There are many temples in the area around the gallery, including Kan-eiji Temple, which was built by Buddhist Priest Tenkai and was a family temple of the Tokugawa shoguns, and Senso-ji Temple, which has enshrined the Bodhisattva of Compassion since the Asuka Period and was designated as the Shogunate's prayer temple by Ieyasu Tokugawa, the first Tokugawa shogun. The area has been crowed with visitors to temples, and a variety of street vendors and performers used to come and go on the streets. Therefore, many retail stores and entertainment halls had lined the streets from old times, and the area became a place that represented Edo culture. Many craftsmen's studios and stores that buy and sell those craftworks have still remained in Taito City, and have passed down traditional skills to the next generation.
Traditional crafts in Edo were originally brought from India and China, and then those craftworks and making skills were developed and refined in the Nara, Heian and Muromachi Periods, conforming to the Japanese climate. The art of Japanese craftwork first bloomed in Kyoto, and was introduced to Edo after the Edo shogunate was established. In the Genroku, Bunsei and Bunka Periods, key players in the economy shifted from samurai warriors to commoners, and merchant class cultures blossomed. Then, the spirit of Edo, which can be expressed as "Iki," or stylishness, and "Inase," or vigorousness, became widespread. (continued in the lower column)
The Edo Shitamachi Traditional Crafts Museum was established in 1997 with the aim of introducing and handing down the skills and spirit of traditional crafts to the next generation, which have been continuously maintained since the Edo Period.
The Ministry of International Trade and Industry (the present Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry) enacted the Act concerning the Promotion of the Traditional Craft Industries in order to preserve and develop skills of traditional crafts. Based on this act, traditional crafts and certified traditional craftsmen have been designated. Now, 218 items out of more than 1,200 have been designated as the traditional crafts by the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, and there are more than 4,000 certified traditional craftsmen. A certification sticker, which is comprised of a Chinese character "Den," or tradition, and a solid red circle representing the Japanese spirit (the rising sun in the Japanese flag), is attached to products that pass an inspection and are certified as the traditional crafts.
40 products have been designated as the traditional crafts in Tokyo. Especially, the following 13 products are designated as the national traditional crafts: "Murayama Oshima Tsumugi," or silk thread from inferior cocoons, woven into extremely durable fabric, "Tokyo Some-komon," or cloth dyed with a fine pattern, "Honba Kihachi-jo," or type of yellow silk textile, "Edo Kimekomi Ningyo," or wooden doll fitted with Japanese costumes, "Tokyo Ginki," or silverware, "Tokyo Tegaki Yuzen," or kimono with hand painted patterns, "Tama-ori," or silk fabric, "Edo Sashimono," or cabinetwork, "Edo Wasao," or lacquered bamboo fishing rod, "Edo Sekku Ningyo," or doll for seasonal festivals, "Edo Kiriko," or uncolored cut glass, "Edo Karakami," or Chinese paper, and "Edo Mokuhan-ga," or wood block print.
Traditional crafts made in Tokyo and Taito City still reflect the spirit of Edo, and craftsmen have tried to incorporate new materials and expressions into the crafts.