Can we get back to the good old days?
There are lots of answers. The first is that the trend for handmade furniture was first developed in Japan and is spread abroad. The second has to do with the fact that today’s cheap, mass-produced pieces are much more common than they would have been in the late 20th century. The difference between a cheap piece of furniture and a beautiful piece is not significant, and, by contrast, a piece of art is often more costly. Also, most furniture is not made for a specific purpose — they are made because one wants to give a particular piece of furniture a certain look, to impress at a particular event. So even though you might see different styles, colors, textures or sizes of handmade furniture on sale, it’s not really a “made” item because it doesn’t have an end in and of itself.
So if you want a piece of furniture that truly represents your individuality, it’s hard to find. What’s more, since the consumer is in charge of the selection of items he or she buys and therefore the selection of who he or she will see in the future, it’s not always a good idea to buy handmade furniture. You can get a lot more pleasure from buying handmade clothing, or even vintage appliances and pieces in great condition instead.
Are there other crafts that are becoming popular in Japan?
People love to make stuff on their own, especially if they are working in an urban environment. A small business like a flower vendor or a butcher sells everything they can use for their family and does not even consider the market for customizing products. A very important part of that is the artisan who creates, cuts or modifies what is in the market for what he or she wants to be. So there might be a lot of people in Japan who still like to make things for themselves — people who may not even know any other crafts.
Are there more people who work in these arts and crafts industry?
The Japanese government spends a lot of money on building and maintaining these new industrial parks. It’s all very good, but there is still room for improvement. Because of that there are not enough spaces to accommodate all the arts and crafts shops, but there is also a need for a lot of new workshops, and there are still a lot of people left over from before who want to help out.
So it’s a difficult job, but there are people working in these fields, even in the corporate world.