Shinetsu Shizenkyo region offers a variety of cultural experiences; traditional and contemporary. After engaging in active outdoor activities, why not unwind and enjoy some quiet creativity time while making a souvenir of your trip to Japan?
Decreed as "traditional craft heritage" by the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, Iiyama's traditional Buddhist Altar Crafts (Metal Engraving and "Makie" Golden Decorative Lacquering) boast a long 300 year history and features golden decorative lacquer, finished off with abundant gold plate and dust.
Why not create your own accessories and design plates using these techniques?
Pendant heads, bookmarks and design plates can be made in the traditional metal engraving style. It begins by carving a design onto a copper plate with a tool called "tagane". While carving straight lines requires mastery, the beauty of the tagane is that a stamping motion creates intricate texture, and you can create a variety of designs. The activity takes 1.5-2 hrs, and another 2-3hrs for your work to be finished by a professional craftsman.
Golden decorative lacquer involves painting lacquer designs onto a plate or cup, allowing it to dry, and finishing it with gold gust. Come with some design ideas in mind for a smooth experience. The activity requires 1hr.
Clay Doll making is a traditional craft developed across many regions in Japan. The excellent quality clay found in Nakano City lends itself to a long-upheld tradition of making dolls to wish for the healthy growth, avoidance of maladies and safety of children. Baked clay dolls are first covered in Gofun ‒ a powder made from ground, baked seashells; and decorated and coloured by ochre pigments. There are two types of dolls produced in Nakano: Nakano dolls and Tategahana dolls. Nakano dolls are small and mainly depict cute children figures, while Tategahana dolls are rather large and colorful, modeled after Kabuki figures or historical heroes. The activity entails choosing and decorating a baked doll figure ‒ which include more contemporary designs such as puppies and rabbits. The activity time ranges between 0.5-2hrs depending on the type of doll you choose.
Since the Edo period, Kijimadaira Village and Iiyama City area have carried on the traditional craft of making the famously tough and durable Uchiyama-gami paper. The "Yukisarashi" technique is what truly sets this region's paper apart ‒ the paper's characteristic whiteness is created by exposing the raw material to snow-magnified sunlight, and does not use any bleaching agent. Paper-making was a popular side-business for farmers during the long, snow-covered winter months when farming was impossible; however the number of paper makers has drastically decreased since the 1960s. Today there are only a few places carrying on this craft, but you can still experience paper-making in Kijimadaira Village and Iiyama City. Create original bookmarks, postcards, or uchiwa (round unfoldable fans) by artfully arranging coloured paper, pressed flowers and leaves of your choice to the paper in its creation process. Activity time: 1-1.5 hrs.
The specialty of the Shinetsu Shizenkyo area, Soba comes in many forms across the region. Names can change according to species, location of cultivation and cooking method. Many localities offer their distinct brand of the Soba-making experience. Of course you get to eat the fruits of your labour - which you are sure to agree will be the best-tasting soba you have ever eaten! 2hrs approximately for both Soba-making and consumption.
Collected through an open invitation, Sakaemura International Etegami Time Capsule Museum displays approximately 1 million "etegami" picture letters from all over Japan and overseas. On the ground floor, installations display daily use objects from both the 20th Century Japanese and distinctive snow countries lifestyles. (closed in winter) The museum offers a chance to experience making an etegami. The light-hearted atmosphere welcomes everyone ‒ no previous drawing experience necessary. Why not encapsulate your Japan memories in a handmade souvenir? Activity takes approximately 1.5hrs.