With loads of creative and stylish eco-friendly items on the market, the "mottainai" spirit of "waste not, want not" is alive and well in Japan. From the countless collection of traditional Japanese crafts available, we have carefully curated a list of some of the most sustainable and practical. These green, modern products all embody the talents of Japan’s master artisans while helping to curb our disposable, single-use society. If you’re seeking to combine the allure of Japanese crafts with sustainability, then this is the list for you!
J.Flavor * OHASHI Mast Eco Humidifier (S, M, L)
This humidifier boasts a sleek, contemporary design resembling a sail and requires no battery or electricity to operate. Made with "hinoki" cypress wood, which is used for traditional Japanese bathtubs, it emits an invigorating aroma that soothes the soul.
Set up is easy - just pop off the top and fill it with water! The thin sail-shaped natural hinoki wood will then soak up and evaporate the water to humidify the air. There are no heat sources, making it safe for families with small children. The refreshing aroma of hinoki makes it the perfect accompaniment for every room of the house!
The simple, unobtrusive design of natural wood will complement all varieties of decor. It is available in three sizes.
*Size L is currently out of stock. The next shipment is expected from the end of December 2021.
Thermo Mug × Tsuchinao Shikki Urushi Umbrella Bottle Karakusa (Red)
If you carry your own water bottle out of concern for the environment, here is another must-have for your green collection! Born from the desire to "live side by side with lacquer," this tumbler comes from a collaboration between "thermo mug," who are renowned for their highly functional products, and the long-established Echizen lacquerware manufacturer Takumiichi.
Urushi (Japanese lacquer) is a natural paint used in Japan since ancient times. Urushi lacquerware is highly resistant to bacteria, rot, and water and hardens over time to make products shinier and more beautiful after years of use. In fact, it is said that it takes roughly 100 years for the urushi coatings to blend and the lacquerware to completely harden!
This item is decorated with a "karakusa" pattern, which represents strong lifeforce, prosperity, and longevity, making it the perfect celebratory gift. Unlike cheaply made, disposable items, this tumbler will gradually transform and become even more beautiful over time. There is also a black version available, so you can choose the color that suits you best!
3. Dainichi｜Kyo/Kiyomizu Ware
Many Japanese ceramics have a coating of overglaze that when fired turns into glass. This adds luster and waterproofs the ware. These days, most manufacturers prefer easy-to-use chemical glazes. However, for over 30 years, Dainichi has strived to make their Kyo/Kiyomizu ceramics using only natural materials.
Even among Japanese ceramic makers, Dainichi stands apart for its extraordinary commitment to ensuring their ceramics are all natural. This makes them safer to use while allowing them to one day be returned back to the earth without damaging the environment.*
The image above shows the process of burning sunflowers to make ash glaze. Only a handful of ashes are produced from this labor-intensive process, which are then dissolved in water and rinsed over and over to eliminate scum and impurities. As you can see, making ash glaze is no easy feat.
*In Japan, broken ceramics were traditionally fixed through a process called "kintsugi," whereby lacquer is used as an adhesive and cracks are hidden with gold leaf. Kintsugi has recently become popular again, with kintsugi kits available to try at home.
The vivid colors and bold designs typical of Dainichi products are born through this natural glaze and painstaking process. These wonderful items allow people to experience the pleasure of nature through one-of-a-kind craftsmanship imbued with love and care.
Hashimoto Kousaku Sikki Honkanshitsu Chopsticks Kotobuki Cherry Blossom Blizzard (2 Pairs)
This is another lacquerware product consisting of two pairs of Wajima lacquerware chopsticks beautifully adorned with "sakura fubuki" (lit. cherry blossom blizzard; a flurry of falling cherry blossom petals). This kind of set is known as "meotobashi" (husband-and-wife chopsticks) and, while most come with a longer pair for the husband and shorter pair for the wife, this particular version has both chopsticks at an easy-to-use 22.5 cm length. While it may take awhile for some people to get the hang of chopsticks, they are a handy all-purpose utensil suitable for a wide selection of food!
Related article: ▶ How to Use Chopsticks Properly (Left and Right-Handed People)
These chopsticks are coated with natural lacquer, making them extraordinarily durable and more lustrous the longer you use them. As mentioned earlier, lacquer is resistant to bacteria, rot, and water, and in this case, the "asunaro" cypress wood from the Noto Peninsula used to make these chopsticks is likewise known for its antibacterial properties. Sure to become an everyday favorite, they are packaged in a lovely wooden paulownia box as pictured above and are perfect as gifts.
87.5 Bowl Koma-Nuri Two Colors (Black Inside, Vermillion Inside)
Along with evolving beautifully with time, lacquerware, which is made of natural materials, is durable, functional, and has antibacterial properties. It is also highly insulating, making lacquerware bowls ideal for hot soup.
While many assume lacquerware is difficult to look after and maintain, it actually hardens with time and is extraordinarily crack-resistant. Lacquerware products can be used for decades if washed and handled properly, so check out the article below to discover how to ensure your lacquerware stands the test of time!
thermo mug × Tsuchinao Shikki Lacquerware Mobile Tumbler Choju-giga (Black)
This one-of-a-kind travel tumbler is perfect for those wanting something a little out of the ordinary! It was created by Takumiichi, a well-established Echizen lacquerware manufacturer introduced earlier, in collaboration with thermo mug.
In addition to reaping the benefits of lacquerware, this tumbler is also highly functional and boasts a sturdy screw-on lid, durable seal, and state-of-the-art insulation keeping drinks both hot and cold. It’s also decorated with a unique design featuring the characters of "Choju-giga," which is considered the original precursor to manga created somewhere between the mid-12th and early 13th centuries. A truly exceptional product those in the know will appreciate!
Yamamoto Cup (With Saucer and Spoon) Uchi-Negoro
This cup and saucer set is coated with rare Japanese Yakumo-nuri lacquer. The greatest feature of Yakumo-nuri is that the colors become more vivid with time, often achieving remarkably bright colors in about 3 to 5 years when used at home. They are painstakingly crafted under the assumption they will be used for at least that long and can last a lifetime if well looked after.
Another benefit of lacquer is the high heat insulation, which prevents the cups from becoming too hot and allows them to be safely used by children. There is also an alternative version with the inside of the cup, saucer, and spoon painted vermilion (left in the image above), making it hard to resist buying both as a pair!
Asakura Senpu Hanabana (Plain Weave 96 cm) Furoshiki
Furoshiki are traditional Japanese wrapping cloths originally adorned with family crests and used at public baths to wrap clothes and prevent them from getting mixed up and to spread under one’s feet when dressing after bathing ("furo" means bath, and "shiki" means spread). With time, they came to be used for carrying shopping and wrapping presents.
This all-purpose furoshiki is waterproof enough to literally carry water, making it ideal as an eco-friendly tote bag that can be used even during sudden downpours. At the same time, it is incredibly breathable, so you can easily use it as a scarf or lap blanket. Being highly versatile, it can even be tied into a shoulder bag or a carrier for things like bottles of wine! It is also extremely sturdy, and just one will go a long way!
This furoshiki can also be selected as gift wrapping (FUROSHIKI A) in the BECOS Store. Choose it to wrap a gift and you'll be giving double the joy!
Kyono Gosekku - Set of Five 7.5 g Candles by Nakamura Rosoku
Japanese candles have recently become a hit amongst the eco-conscious in Europe and America. They are often used in lieu of electric lighting at mealtimes. These particular traditional Japanese candles are made entirely from plant-based materials and produce very little smoke or soot compared to conventional candles. They also feature adorable designs depicting each of the five "gosekku" (traditional Japanese seasonal celebrations) through flower motifs hand-painted by Kyoto artists.
While conventional candles use petroleum-based materials, these Japanese candles are entirely plant-based and are gentle on the environment. The flame is large and sways gently owing to the hollow wicks creating space for air to flow. It is not easily blown out by wind and emits a very faint sound similar to the “1/f flicker,” making them very relaxing!
This exceptional product is particularly recommended for mealtimes or when unwinding alone with your thoughts. Best of all, they are reasonably priced and come in a variety of designs, so you’ll be sure to find one that suits your taste!
Saving the Planet One Japanese Craft at a Time
The eco-friendly Japanese crafts featured in this article are the top-ranking products hand-picked from amongst the thousands of Japanese crafts available. As you may have noticed, many of them are lacquerware, which is a testament to the craft’s remarkable functionality, durability, and eco-friendliness.
The Japanese have long lived in harmony with nature, and the traditional crafts of Japan continue to embody the "mottainai" spirit in the modern world. We hope you can use this list to discover an eco-friendly and practical Japanese craft perfect for you!
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*These products may not be able to be shipped to certain countries. Please see the retailer's website for more information.
The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.