Japan in Jan: The Art of Paper Cutting

by Chris on January 18, 2012

The gorgeous art of paper cutting in Japan, as revealed by a young female artist in Shuzenji.

Example of paper cutting, Japan

I’m bad at crafts. As in famously bad. And it turns out I’m particularly bad at traditional Japanese arts that require full attention to detail, such as paper cutting.

Incense, Japan

On my 12-day trip to Japan, our group made several attempts at traditional craftwork. At Hoshinoya Kyoto, we put together small incense bowls. Our teacher was precise and orderly. We….weren’t.

Origami, Japan

And at Hoshinoya Karuizawa, a hot springs resort town about an hour northwest of Tokyo, we took a stab at origami. And believe me, stab is appropriate terminology because we really mangled those cranes. #CraftFail.

Paper cutting, Japan

Better to leave it to the experts, such as paper cutting artist Chiharu Mizuguchi. We met Chiharu in Shuzenji,, a hot springs resort town in the Shizuoka prefecture (located about an hour southwest of Tokyo, near Mt. Fuji).

Paper cutting, Japan

Chiharu, 28, had mad cutting skills. She grabbed a piece of paper and scissors as she talked to us, and within minutes, churned out a silhouette of a little girl holding a flower.

Paper cutting, Japan

What’s even more special about Chiharu is that she’s self taught, in a field that’s traditionally been dominated by men. Her work is starting to get recognized; we saw fans and other papers with her designs in stores around Shuzenji.

Customer, creation, Paper cutting, Japan

We were all so impressed that we ordered custom art pieces from her. I asked her for a piece with snow monkeys on them. She came up with a lovely cut out that I plan to frame, and it only cost me 3,000 yen (about $45).

Seek out young and emerging artists when you’re on the road. You’ll not only get a good deal, you might make a friend – and you can watch their career grow.

Artist Chiharu Mizuguchi with her paper cutting, Japan

But Chiharu pulled out all of the stops for Val D’Elia, who asked for a larger piece of artwork. By studying Facebook photos of our trip, Chiharu cut out a complex, multi-scene page that not included Val with her camera, it included the sights that we had seen throughout Japan. And she only charged 7,000 yen (about $90).

Paper cutting, Japan

We all left feeling that Chiharu could charge a lot more for custom pieces and paper cutting classes. Once her English gets better, she’ll be adept at taking commissions and having a real online business.

My trip to Japan was sponsored by several hotels and government organizations, but my opinions remain my own. 

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| Chris Gray Faust is a veteran journalist, travel expert, social media butterfly - and editrix of this site. Like what you read? Check out her writing, editing and social media services.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Cathy Sweeney January 19, 2012 at 9:59 am

The Japanese do such amazing craftwork. I wish Chiharu much success in her business!


Chris January 20, 2012 at 8:48 am

Thanks, Cathy. I think she’s on the right track!


Jennifer January 19, 2012 at 12:04 pm

Really enjoying your Japan posts, and the photos I love. I visited Japan many years ago as a young girl and your stories make me want to return, with a new appreciation.


Chris January 20, 2012 at 8:47 am

Thanks, Jennifer. As you can probably tell, I was fascinated by the country. So much to take in.


cailin January 19, 2012 at 2:32 pm

I love the one made from the Facebook photos with the video camera and everything! 🙂


Chris January 20, 2012 at 8:47 am

Cailin – I love that one too. She’s so talented.


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