When I came to Kyoto for the first time back in 2009, I was aiming to visit as many temples and shrines listed in my Lonely Planet guidebook as possible. And visit them I did, snapping thousands of photos on my way. It was a happy time, even now I’m jealous of those who are on their very first trip to Kyoto, because I would give anything to repeat this experience. First time in Kyoto is magical, with all these sights of green pines, Zen gardens and scarlet torii gates, smells of soy sauce and grilled fish and old wooden houses..
During my second and third times in Kyoto, I went deeper. I was studying the history of art in Paris, and decided to specialize in Japanese lacquerware, so I wanted to speak to Kyoto craftsmen about their techniques. It was so hard to enter their world, and I succeeded to make a few visits only through connections. That is how it used to be, one needed to know someone who was on friendly terms with artisans to be able to make the introduction. Most of the craft ateliers here are family businesses continuing for generations, and the workplace is often situated in the same building where the craftsman’s family lives and is therefore considered as a private space.
So, when in 2016 the Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts where I work part-time has decided to launch Kyoto Artisans Concierge, a new service of arranging atelier visits and crafts workshops for those who wish to experience the hidden creative side of Kyoto, I was so excited. I wish such service existed when I was struggling to enter such places myself a few years ago!
For now, the service offers 68 activities at 38 ateliers, 7 of which were established more than 200 years ago and 16 are more than 100 year-old.
Find more about Kyoto Artisans Concierge and book unique cultural experiences here: https://www.kyotoartisans.jp/en/
Please note that Artisans Concierge doesn’t provide interpretation services. Very few Japanese artisans speak English, so you will have to bring a Japanese-speaking friend or guide with you. If you book my ARIGATO KYOTO Private Tour for Design & Crafts Lovers, I will put the atelier visits and workshops of your choice on your itinerary.