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handmade pottery

Handmade Pottery and More: Best Hiroshima Arts to Enjoy!

James Lau

James Lau

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Hiroshima painted stones, and art form similar to handmade pottery.

Hiroshima is a region famous for its deep cultural roots and artistic traditions. Many different types of artistry have been created in the region, practiced for hundreds of years, and passed down from generation to generation. Let’s look into the world of Hiroshima’s arts, where handmade pottery, Kagura dance, and traditional craftsmanship continue to be celebrated and enjoyed by all!

Kagura Dance: A Graceful Fusion of Movement and Tradition

Kagura is a sacred dance with solid connections to Japanese tradition. It involves performers wearing costumes and masks, with taiko drums, flutes, and other instruments in the background. Originating from the myth of Amanoiwato, Kagura has songs and dances dedicated to gods, making it the oldest performing art in Japan. The dance started in Kamakura, where people prayed for a good harvest and disaster protection.

The Kagura dance performed on stage.
This form of dance is dedicated to the Shinto gods. Image via Shutterstock

Hiroshima’s Kagura has evolved into a unique version, merging various regional dances. The primary influence comes from Omoto Kagura from the Iwami Region, with elements from Izumo Kagura and Iwato Kagura from Kyushu. Hiroshima currently practices five major Kagura styles: Geihoku, Aki Junijin, Geiyo Shoto, Hiba Kojin, and Bingo. Each style tells the audience about the region’s history, with different tempos and music.

Kagura has found a place in modern entertainment and is performed at events, celebrations, and more! Unlike the more serious Noh and Kabuki, Hiroshima Kagura is a lively experience. With quick tempos, catchy rhythms, and lavish costumes, Kagura narrates tales of heroes battling sorceresses, earth spiders, and mythical creatures. Visitors to Hiroshima can enjoy Kagura performances at local shrines and participate in the fun as locals cheer on their heroes.

Miyajima Osuna Pottery: A Closer Look at Artisanal Excellence

Miyajima Osuna Pottery is a unique ceramic art because it blends sand from Itsukushima Shrine with clay. This tradition continued in the mid-Edo period in Hatsukaichi, Hiroshima, overlooking beautiful Miyajima. Its roots trace back to the Osunagaeshi custom during the Edo period, where travelers would take sand from the shrine for protection and return it with sand from their destination.

Handmade pottery in the Miyajima Osuna style.
Miyajima Osuna handmade pottery uses sand from the Itsukushima shrine. Image via Trip Advisor

The first Miyajima Osuna Pottery emerged when a traveler incorporated this sand into a ceramic vessel offered to Itsukushima Shrine, starting this pottery tradition. Production of unglazed pottery containing sacred sand from Itsukushima Shrine began in Miyajima during the Bunka era of the Edo period. These items served both ritual purposes and became sought-after souvenirs. Despite changes in popularity, Osuna Pottery endured through the Meiji, Taisho, and Showa periods.

Additionally, Miyajima Osuna Pottery maintains tradition through careful production processes. Artisans use Sacred Itsukushima Shrine sand during kneading, adding grains according to the clay and size. They then shape the clay using a potter’s wheel or mold and add decorations afterward. Finally, they fire the pottery and then glaze it before putting it in a kiln for a final firing. Today, Miyajima Osuna Pottery is suitable for ritual vessels, tea ceremony utensils, or vases, connecting the tradition to modern creations.

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Fukuyama Koto Craftsmanship: Resonating Tunes of Tradition

Fukuyama Koto is a traditional Japanese harp from Hiroshima that came out of Fukuyama Castle. During the Edo period, the castle town saw the popularity of songs boom. In the late Edo and Meiji eras, Fukuyama produced notable koto players, leading to a demand for the musical instrument. Crafted with seasoned, high-quality wood, Fukuyama Koto is famous for its clear sound, fine craftsmanship, beautiful wood grain, and splendid decorations.

A Fukuyama Koto.
This koto originated in Fukuyama Castle. Image via Fukuyama Go Guy Net

Not to mention, Fukuyama Koto is the only musical instrument that people recognize as a traditional craft in Japan. Skilled craftsmen also use paulownia wood to craft each instrument carefully. Production involves many steps, from wood preparation and drying to carving and scorching. Decorative techniques like inlay, gold lacquer, and unique woodworking are also present. All in all, this adds to the instrument’s visual appeal and enhances the beauty of the koto.

Eventually, the region established itself as Japan’s leading koto production center, with large-scale production starting in the early Meiji period. However, by 1970, production declined, and today, around three thousand koto are made annually. Despite challenges and a decrease in players, Fukuyama Koto remains a cherished cultural legacy as both a musical treasure and a work of art.

What makes Hiroshima arts, like handmade pottery, special?

Hiroshima’s arts are undoubtedly a unique blend of history and creativity. Kagura dance’s expressive costumes and lively performances narrate captivating ancient tales. Miyajima Osuna Pottery also adds sacred sand from the Itsukushima Shrine into ceramics, using traditional practices in modern creations. Fukuyama Koto represents a musical legacy, combining wood with decorations. These arts represent the spirit of Hiroshima, combining tradition with modern expressions.

The Itsukushima Shrine in Miyajima Island.
Which Hiroshima arts interest you the most? Image via Shutterstock

From handmade pottery, Kagura dance, and traditional craftsmanship in Hiroshima, it is clear that each art form is a part of Hiroshima’s tradition. Every artisan, dancer, and craftsman is a part of Hiroshima’s culture, ensuring the stories are passed down to the next generation.

The arts in Hiroshima celebrate the past, allowing us to enjoy the beauty of tradition in our modern time! What are your thoughts on Hiroshima’s artistic heritage? Have you experienced the magic of handmade pottery, Kagura dance, or traditional craftsmanship? Let us know in the comments below!

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