The National Museum of Ethnology (Minpaku) is a research center for ethnology and cultural anthropology.

Transmitting Art and Craft - Japanese Industrial Design Originating in Tohoku|Introduction


During the Meiji period, the Japanese government proactively spread Japanese arts and crafts techniques to the world as part of its policies aimed at the encouragement of a new industry and export promotion, which earned them global recognition. In 1928, several decades later, the National Research Institute of Industrial Arts was established in Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture, for the first time in Japan. This institute aimed to modernize arts and crafts, promote industrialization, and develop the craft industry in the Tohoku region. The institute led in the arts and crafts, and design fields through its activities until the mid-1970s, producing famous designers such as KENMOCHI Isamu and TOYOGUCHI Katsuhei. The activities of this institute are regarded as one of the origins of industrial design in Japan.
This special exhibition focuses on traditional crafts as the origin of Japan’s industrial design practiced at the National Research Institute of Industrial Arts; so as to determine how these outstanding techniques should be handed down to the coming generation. Here, we discussed new contemporary arts and crafts that enrich our daily lives, with young craftsmen leading in the arts and crafts world and students interested in design, and arts and crafts from their perspectives. Furthermore, how craft skills that have been passed down from generation to generation should be succeeded by universities and museums was also examined while paying attention to the actual succession processes of craftsmanship in the home industry.
Since international competitiveness is prioritized in various industries, technological development requires Japan’s specialties to offer certain additional values. This process requires global design in addition to functionality. The craft products targeted by the National Research Institute of Industrial Arts are industrial design products with good functionality and attractive designs. The institute was quite a frontrunner at the time.
We would like to ponder arts and crafts in the past and in the future, focusing on the global challenge of Japanese craft products backed by the support of the National Research Institute of Industrial Arts, which are highly esteemed globally.

Serving Tray
(Tohoku History Museum)

Seasoning Container with Iridescent Coating
(Tohoku History Museum)