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

A Study of Contemporary “Handiwork” Culture

Joint Research Coordinator UEBA Yoko

Reserch Theme List




This study examines the types of recreational and hobby-related professions that correspond to handicrafts to the Japanese, as well as the contemporary development of crafted objects stemming from these professions. The general idea of handicrafts was established in the Meiji Period as form of non-commercial, hobby-related production undertaken at home and predominantly by women. This concept led to the double marginalization of handicrafts, in contrast to a form of fine art with aesthetic value or industrial art that generates profits. Today is witnessing the emergence around the world of a diverse range of recreational and hobby-related professions that fall outside the conventional Japanese view of handicrafts. The movement also involves men and is entering into fine art and marketing, giving rise to different types of artwork, fair trade products, and ethnic goods. In addition, the development of new handicrafts has generated interest because of the different functions they serve, such as helping to connect people through recreational activities or providing a form of therapy following a disaster.
This study aims to define new areas of "handiwork" that are difficult to classify as conventional handicrafts. It also seeks to conduct an ethnographic assessment of the contemporary development of these "handiworks" to provide a new concept of the term.