Ryuji Mitani is a bit of a local handcraft hero in Japan. He set up his own workshop in Matsumoto in 1981 called Persona Studio, specialising in wooden tableware, working with local craftsmen to try and keep traditional handcraft skills alive.
Soon after, he set up the Matsumoto craft fair, with a similar goal in mind to spread and promote handcraft – a small stone against the flood of mass manufacturing increasingly dominating Japanese design.
His latest venture is a book, ‘Handcraft in Distant Towns’ celebrating all that’s handmade in three Japanese cities (Fukui, Kyoto and Matsumoto) and Sfera in celebration of the book’s release are hosting an exhibition of the things featured.
Mitani scoured the three cities to source the finest ateliers he could find, settling on ten different craftsmen each working with traditional Japanese techniques, including paper, ceramics, wood, metal and lacquer.
With Japanese mass manufacturing being one of the most fast-developing and successful territories around, it’s all too easy to forget about traditional design heritages and move on to what’s happening in the future. It’s against this backdrop that Mitani’s work is so important, not only for keeping traditional craft alive and in the public eye, but for showing where it all began and how it has its own place in the contemporary design world too.