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Arts

Japan's 'mingei' elevate the everyday to art

New book celebrates country's enduring folk-craft tradition

Mishima Japanese Candle Shop, in Hida, Gifu Prefecture, where artisans have made their waxy wares by hand for more than two centuries. (Photo by Kentaro Hagihara)

TOKYO -- What is old can sometimes seem new again, as the adage goes. This is especially true in these late-postmodernist times, when many artists and designers still routinely quote or borrow long-gone styles and, winking ironically, imbue them with updated meanings.

One example is folk art, a label art historians assign to creations whose forms, materials and purposes are deeply rooted in traditions that are passed down from generation to generation and whose makers are usually anonymous. Its admirers understand that what often might be regarded as passe never really loses its freshness.

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