Since its earliest days Nara has been a creative hub, attracting artisans and innovators from across Asia and Japan. That tradition continues with an influx of new creative energy.
breathing new life into a traditional craft
Yu Nakagawa, a 300 year old maker of hemp cloth, pioneered the rebirth of this Nara craft, breathing new life into a traditional craft and adding a little modern marketing savvy.
Traditionally, this fine hemp cloth was used for summer garments, religious robes and all-purpose cloths. To capture a new market, Nara’s makers are adding delicate, contemporary prints with local themes, drawn from popular icons like deer and the Daibutsu, and original motifs from the Nara period. New products range from fashion accessories to stylish home goods.
smaller towns...offer low rents and urban renewal projects to bring in galleries, studios and craftspeople
Smaller towns like Yamato Koriyama, Imaicho and Gojo offer low rents and urban renewal projects to bring in galleries, studios and craftspeople. Unused spaces, like an old petrol station or a run-down house, have been reborn as funky cafes and bars.
A local renewal project to revive the under-used shopping streets around Yamato Koriyama attracted a young couple who were passionate about coffee and the local area. They saw the possibilities in an abandoned petrol station, opening a small coffee stand and roasting their own beans. Using social media, they have attracted a younger crowd to the area and championed local events.
bold, modern design
Set in an old neighbourhood of Edo period houses, Nara City Museum of Photography stands out with its bold, modern design by architect Kisho Kurokawa and its collections by local photographers like Irie Taikichi and Daido Moriyama.
airy modern space and organic home cooking
Kuruminoki pioneered the cafe/lifestyle concept 30 years ago, with an airy modern space and organic home cooking. They added fashion and lifestyle boutiques that adhere to the principals of simplicity and low environmental impact. Their popularity has spawned imitators across Japan.
In addition to sampling the healthy organic meals on the menu, browse the wares up for grabs in the surrounding stores. The business makes a point of working with local craftspeople to create original ceramics and utensils, along with clothing made from unbleached cottons. Sustainability is the common principle bringing together all of the items available.
promoting budding entrepreneurs
Kiratto Nara is a mini mall off Sanjo-dori Street, aimed at promoting budding entrepreneurs. It operates as a business incubator with start-up advice and gives young makers retail and marketing experience. The designers change frequently, so there is always something interesting to discover.
breathing new life into old spaces
Imaicho is a town of well-preserved merchant buildings. The challenge is making it a vibrant place to live, and not just a living museum. Breathing new life into old spaces, Cafe Hackberry's owners took one of the larger merchant houses and turned it into a funky dining space, while preserving its original character. The smaller spaces where apprentices and servants once slept are now intimate dining nooks, and the mix of retro and re-purposed furniture adds to the atmosphere.
tradition with a twist
Nakako Shoyu offers tradition with a twist. Soy sauce is still made here by hand, in small batches, by the fifth generation of the family. The high quality makes it the soy sauce of choice at Nara’s top restaurants. New packaging ideas, including smaller, stylish bottles, artisanal pastes and preserves and even fashionable accessories inspired by the bags that hold the soy beans, make this shop very popular amongst more style-conscious consumers as well.