Toshiro Uchida is a silver craftsman from Tokyo and was born in 1925 in Daito-ku, Tokyo.
Silver is highly valued because of its beautiful surface and other unique qualities. Now, 90% of silverware in Japan is produced in Tokyo.
Tokyo silverware is tasteful and bright and is made using techniques developed in the Edo period, such as hammering and fine engraving. One technique is known as 'kiribame': a design is cut out of the silver and another metal, like copper, is soldered into the space.
Toshiro learned hammering from his father, Uzaburo, in 1946, and kiribame from Tomoe Ogawa. Toshiro is particularly good at kiribame.
In 1984, Toshiro was designated as a Tokyo Silverware Traditional Craftsman by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry. In 1988, he was also designated as a Tokyo Traditional Craftsman. In the same year, he was awarded a prize and designated as a Tokyo Excellent Artist.
Mitsuo Masuda was born in Saitama Prefecture on 24 April, 1909. In 1991, he was designated as an Important Intangible Cultural Property Holder (a Living National Treasure) for his 'chokin' work.
After graduating from the Sculpture Department of Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music, he was apprenticed to Kenkichi Tomimoto and began his creative career.
The term chokin encompasses several decorative techniques, including carving with chisels, piercing, metal inlay, and patterning in relief using hammers on metals.
Masuda works with silver, bronze, brass and other metals using two processes. First he forms the metal into shapes such as jars and boxes. He then adds designs with motifs of nature and seasons. His inlay work with thin sheets of gold and silver is especially highly praised.
As a teacher in Urawa High School, he asserted that 'talent is only one part – it is the endeavor that changes things'. In his work, as he claims, we can see his 70 years of 'principle' and 'effort'.
Komin Osawa was born in 1941, in the district of Takaoka, famous for its copper-utensil industry. In 2005, his 'chukin' work was designated as an important intangible cultural heritage.
Chukin is a goldsmith technique that encompasses metal-fusing, mold-injection and casting. The craft dates back to the Yayoi period. It includes various casting methods such as, 'sogata, 'rogata, 'sunagata' and 'yakigata'. With the yakigata method, large work such as statues could be manufactured. Yet experience and mastery of the technique are necessary in all processes of the work.
Through the yakigata method, Osawa discovered his original 'igurumi' method to achieve his own aesthetic effects. Moreover, he also experiments with the beauty of geometry.
It is common for Osawa to work until midnight, yet he asserts with a fresh smile, 'Something just comes out of my brain when I'm working really hard.'
Omizuen was the garden of the Kinoshita clan and the Ashimori domain head. It is located at the foot of Mt Miyaji, and is constructed around a pond at its center. It is unclear when the garden was built, but the 6th head, Kinoshita Kinsada is reckoned to have built it in the early 18th century. It is a Zen garden designed by Enshu.
Omizuen is one of the biggest gardens in Okayama prefecture, like Korakuen in Okayama City and Shurakuen in Tsuyama City.
There is a teahouse called Ginpukaku just near the pond. The view from the house is especially beautiful because the garden harmonizes with the backdrop of Mt. Uno behind it. Ginpukaku is made from wood that was left over from the construction of Kyoto Imperial Palace. The roof used to be thatched but is now covered with copper sheeting.
Within the garden you can see a monument inscribed with a poem by Kinoshita Rigen, a local poet of the Shirakaba School, and there are also Maria Lanterns for clandestine Christians.
On the small island of Naoshima in the Seto Inland Sea, near the mainland of Japan, the Yamatsutsuji (Mountain Azalea) has been pronounced as the area's representative flower.
Every year, from the end of March through May, the mountain slopes are covered with clusters of pink mountain azaleas. Here, they are commonly known as naoshima-yamatsutsuji. It is said that the retired emperor, Munenori, who had a certain bond with this area, passionately loved this flower.
In the Taisho period, with the development of copper refineries, pollution spread rapidly, turning the northern half of the island into a bare, desolate mountain. Since then, much attention has been paid to encourage the regrowth of the island plantlife.
Today, Naoshima is making great efforts to promote the island as an outstanding tourist resort and is actively participating in a campaign called Midori-Sousei, which is improving the land by aforestation.
In 2004, following a big fire that raged across one-eighth of the island, naoshima-yamatsutsuji seeds were planted at the site of the fire as one of the main plants to help the scorched land to recover.
Metalworking involves techniques such as casting, hammering and carving on materials such as gold, silver, copper, iron and brass. Working with metal began in Kyoto and has been practiced as a craft for 1200 years since the Heian period.
With the growth of Buddhism, more temples came to be built, each one with Buddhist images. This contributed to the advancement of metalwork techniques.
When Kyoto became the capital city in the Heian period, metalwork craftsmen moved to Kyoto from Nara. They produced metal arms, money, and large-scale castings.
From that time, the sophisticated aesthetics and culture of Kyoto nourished the craft, which increasingly came to focus on beauty and elaborate design. Metalwork ranges from necessities, like pans, to ritual articles, like chimes, as well as hand-made accessories. Nowadays a variety of crafts are designed and manufactured.