Press Release

Mingei: Traditional Japanese Arts


CONTACT: Charles Schuler
Director of Communications
San Francisco International Airport


Mingei: Traditional Japanese Arts
New exhibition features folk crafts from Mingei International Museum in San Diego


SAN FRANCISCO -- For centuries, the Japanese have used locally available natural materials such as wood, clay, and bamboo to fabricate exceptional everyday items, from lacquered wooden containers to baskets and stoneware pots. Throughout the prosperous Edo period (1615–1868), craft production thrived in Japan. Many folk crafts developed through the ingenuity of a small group of makers before spreading to other areas and artisans.

A number of folk toys serve as amulets and are tied to Japanese customs, legends, and history. Various items express desires for health, wealth, success, and happiness. Maneki neko, cats beckoning with a raised paw are made from papier-mâché, clay, and occasionally stone. These figures are displayed in businesses and homes to invite good fortune. Carved wooden molds used to make sweet confections for holidays and celebratory occasions display a variety of themes – sea breams offer congratulatory wishes; chrysanthemums symbolize autumn.

During the Meiji period (1868–1912), when Japan opened to the West, the country rapidly transformed into a modern, industrialized nation. Folk crafts began to be replaced by less-costly imports and machine-made goods. In the 1920s, the Mingei movement – literally “arts of the people” – developed in response, led by the philosopher and critic Yanagi Sōetsu (1889–1961). Largely inspired by the Arts and Crafts Movement in Europe, Yanagi devoted himself to collecting and preserving Mingei and advocated using historical folk crafts as the starting point for modern craft production.

Artisans continue to make a great variety of folk crafts in Japan. Today, many are sold as souvenirs and collector’s items. Mingei: Traditional Japanese Arts, highlights a variety of Japanese crafts – lanterns, fans, iron kettles, and whimsical toys are among the many items on display.

This exhibition was made possible through a generous loan from Mingei International Museum in San Diego, California.

View the exhibition online.

Mingei: Traditional Japanese Arts is located pre-security in the International Terminal Main Hall Departures Lobby, San Francisco International Airport. The exhibition is on view to all Airport visitors from August 8, 2015 to January 31, 2016. There is no charge to view the exhibition.


SFO Museum

SFO Museum was established by the Airport Commission in 1980 for the purposes of humanizing the Airport environment, providing visibility for the unique cultural life of San Francisco, and providing educational services for the traveling public. The Museum was granted initial accreditation from the American Association of Museums in 1999, reaccredited in 2005, and has the distinction of being the only accredited museum in an airport. Today, SFO Museum features approximately twenty galleries throughout the Airport terminals displaying a rotating schedule of art, history, science, and cultural exhibitions, as well as the San Francisco Airport Commission Aviation Library and Louis A. Turpen Aviation Museum, a permanent collection dedicated to the history of commercial aviation. To browse current and past exhibitions, research our collection, or for more information, please visit


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