By Jerome Lee
Tradition and craftsmanship have long been a part of the history of Sabae City in Fukui Prefecture. The combination of unique, high quality local materials with processes that have been fine-tuned through generations of labor create the perfect conditions for the creation of the highest quality Japanese traditional crafts.
RENEW is a city-wide collaboration that brings together craftsman and exhibitors throughout the area to display, demonstrate and sell their handiwork to locals and tourists from all over the world. The two-day annual event started in 2015 and was created as a way to draw tourism to Sabae City. Though the event itself is newly organized, the products and vendors who participate are incredibly experienced and well-known throughout Japan for the high quality of their traditional crafts.
RENEW is incredibly accessible for visitors. The Urushi Community Center at the heart of RENEW should be your first and last stop of the day. The center provides written materials such as walking maps and has a convenient location where each of the vendor crafts is on display in an outdoor demonstration area. Within the center is a cafe/restaurant, and a traditional crafts store with wide variety of selections from local vendors. There are also multiple traditional craft workshops connected to the building where visitors can enter and view live demonstrations of specialists at work on their crafts. This can include numerous traditional crafts such as wood carving, lacquering, painting, and more. Near the main entrance bicycles are available for rental for only 500 JPY - this is an excellent way to get around the area if you plan on several locations throughout the day.
After spending some time at the visitors center and viewing the demonstrations of the local crafts it's time to set out on Sabae City with your walking map. This is where the adventure starts as RENEW is an event that encourages visitors to set out on the town and visit each of the participating member stores. Each store is clearly marked on the walking map and has large signs in front of their locations with RENEW branding. Each store is designed specifically for the RENEW event during these two days and there are often special promotions, demonstrations and craft activities available in many of the locations. If you are looking for a time to find a large variety of traditional crafts in one place and at competitive prices, this event ranks highly as one of Japan's absolute best.
Below are a few of the locations I had the chance to visit on my recent trip:
Shitsurindo - website
Famous for high quality lacquerware sold all across Japan. Modern styles include bright colors and multi-tone variations while hundreds of traditional displays are available for custom made orders.
Hacoa - website
Specialized in wood crafts, Hacao crafts can also be found across Japan. Perfect for gifts, common items include everything from business cases to clocks. The crafts come in a variety of colors and textures as the wood used is sourced from a range of local trees.
Nakano Tomoaki - website
Specializing in a wide variety of lacquerware as well as spoons and chopsticks, the designs here are high end. Many of the pieces are designed to fit within each other to save space and create an elegant artwork when not in use.
Rokurosha - website
Wood turning is a craft focused on re-using and re-purposing wood from the surrounding areas. The main products is the Timber Pot, made of local Fukui cedar trees.
Tsuchinao - website
One of the larger factories in the area, Tsuchinao does everything from lacquerware, to chopsticks, to novelty souvenirs such as smart phone covers. One of the popular items is the Urushi tumbler mugs that come in a wide variety of designs.
Tsugi - website
Tsugi specializes in jewlry selections including earrings, necklaces and rings. The product is made from acetate, the same material used in making the local glasses frames.
Korindo - website
Korindo has an interesting mix of products as well as the standard chopsticks and lacquerware. Unique items include finely painted pin badges in range of colors and shapes and Japanese wine and sake glasses made from high quality lacquer and glass.
This year the event was held on October 15th and 16th and will be held in October each year. The event runs from 10:00am to 5:00pm both days with a Saturday evening event held back at the Urushi Community Center starting from around 6:00pm til late. This is a great chance to speak directly with the local craftsmen and have a few of the local food and drink selections including local nihonshu varieties.
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