Kyoto Crafts

An artist inlays a pattern on a box at the Kyoto Handicraft Center

As the capital and the seat of the Imperial Court for over 1000 years, Kyoto has set the quality standard for Japanese arts and crafts. Members of the Imperial Court were particularly influential patrons and practitioners of the arts, and their influence resulted in the development of many popular art forms. The city remains the most important center of traditional Japanese crafts today.

Pottery is a common craft throughout Japan and one of Kyoto's most popular specialties. Of the different styles of Kyoto pottery (kyo-yaki), Kiyomizu pottery is the most famous. This ceramic ware and porcelain is hand painted with elaborate designs and often used in the tea ceremony. Kiyomizu pottery is named after the area around Kiyomizudera Temple, where it was first developed. It is still widely available for purchase in stores around Kiyomizudera.

Kyoto's kimono are also regarded to be among Japan's finest specimen. Two methods of kimono manufacturing native to Kyoto are silk weaving (nishijin-ori) and silk dyeing (kyo-yuzen). The silk weaving method was developed as a result of demand from the Imperial Court for beautiful fabrics and elegant clothing and involves dyeing the yarn before weaving it into patterns and images on fabrics. In the silk dyeing method, the images and patterns are dyed after the fabric has been produced.

The first evidence of Japanese dolls dates from the Jomon Period. However, Kyoto dolls (kyo-ningyo) became popular during the Heian Period, when they were thought to bring luck and health to children. Gradually, the dolls became popular with daughters of aristocrats in the Imperial Court and the craft was further developed. Kyoto dolls are still one of the more popular Kyoto specialties.

Folding fans (kyo-sensu), decorated with beautiful pictures, were a status symbol in the Imperial Court. They were carried by both men and women and used according to a strict code of decorum. Folding fans from Kyoto are regarded as the country's highest quality fans.

Lacquer ware is another hallmark craft of Japan, and the Kyoto variety, kyo-shikki, is especially popular. Lacquer ware originated in the Nara Period, but it only became widespread about 500 years later. Kyoto lacquer ware has been frequently used in tea ceremonies.

Home to the Emperor for over 1000 years, Kyoto often hosted elaborate shinto ceremonies and festivities. Specialized Shinto objects, such as masks, crowns and instruments were developed for these events, some of which can be seen in Kyoto's many shrines. The city remains Japan's main producer of Shinto objects today.

Nishijin Textile Center Kimono fashion show

Other Kyoto crafts include ukiyo-e (woodblock prints), Japanese umbrellas (wagasa), various crafts and tools made of bamboo, and washi paper, a thick type of paper used for origami, ukiyo-e prints and many other purposes.

Kyoto has dozens of facilities catering to the sale, creation and teaching of various handicrafts. Buyers seeking original, handmade pieces can trust store owners' advice; owners and facility managers are honest about the quality and price of their products. Besides the usual craft and souvenir shops, many Kyoto craft specialists also offer programs, allowing guests to try producing their own crafts.

Kyoto Craft Centers:

Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts (Fureaikan)
Hours: 9:00 to 17:00 (entry until 16:30)
Closed: A few days in mid August and over New Year
Admission: Free
The Fureaikan, located in the Miyako Messe convention hall, provides beautiful displays and multilingual explanations on nearly every Kyoto craft. If also offers workshops and classes.
Nishijin Textile Center
Hours: 9:00 to 17:00
Closed: No closing days
Admission: Free
Nishijin Textile Center, named after the city district and local kimono weaving technique, offers interesting displays on kimono, and a kimono show is held several times a day. Last but not least, there is a large shopping section.
Kyoto Handicraft Center
Hours: daily 10:00 to 18:00
Closed: No closing days
Admission: Free
The Kyoto Handicraft Center is a store with seven floors of crafts ranging from key chains to hand painted fans and swords. Visitors can watch artisans create various crafts and participate in workshops and classes.

Get There and Around

Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts (Fureaikan) and Kyoto Handicraft Center:

The Fureaikan and Kyoto Handicraft Center stand close to one another and can easily be combined. Fureaikan is located just south of Heian Shrine, while the Handicraft Center is just to the north of it.

By bus from Kyoto Station, Kyoto City Bus numbers 5 and 100 take passengers to Kyotokaikan Bijutsukan-mae bus stop (about 25 minutes, 230 yen).

Both facilities can also be accessed in about ten minutes on foot from Keihan Marutamachi Station on the Keihan Railway Line or Higashiyama Station on the Tozai Subway Line.

Nishijin Textile Center:

Take the Karasuma Subway Line from Kyoto Station to Imadegawa Station (9 minutes, 260 yen), from where Nishijin Textile Center is a 10 minute walk in western direction near the junction of Imadegawa and Horikawa Streets.

Visitors can also board Kyoto City Bus numbers 9 or 101 from Kyoto Station. Disembark at Horikawa-Imadegawa bus stop (about 25 minutes, 230 yen).

How to get to and around Kyoto

Hotels around Kyoto

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Ryokan Motonago

A real traditional inn at Gion with 11 rooms, friendly staff. Walking distance of Kiyomizu-dera, Yasaka-jinja and more.


Hotel Sanoya

3 min from north exit of JR Kyoto Sta. but in quiet area. Cozy, clean Japanese rooms with bath. Internet PC in lobby.


Ryokan Wakamiya

Inexpensive, cozy inn with helpful staff. 7 min walk from JR Kyoto Sta. Free Internet PC. Communal baths on top floor.


Gion Shinmonso

A fine ryokan in the Gion near geisha streets. Easy access to Kiyomizu-dera and Yasaka-jinja. Special offers available.


Ryokan Hirashin

3min walk to Shijo Karasuma Sta. Spacious Japanese-style rooms. 140 years of history. Public baths renovated in 2006.

Japan Guide Recommends:

Backpackers Hostel Ks House Kyoto

One of Kyoto's most popular hostels. A ten minute walk from Kyoto Station.

Agoda Booking

Hotel Granvia Kyoto

Located inside Kyoto Station, this is Kyoto's most convenient 4-star hotel.

Agoda Booking

Hyatt Regency Kyoto Hotel

Elegant luxury hotel located near Sanjusangendo Temple.

Agoda Booking

Khaosan Kyoto Guest House

Cheap and popular hostel located in the heart of the city near Kawaramachi Station.

Agoda Booking

New Miyako Hotel Kyoto

Reasonably priced 3-star hotel located just across the street from Kyoto Station.

Agoda Booking

Royal Park Hotel The Kyoto

Modern hotel along Sanjo Street close to Pontocho and other dining options.

Agoda Booking

Tours and Packages

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Page last updated: January 22, 2014