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.
A hammer is typically used to pound or smash objects, but the Uchide no Kozuchi (magical hammer) carried by Daikoku, one of the seven gods of fortune, is different: with just one swing, that person can achieve happiness, with all the fortune and the necessities of life (food, clothes, shelter) they would want.
Daikoku is usually portrayed holding the kozuchi, and a grab bag, seated on bales of rice with a smile that is in a way charming. The bag, which is over the shoulder of Daikoku, first appeared in the Japanese myth, 'Inaba no Shirosagi', and is said to hold the luggage of the Yasogamis. It is also described in an old fairy tale that relates how Daikoku was almost burned to death, due to Sanoo's trap, but was saved by mice. Mice then became the guardians of Daikoku.
At first, Daikoku was deified as the god of destruction and good harvest, but as time passed, he became the god of good harvest, food and fortune.
The kozuchi can be seen in other fairytales such as the 'Issun Boshi' ('One-Inch Boy') and the 'Binbogami and Fuku no Kami' ('God of Poverty and God of Fortune') as a hammer that granted any wish.
Hoseki Okuyama was born in 1935, in Shinjyo, Yamagata Prefecture.
Hoseki's family was famous for the craft of 'tankin'. In 1995, he was designated as a Living National Treasure for his tankin skills. Tankin is a metalcraft technique that involves hammering heated metal and molding it over a plate called an 'ate-kin'.
Hoseki has lived his life fully. He came to Tokyo when he was only 15 and became apprenticed to Soho Kasahara, a silver craftsman. Later, when he was 27, Hoseki became independent and established his own studio. In the years that followed, he was a working craftsman.
During the oil-shock of 1975, he received fewer orders, yet he chose to concentrate even more on his work. Over time, his skills were recognised and in 1984 he finally won a prize from the Director-General of the Agency for Cultural Affairs at the traditional Japanese handicrafts exhibition.
Sometimes it takes several months to make a piece that Hoseki is personally satisfied with.
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.