Our Story - The Origins of ARTISAN
“JTB USA ONLINE STORE ARTISAN (ARTISAN)” is an online store where you can find the finest traditional Japanese craft products, all carefully curated by JTB USA, Inc. and KAZAANA Co., Ltd.
“ARTISAN” celebrates the skills of these craftspeople, their passion, and the inheritance of Japan's ancient culture.
Our aim is to give everyone the opportunity to experience how traditional Japanese crafts can enrich their lives. These exquisite pieces illustrate the true value of quality producers and will last many years.
Why Are Japanese Products Of Such High Quality?
The reason is actually quite simple: Japanese producers have honed their crafts to a superlative level over long periods of time and they can produce things very efficiently. As a result, the prices are surprisingly low.
Japanese companies constantly strive to improve both their products and the methods they use to produce them. There is a strong motivation among producers to reduce inefficiencies and waste, while craftspeople themselves take the lead in quality control, making sure that every element of the final piece meets their exacting standards. If improvements can be made, they will be.
Cultural Practices Drive Ingenuity
The motivation for constant improvement stems from two central concepts in Japanese culture: hospitality (omotenashi) and attentiveness (kikubari). These ideas run deep in the thinking and practices of companies, which are always working to meet their customer’s needs and wants to the very best of their abilities. Producers will, therefore, spare no effort in enhancing, developing and innovating to reach ever higher levels of quality.
Collaboration Between Trusted Suppliers
The manufacture of some products is a collaborative effort; often different supplies and producers come together with their own specific skills and materials to create the finished article. With each supplier involved taking the usual dedicated approach to delivering the best and delivering it at the right time, you can rest assured that the final product will always be of the utmost quality.
The Demanding, Discerning Japanese Customer
Japanese consumers are famously fastidious and demand the very best. Every detail of the product - its design, quality, finish and aesthetics - will be meticulously scrutinized. Meeting such high expectations is critical for companies and is an important driver of ever-higher standards. And for those buying products outside Japan, this rigorous attention to detail means you can know you can rely on receiving something of superlative quality.
Japan is very fortunate in still having many companies around today that have been operating, in some cases, for centuries. In fact, Japan has the highest number of companies over one and two centuries old in the world; no other country comes close to Japan's total of long-established firms. These companies have passed down their unique knowledge and skills over many, many decades, with each successive generation innovating and improving on the last.
What Makes Traditional Japanese Crafts So Special?
In general, 'traditional crafts' are those that have developed over long periods of time and have been handed down over multiple generations. This term covers a multitude of different artisanal products, from lacquerware to ceramics, silks to paper, and even items for religious rituals. All in all, there are around 1300 different types of Japanese traditional crafts in existence today. With so many products across so many fields, it is little wonder that Japanese crafts represent a perfect confluence of the country's unique culture and history.
Indeed, the importance of these crafts in Japan is reflected in the government's recognition for 236 specific production methods. The designation of 'Traditional Japanese Craft' is aimed at both protecting and promoting the country's cultural heritage, and sets these products apart from those simply 'Made in Japan'. However, there are strict criteria to be met:
Key Elements of the Manufacturing Process Must Be Done By Hand
While these allow some stages to be undertaken by machine, the most important parts of the crafting process - those that give the final product its particular and distinctive character - must be carried out manually. This allows an attention to detail and quality that you do not get with entirely machine-made products. It also results in a final piece that has been shaped by human hands for human use and comfort.
Techniques Must Be Over a Century Old
In Japan, the reliability of a craft process is something that can only come after at least a century of trial and error, improvements and adjustments. It takes this amount of time to demonstrate the success and quality of a particular craft.
All crafts are an amalgamation of both skills and technique. But, while skills are related to an individual craftsperson and their specific abilities, techniques represent an historical accumulation of knowledge; technique entails everything from the specifics of a particular process to knowing the best source for raw materials. This is something handed down from one generation to another over hundreds of years, in some cases.
What makes many Japanese traditional crafts unique is the way that the skills of each generation interact with the time-honored techniques of their particular craft. Modern craftspeople are not simply repeating, unaltered, the ways of the past. In fact, they are continually adapting and improving their products to fit with changing lifestyles and needs.