By Sandra Isaka
While Hakone is a popular stop on Japan’s “Golden Route” of tourist sites, most visitors to the area tend to overlook some of the region’s hidden gems – among those being the Hakone Crafthouse. This collection of art studios spread out over the slope of Gora Park welcomes visitors of all ages to try their hand at a variety of artistic experiences.
Things To Do at Hakone Crafthouse
With the great variety of artistic pursuits available, there is plenty to keep everyone satisfied.
Visitors to Hakone Crafthouse can choose from a number of hands-on experiences, all of which are offered every day. On a recent visit, I first signed up to try one of the Hakone Craft House's new experiences, painting a piece of unglazed pottery. I was ushered into a delightfully colorful studio, where whimsical murals covered the walls and dried paintbrushes dangled from the ceiling.
I was offered a choice of tableware to decorate; once my bowl was selected, the staff assisted me in choosing colors to fill my paint palette. To boost my meager artistic skills, the studio provided materials such as sponges, stamps and splatter paint tools. When I was satisfied with the artistic quality of my piece, the staff took it to glaze with the promise of having it mailed to my address within the week. Shipping is even available to international destinations for a small additional fee.
Painting sessions start from ¥2900.
For those who would rather create the bowl than paint it, Hakone Crafthouse offers hand-thrown pottery workshops, where participants work with a lump of clay on a potter's wheel to turn it into a series of usable table products. It's trickier than it looks, as I can attest from the numerous lopsided bowls I turned out before I finally formed a successful vessel.
If the wheel is too much of a challenge, you can also create a product in the pinch-pot style. Staff members model the techniques used to soften, shape and smooth out the clay into the tableware piece of your choice. Those creations can then be decorated with a series of stamps and texture tools, before being sent off to the on-site kiln for firing. You're even given a choice of glazes, so your pottery can feel rustic or chic depending on your selection.
Pottery sessions range from ¥3600 for a 60 minute experience trying hand-formed pottery, to ¥3800 for a 40 minute turn on the electric potter's wheel.
Lampwork Bead Session
Visitors of all ages will delight in making any one of the numerous beaded creations on offer in the craft room, from keychains to cell phone or bag straps to traditional Japanese kanzari hair ornaments. It’s almost impossible to count the number of different beads available for crafters to choose from, with a wide selection of colors, sizes and forms on offer.
Visitors aged ten and above can also sign up to create their own lampwork bead, known as a tonbo after the glassy eyes of the dragonfly. The process involves melting glass over an open flame, a process that sounds intimidating but is quite fascinating to watch, as the strips of glass fuse together to make swirled designs.
You can create a lampwork bead for ¥2500 (please allow 50 minutes to cool), or simply create your own beaded souvenir for ¥2600-3800 (price is dependent on item selected).
For visitors who prefer the elegance of glass, Hakone Crafthouse offers a 15-minute glass blowing experience, where trained instructors walk guests through the steps needed to produce their own customized piece. This package allows visitors to choose from a range of designs and colors, ensuring a truly one-of-a-kind souvenir.
Glass blowing sessions range in price from ¥3800-4220, based on the product chosen.
New Experience – Edo Kiriko
Beginning on July 10th, visitors to Hakone Crafthouse will also have the opportunity to try their hand at kiriko, a type of glass etching that traces its roots back to Tokyo in the mid-1800s. Kiriko involves etching patterns onto the surface of the glass. In recent years, kiriko was chosen by the Japanese government to serve as a gift to global heads of state at the G8 Summit in 2008.
Hakone Crafthouse has several staff members that can communicate in English and English instruction is available for certain experiences. International visitors are also entitled to a 10% discount on craft experiences and a discount on select shop items if they present their foreign passport. (The discount also applies to those residing in Japan on foreign passports.)
The second floor of the main Hakone Crafthouse building boasts a gift shop – Komamonoya – with a wide-ranging selection of products, some of which have even been produced in the site’s workshops by the talented staff and craftsmen. Some of the popular gift items include candy boxes decorated with motifs from around Hakone and Edo kiriko glasses with cut patterns inspired by Hakone's famous yosegi wooden boxes.
If you’re looking for that special handmade souvenir from your time in Japan, the Hakone Crafthouse is the perfect stop to help you create your ideal vacation memory.
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