What does the word, which has a special meaning for Japanese, “Dento-teki-kogei-hin” mean?
“Dento” refers to the tangible and intangible customs, traditions, and styles that have been handed down from generation to generation. “Teki” means a type. “Kogei” is a generic term for the production of tools used in daily life that have aesthetic effects due to their materials, techniques, and designs. A “Hin” is a work of art or an article.
There are 237 Dento-teki-Kogei-hin in Japan. They are designated by the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI). There are various conditions that must be met in order for an item to be designated as a Dento-teki-kogei-hin.
Dento-kogei-hin are different from Dento-teki-kogei-hin, and in fact any item can be called the former, but in the case of the latter, unless it meets the conditions specified by the government, it is not allowed to be called a Dento-teki-kogei-hin.
Let’s take a look at the five conditions that must be met in order for a product to be recognized as a Dento-teki-kogei-hin.
First, the product must be primarily used in daily life. It is a thing used in daily life, such as a rice bowl, a tea bowl, Japanese paper, and a kimono.
Almost all of the products we handle, such as Mino ware tea bowls, Hagiyaki plates, and Wakasa chopsticks, can be said to be used in daily life.
The second is that the main part of the manufacturing process is handcrafted. The use of machines is not prohibited for auxiliary processes that do not affect the product’s flavor, but the main part of the process must be handmade.
Third, the product must be manufactured using traditional techniques or methods. Traditional” means that the technology or technique has been around for more than 100 years and is still being used today.
It is difficult to determine how many years of history a craft has, and there are many prefectural and city-designated crafts that are not designated as traditional.
Fourth, the product must be made from materials that have been traditionally used as the main raw material. The “main raw material” is, for example, ceramic stone for porcelain or thread for textiles. Think of it as something essential to maintaining quality and flavor.
For example, if Mino clay is used to bake Arita porcelain, it is not Arita porcelain, and if the paper used to make Isekatagami works is not Mino washi, it is not Isekatagami.
The fifth and final requirement is that a certain number of people in a certain region are engaged in the manufacture of the product or are engaged in its manufacture. As a general rule, “not less than a few” means 10 or more businesses or 30 or more persons engaged in the manufacture.
These conditions are often the most stringent, and traditional crafts without successors are in danger. We hope that by making Japanese traditional crafts known to Norwegians, we can contribute in some small way to the preservation of Japanese culture, which is disappearing.
Little by little, I would like to write about traditional crafts and traditional craftspeople in each region from now on. Perhaps I will be able to learn more about traditional crafts than the Japanese? Enjoy!