November 3, 2014
by Emiri Iwagami and Miki Hamada
One of the best-known and most popular temples in Kyoto is Kiyomizu-dera. Perched up in the eastern hills, it provides visitors with spectacular panoramic views of Kyoto city. Huge crowds flock to see Kiyomizu’s many maple trees and its famous night light-up in autumn. The slopes leading up to this famous tourist site are marked with many narrow lanes that are lined with restaurants, galleries, and souvenir shops. One such shop is Kiyomizu-zaka Garasu-kan, or the Kiyomizu-zaka Glass Gallery.
The Kiyomizu Glass Gallery displays and sells accessories that are made of different kinds of glass. They mainly have traditional Japanese ornamental hairpins (kanzashi), hairbands, necklaces, bracelets, pierced earrings, earrings, and other accessories. Their designs vary from simple to flashy, so they can appeal to both younger and older women. All of them use glass in their designs. Also on display are glass ornaments and clocks.
Most of the accessories are colored with tiny beautiful decorations; even the adjustable clasps on the necklaces and bracelets are decorated. Many of the shop’s accessories are made using various colors of handmade Venetian glass. These items are made with extremely fine techniques that make them not only attractive but also strong. Some of the skills used are found in other Japanese crafts.
Some of the jewelry items feature Alexandrite, a gemstone that has unusual properties. This stone’s color changes according to the illumination. Some of the accessories show miniature and detailed images of Kyoto— scenes from the past and present that are made out of glass. For example there are accessories that depict the Kamogawa, Hanami-kouji (the main street in Gion), geisha and others. These accessories are particularly favored by customers.
Kanzashi are ornamental hairpins that are used in traditional Japanese hairstyles. Kanzashi come in two types: single-pronged kanzashi are for women with long hair; two-pronged kanzashi are recommended for women with shorter hair.
Many kinds of kanzashi are sold in the Glass Gallery. In the past, gorgeous and elaborate kanzashi were strong sellers, but now customers seem to prefer kanzashi simple in design since they can be worn on both formal and ordinary occasions. One designer who works at the Glass Gallery creates his own original kanzashi that incorporate seasonal patterns or images of Kyoto. Customers who buy kanzashi receive a free DVD that demonstrates how to use kanzashi and also how to make 20 traditional hairstyles. The DVD is not only in Japanese but includes English and Chinese as well.
Make your own glass art work!
The Kiyomizu-zaka Glass Gallery has a studio where customers can create their own handmade glass works. The owner began this experiential studio because he wants many people to know about Kyoto glass. This is the only place in Kyoto where visitors can try to make their own works of glass, so it is popular with a wide range of people. After a customer makes a basic design, the studio will finish the work in about ten days. But this is not a problem for foreign tourists since the gallery will mail the finished glass work anywhere in the world. The studio is located in the main building. The time required for a session is about 90 minutes.
Items you can make and cost:
Ring, Hairpin: 1,400 yen～
Key holder, Strap, Pendant: 1,620 yen～
Pierced Earring: 1,730 yen～
Brooch, Hairband: 1,840 yen～
Incense stand: 2,480 yen～
Barrette: 2,050 yen～
Footlight, Photo frame : 3,240 yen～
Decorated plate: 3,560 yen～
Timepiece: 5,620 yen～
Mid-size timepiece: 8,100 yen～
Large-size timepiece: 16,200 yen～
The Kiyomizu Galss Gallery is open throughout year, from 9:00 to 7:00pm (closing begins at 6:30pm)
Official web site