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.
One of the three largest production areas for roof tiles (kawara) in Japan is Sanshuu in Aichi Prefecture. It is believed that tile-production started here in about 588. According to records, there is information that kawara craftsmen existed at that time.
Sanshuu became a tile-production area in 1700 because clay could easily be brought in from the nearby towns of Anjo, Toyota and Seto. Furthermore, Sanshuu's position in the center of Japan meant that tiles could be transported easily to other parts of the country.
There are three major types of tiles: ibushi, yuuyaku, mu-yuuyaku and shioyaki. The tiles are fired for a period of between 13 and 16 hours. The length of the firing ensures that the tiles are tough. In the past. the firing process was carried out manually, but today electric kilns are used. These days, with the rise in environmental awareness, new tiles suited for recycling and for solar panels have been developed.
Edo kiriko is a glass-cutting handicraft that began in the late Edo period. The origin of this craft dates back to 1834, when a craftsman, Kagaya Hisabe, first created a new technique of cutting glass with powdered emery.
In the late Edo period, transparent lead glass (crystal glass) was the main glass material used for this craft. The patterns were familiar ones seen on kimonos, such as bamboo fencing, chrysanthemums and hemp.
Now, many Edo kiriko pieces are made using faded glass. The layer of colored glass is thin and vivid.
In 2002, Edo kiriko was designated as a Traditional Handicraft by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry
Ibaraki Prefecture has long been famous for its bamboo, ever since the 2nd lord of the Mito Domain, Tokugawa Mitsukuni (Mito Komon), first began to protect and encourage their cultivation.
Hitachi bamboo dolls are handmade from high-quality bamboo such as Japanese timber bamboo, as well as 'moso', 'monchiku', 'kurochiku, 'toratake', 'susutake' and 'gomatake' bamboo.
These dolls are made from bamboo that has been naturally dried over 2~3 years and is oil-free. Each part of the doll is made from bamboo and pieced together using bamboo nails. Colors and patterns are then painted on the carved and sculpted surface of the bamboo.
Usually the dolls are based on figures in Noh and Kabuki drama and are very elaborate. There are also dolls that depict local characters, such as the Komon and Umemusume dolls. Lovely animal figures for each year of the Chinese zodiac are also carved from bamboo using the same technique as the dolls.
Jun Isezaki was born on 20 February, 1936. In 2004, he was designated as a Living National Treasure for his work as a Bizen ware craftsman.
Jun Isezaki was the second son of Yo Isezaki, who was a fine and detailed potter himself. Jun Isezaki studied pottery from a young age and in 1960, together with his brother Mitsuru, he set about the restoration of a medieval basement kiln that was part of an old kiln on Mt Koya: this was the first Bizen basement kiln.
True to his words 'I want to find my own way, not imitate others', he has continually presented many unique works using his creativity to rework traditional styles. His various ceramic ware ranges from flower vases, dishes and teapots to artistic objets. He believes that 'making new works leads to a tradition'. He is a leading Bizen ware craftsman with an exceptionally creative and wide output.
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.'
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.
Shibayama lacquerware is a traditional craft from Yokohama, in Kanagawa Prefecture.
It is believed that Onoki Senzo (later called Shibayama Senzo), from Shibayama village in Shimofusa country, started the lacquerware tradition in the year Yasunaga (around 1775). His descendant, Soichi, continued the craft and added his own touches to create Yokohama Shibayama lacquerware.
The surface of Shibayama lacquerware is inlaid with animal bones and teeth, as well as ivory, and is set with decorative pieces of shell, coral and tortoiseshell in the center.
The designs appear in relief in the lacquerware, creating an astonishingly gorgeous and delicate beauty. Unfortunately, fewer craftsmen these days has meant that fewer Shibayama lacquerware objects are produced. Many objects were destroyed in wars and natural disasters.
Nowadays, the few craftsmen that are left carry on the delicate tradition of Shibayama lacquer.