NIPPON Kichi - 日本吉

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秋山信子(人間国宝) Akiyama Nobuko Nobuko Akiyama (Living National Treasure)

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Nobuko Akiyama was born in 1928. Her real name is Nobuko Imai, while Nobuko Akiyama is her working name. She was designated a Living National Treasure for her 'costume dolls'.

In 1956, she studied under Obayashi Sono, a dollmaker. At this time, she absorbed the ways to work with traditional materials and techniques of dollmaking such as 'tuso' (a mixture of clay and paulownia), 'gluing with paper' and 'graining'. The costumes for her dolls are made with cloth from traditional late-Edo and early-Showa kimonos. In addition, the posture of her dolls can be freely adjusted.

The sophistication of the dolls and their costumes could only be possible because of the traditional materials she uses and her highly-trained skills. The character of the dollmaker appears in the dolls they make. Akiyama's dolls somehow have a 'warmth' as well as style.
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江里佐代子(人間国宝) Eri Sayoko Sayoko Eri (Living National Treasure)

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Sayoko Eri is a 'kirikane' artisan born in 1945 in Kyoto. Now, she works with her husband Sohei Eri and their son Kohei crafting images of Buddha with their company Heian Butsusho, based in Okazaki, in the Sakyo area of Kyoto.

Kirikane may be roughly translated as 'snip gold' or 'thin gold'. Basically, it involves working with gold foil: burning it, stripping it and using it as an implement. Furthermore, kirikane is used to draw gold designs, mainly on Buddha images and pictures.

Sayoko Eri began to work with kirikane after marrying into the Eri family. By applying herself to study, she acquired the skill and concentration to manipulate the delicate foils. Her designs are truly precise and it is hard to believe that they were created by hand. In 2002, she was designated as a Living National Treasure for her work in kirikane.
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磯井正美(人間国宝) Isoi Masami Masami Isoi (Living National Treasure)

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Masami Isoi was born in 1926 in Takamatsu, Kagawa Prefecture. In 1985, his 'kinma' work was designated as an important intangible cultural heritage and he became a Living National Treasure.

Kinma is a decorating skill for lacquerwork that involves special patterns that are incised and filled with color.

Masami Isoi's father Joshin Isoi is known as the 'father' of Sanuki-urushi-chuko. He is also designated as a Living National Treasure for his original technique of kinma dot carving. Kinma dot carving was invented by Joshin, who developed the idea of the technique from old photos.

Joshin's kinma style is more feathery than Masami's. Masami's pieces have 'both a contemporary look and the classical feel of traditional urushi'. Masami expresses imaginary scenes using butterflies and plants that are mentioned in the 'Manyoshu' ('Collection of Myriad Leaves').
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太田儔(人間国宝) Oota Hitoshi Hitoshi Ota (Living National Treasure)

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Hitoshi Ota was born in 1931. He was designated as a Living National Treasure for his 'kinma' work, which is an intangible cultural heritage.

Kinma uses woven bamboo as a base material, which is then layered with lacquer. Patterns are incised on this using a special carving knife or a Japanese sword and finally, the carved lines are filled with colored urushi. It is a traditional craft that has beautifully engraved lines.

In 1953, Hitoshi Ota was apprenticed to Joshin Isoi, known as the 'father' of Sanuki-urushi-chuko. Later, Hitoshi Ota developed his original style 'nunomebori-kinma' using 'rantai' (peeled bamboo or woven vines) as a base material.

He also used a wide variety of knives to make patterns. Ota, who has a sense of contemporary design, still creates colorful and beautiful pieces that are highly rated.
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"Nippon-kichi" leads you to places, people and things that reveal a certain Japanese aesthetic.

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