceramics

    Kutani Ware Kutani Kosen Kiln

    Kutani Ware is the type of porcelain first created in the Kaga region of which Kanazawa was once the capital. This kiln is the only kiln remaining in Kanazawa city and provides a unique experience in making this beautiful and delicate ceramic. Master Koichiro Toshioka or one of his skilled craftspeople will guide you in a one hour lesson at the potter's wheel, creating items like tea cups, bowls, or vases, depending on your level of skill. Although traditional Kutani ware was produced in a variety of colors and sometimes included gold leaf, this experience allows you to create the a simple and elegant form of the ceramic with several choices of glazes, which will be applied before firing. You'll be able to choose one of the items you created to be fired and sent directly to your home about four months later, the perfect way to remember your visit Kanazawa.

    Detail
    30min
  • 2

    Imai Kinpaku(Gold leaf) Main Shop

    Make your own gold leaf covered ice cream

    Imai Kinpaku(Gold leaf)  Main Shop

    Imai Kinpaku is a shop selling gold leaf and crafts made using gold leaf. The vast majority of gold leaf in Japan is produced in Kanazawa thanks to centuries of experience in the craft and Japan's best climate for gold-leaf production. Gold leaf produced in Kanazawa is hammered to a mind-bending 1/10,000 of a millimeter in thickness, thin enough that light can be seen through it. Although long ago it was commonly used to decorate temples, shrines, and kimono, gold leaf is now used in combination with modern products such as cosmetics. One of the most unique uses for gold leaf in modern day Kanazawa is as a decoration for food. At Imai Kinpaku, you can learn how to drape a sheet of gold leaf over a soft-serve ice cream before consuming your self-made treat. There are also workshops to experience using gold leaf to decorate take-home souvenirs such as eco-bags and tumblers.

    Detail
    20min
  • 3

    Kaga Yuzen Kimono Center

    Learn and experience the exquisite dyeing technique used to make kimono

    Kaga Yuzen Kimono Center

    Kaga-Yuzen is a style of silk dyeing that was developed in Kanazawa. While yuzen dyeing is not unique to Kanazawa, the Kaga-Yuzen style developed characteristics making it unique from the artisans residing in Kyoto or Edo (old Tokyo) where yuzen dyeing was also popular. The Kaga-Yuzen style is characterized by realistic image tones and the use of gradation techniques that give the dyed images more depth. Look carefully at the subject matter and you may find other realistic details, such as plant leaves that have been nibbled by insects. The Kaga-Yuzen Kimono Center displays the work of many of the prominent artisans of the craft, with beautiful kimono and other objects dyed by both traditional and modern masters. Simple hand dyeing and stenciling workshops are available for visitors from 5 years old and over. In an hour or less, learn the dyeing process and make a handkerchief or tote bag to take home with you.

    Detail
    20min
  • GOAL

    Higasi Chaya District

    Discover unique Craft Shops among the tea houses

    Higasi Chaya District

    The historical Higashi Chaya District of Kanazawa may have been formerly known for being a district lined with geisha houses used to entertain members of samurai families and wealthy merchants. Today, some of these geisha teahouses still exist; in fact, in this area alone there are more than a dozen active geisha performing traditional arts. In addition, many of these elegant buildings have been repurposed as restaurants, cafes, and shops. With their trademark latticework obscuring what lies within, exploring Higashi Chaya can be a treasure hunt of sorts as you discover unique shops selling goods using the techniques of the many Kanazawa traditional crafts. With an eclectic mix of new and old, you're sure to find something you love as you discover the secrets of Higashi Chaya.

    Detail
  • START

    Kanazawa Station

    45min
  • 1

    Inami Sculpture

    Incredibly detailed wood carving techniques carried on by generations of local artisans

    Inami Sculpture

    The small town of Inami was founded in 1390, when the town's main temple, Zuisenji was first built. The town grew up around the temple and became known for woodcarving artisans who created intricate decorations for temples, such as statues and ranma, the panel between the ceiling and the sliding shoji screen doors used to separate rooms in Japanese architecture. Inami woodcarving is characterized by its three dimensional designs carved from a single slab of wood rather than several layers carved individually and assembled later. The complexity of this craft requires master artisans like Mitsuo Nomura of Nomura Seiho Workshop to make use of over 300 types of chisels of all shapes and sizes. Nomura is the second generation artisan of his family carrying on the family tradition of this difficult trade and mentoring young apprentices who come to work with him. Visit the old Yokamachi Street to watch the master artisans or their apprentices at work and witness the tremendous skill and attention to detail required to create these masterpieces of wooden sculpture. In addition to being home to several woodcarving artisans, the Yokamachi Street has various shops, restaurants, and places to stay the night like the bed & breakfast local chain Bed and Craft, visitors who stay of Bed and Craft can try out being an apprentice woodcarver for a few hours. For fun, try to spot all of the over 20 wood-carved cats hidden in places up and down the street.

    Detail
    30min
  • 2

    World Heritage Ainokura Gassho-style Village

    The peaceful life in a thatched roof village

    World Heritage  Ainokura Gassho-style Village

    Ainokura provides an intimate look at the unique, traditional Japanese architecture of gassho-style thatched roof houses and the lifestyles of the village residents. Set against the backdrop of the Japan Alps, the scenery of Ainokura looks as if it could have been plucked from another century long past. Besides the residents who are still inhabiting several of the traditional houses, there are museums, restaurants, and souvenir shops built in the same gassho-zukuri thatched roof style. Those who wish to experience life in a traditional mountain village can book an inn to spend the night (reservations required in advance).

    Detail
    20min
  • 3

    Gokayama Washi no Sato(Road station TAIRA)

    Make your own handmade paper and shop for a huge variety of washi paper products

    Gokayama Washi no Sato(Road station TAIRA)

    Gokayama washi is a handmade paper from Toyama Prefecture prized for its beauty and durability. It uses fibers of the mulberry plant mixed with a viscous extract from the Tororo Aoi, a type of hibiscus plant. Gokayama washi is one of the products designated as a National Important Traditional Craft of Japan. At the Gokayama Washi no Sato, choose from a huge variety of washi products including stationery, jewelry, and wall hangings. When you are done browsing their immense selection, take part in a washi-making workshop where you will be instructed in making your own set of washi postcards that you can take home with you. A staff member will guide you through the latter part of the washi making process, including scooping and straining the fibers, adding decorative elements and drying. To learn the full process of making Gokayama washi, there is an informative 10-minute video in English to watch.

    Detail
    80min
  • GOAL

    TOKYU STAY Hida-Takayama Musubi no Yu

    Tradition Meets Modernity: Hida Craft & Luxurious Accommodations

    TOKYU STAY Hida-Takayama Musubi no Yu

    The modern Tokyu Stay Hida-Takayama Musubi no Yu opened in April 2020 and is conveniently located adjacent to JR Takayama Station. The hotel provides all the amenities you would desire in a comfortable accommodation including onsen hot spring baths, top floor lounge, and a footbath area. But what makes this hotel a real standout is its use of Hida traditional crafts to connect visitors to the culture of the region. The hotel collaborated with local woodcrafters to furnish each guest room, and the Hida craft influence can be found in all the small details from the embroidery artwork to the washi paper used for the hotel guidebook. Even room number plaques are created using Hida Shunkei lacquering, one of the region's original crafts. Each of the nine floors features lounge spaces highlighting a specific traditional Hida craft, including carpentry, leatherwork, and ceramics, making it easy for guests to learn about and interact with the exhibits.

    Detail
  • START

    TOKYU STAY Hida-Takayama Musubi no Yu

    5min
  • 1

    Takayama Jinya

    Tour the only Edo Period magistrate's office remaining in Japan

    Takayama Jinya

    Takayama is the only city remaining in Japan that has preserved the main building of its Jinya where governing duties of the Tokugawa Shogunate were carried out by his magistrates. Takayama Jinya is an office used by the Tokugawa Shogunate during the Edo Period to govern the Hida region. The building and its history tell the story of the relationship between the shogunate and the people it ruled over. You can see how taxes were collected in the form of rice harvests and how criminals were dealt with using torture. If you have any interest in the everyday life of Japanese people during the era of the samurai in Japan, Takayama Jinya is a unique opportunity that cannot be missed.

    Detail
    10min
  • 2

    Old Town (Kamisanomachi & Shimonomachi)

    Dive into Takayama history in this well-preserved district of the city

    Old Town (Kamisanomachi & Shimonomachi)

    This large section of Takayama consists of well-preserved houses and businesses, some dating back to the Edo Period hundreds of years ago. Takayama's heyday as a merchant town is evident in the many elegant buildings that were former merchant homes and businesses. Today, some of these businesses continue to exist, including sake breweries, which produces one of Takayama's famous local products. Strolling the pictureque streets affords visitors the opportunity to explore the many shops that sell handmade arts and crafts, representing the finest of Hida woodworking and lacquerware craftsmanship. Twice a year, in April and October, the area hosts Takayama Matsuri, considered one of Japan's three most beautiful festivals. Huge, beautifully decorated floats called yatai are paraded down the streets during the festival, but if you miss out, you can still see some of the floats on display in the Takayama Matsuri Festival Floats Exhibition Hall, located within the tranquil grounds of Sakura Hachimangu Shrine.

    Detail
    120min
  • 3

    Matsumoto Mingei Furniture

    Matsumoto Mingei Furniture

    1.The largest showroom of Matsumoto folk art furnishings in the city “Matsumoto Kagu "(folk craft furniture) has a history of over 300 years, but nearly died out in the years leading up to WW2. The hallmarks of the furniture are the selection and preparation of the wood used each piece and the use of kumite-tsugite, a wood joinery technique that requires no nails. Matsumoto furniture today appears surprisingly western in style, by the work of Western craftsmen with a deep history of Western furniture. The Windsor chair is an iconic piece of Matsumoto furniture, but modern artisans create everything from chests of drawers to headboards to rocking chairs. Chuo Mingei Showroom is one of the largest showrooms of this local craft in Matsumoto, located right in the middle of the historical Nakamachi Street. Take your time seeing and touching these modern masterpieces of woodcraft and learn about their long history.                                                         2.Take a break in a cafe decorated in Matsumoto folk furniture, "Kissashitsu Yatoroonkan" is the cafe of the Matsumoto Hotel Kagetsu, exquisitely furnished (along with the hotel lobby) with lovely examples of Matsumoto Mingei furniture. Enjoy a light meal here, such as soup curry to warm you up on a brisk day, along with a cup of the cafe's famous hand-drip coffee. A relaxing meal is a wonderful way to experience the luxury of Matsumoto Mingei furniture.                                                                                      3.A charming shop selling folk furniture and local handcrafted goods "Grain Note" has a selection of modern Matsumoto Mingei furniture on its second floor. The lower floor is dedicated to a variety of beautiful handmade crafts from local artists. Take your time browsing the selection of ceramic, wood, and glass products and see what catches your eye.                                                                                       4." Chikiriya Craftt Shop " is housed in an old whitewashed storehouse on Nakamachi Street. It is packed full of handmade crafts, mainly ceramics of all types and styles. It's the perfect location to shop for for gifts to take home including sake sets, plates, and vases.

    Detail
    3min
  • 4

    Nakamachi Street

    This former merchant district has found new life through folk crafts and restaurants

    Nakamachi Street

    Nakamachi Street ran through the center of Matsumoto when it was a castle town, along an important route connecting Zenkoji Temple in Nagano city with Nagoya and Kyoto. It was the main business district of the town where merchants dealing in local goods such as sake and kimono set up shop. Many of the surviving whitewashed buildings are kura storehouses, built with thick clay walls and ceramic tile roofs that protected them from being destroyed by fire. Today's Nakamachi Street is a renovated area popular with merchants selling folk arts and crafts, trendy cafes, and lively restaurants. Like the Nakamachi Street of old, it bustles with the energy of excited shoppers and those out exploring the city. Take your time window shopping and browsing inside the many unique shops of this area, where you can find small and reasonably priced souvenirs of your visit to Matsumoto.

    Detail
    10min
  • 5

    Matsumoto Castle, National Treasure of Japan

    One of Japan's most iconic and photogenic castles any time of year.

    Matsumoto Castle, National Treasure of Japan

    Matsumoto Castle is the oldest castle of its size remaining in Japan and a designated National Treasure of Japan. Current structures date back to 1594, including the six story main keep that stands watch over Matsumoto city as it did over 400 years ago. The contrast between its black and white exterior is beautiful, and it has a very elegant appearance with the Northern Alps in the background. ”No visit to Matsumoto is complete without a visit to the castle grounds, with its reflection on its inner moat and if you time it right, seasonal foliage like cherry blossoms or maple tree leaves, or an illuminated snowy visage in the winter.

    Detail
    20min
  • GOAL

    Matsumoto Station

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