About Studio Japan

Studio Japan is a private traditional Japanese folk art museum located in Princeton, New Jersey. Through a diverse Mingei collection - including Tansu cabinetry, farm tools, ceramics and pre industrial age daily life objects from the snow country regions - we wish to share our knowledge and passion for Japanese folk culture with the interested public. The museum is a Sukiya tea culture inspired building reconstructed from an 1870s post and beam barn. As well as our collection, it contains a traditional Japanese tea room and a conservation workshop.

The fine arts of Japan have historically been approached with a virtual reverence by scholars, connoisseurs and conservators. A Kano school screen, an Oribe tea bowl, a Tesshu Totusai sumi-e scroll for example would be handled with hallowed regard because of acknowledged beauty but also because of known age and the fame of the artist. Folk art conversely, was not even recognized as art until Dr. Yanagi Soetsu established his theory of the unknown craftsman (People's Art or Mingei in Japanese) in the 1920s. Yanagi believed that beauty could be found in utilitarian objects made by nameless common people.

Guided by the Yanagi philosophy, we decided in the mid 1970s to undertake a limited field study of Tansu makers and related craftsmen in an obscure area of the mountainous Tohoku region of Honshu island. Needless to say, our initial plan grew quite out of control. Before we knew it, we had many new friends and an old farmhouse. As well as codifying the pre-industrial techniques of various craftsmen, we came to realize that there was as yet no uniform standard for the conservation and preservation of the old utilitarian objects we observed all around us: Tansu, tools, folk textiles, basketry, metalwork, wood utensils, architectural elements. Other then a few rudimentary procedures, all we could learn seemed anecdotal and specific to each individual's experience. This challenge, to assemble a stream of disparate knowledge, has been a high point in our lives and led us to create Studio Japan.

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