Fumio Mae was born in Wajima district, Ishikawa Prefecture, in 1940. In 1999, he was designated as an Important Intangible Cultural Property Holder (a Living National Treasure) for his 'chinkin' decoration of lacquerwork.
Chinkin is a form of decoration in which complicated patterns are incised into a plain field of lacquer and filled with gold powder.
After graduating from the Painting Department of Kanazawa College of Arts in 1963, Fumio Mae was apprenticed to his father, Tokuji, who became famous for his mastery of the 'tenbori' (gold-inlay) chinkin decorative technique. In addition to absorbing his father's skills, Fumio Mae added a sense of poetry to tenbori. Within the silence of his craft, a great sense of emotion and profoundness could be felt. The power of theis craft is reflected in the sophistication of the pieces.
Today, Fumio Mae lectures and seeks apprentices to his craft at the Wajima Lacquer Technical Training Institute in Ishikawa Prefecture.
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.'
Hiromichi Osaka was born in 1937, in Kurayoshi, Tottori prefecture. In 1997, he was designated as a Living National Treasure for his woodcraft work.
After graduating from the Tokyo Gakugei University art department, Hiromichi Osaka became a public school teacher. He also became a disciple of Himi Kodo, another Living National Treasure. Under Kodo, Osaka studied woodcraft techniques such as 'kara-sashimono'. After much hard work, Osaka's work won a prize at the Traditional Japanese Crafts Exhibition.
In 1980, when he was 43, he was appointed by the Imperial Household Agency to copy a treasure from the Shoso-in. At this point, he retired from teaching and concentrated on the restoration project. The restoration imitation of a shitan wooden box was completed in 1986 and placed in the Shoso-in collection. His usage of materials such as 'kokushi' and 'shitan' using techniques and motifs from the Shoso-in wooden pictures and carvings have been highly praised.
Kitamura Shosai is an urushi lacquerware artist who was born in 1938. As the holder of the intangible cultural heritage of 'raden' he is a Living National Treasure and an official repairer of urushi craft.
Kitamura Shosai actively works on both preserving and creating cultural assets. Raden is a decorating skill using mother-of-pearl inlay work on lacquerware and woodware.
Kitamura Shosai was born into an hereditary family of urushi craftsmen. After graduating in fine art from Tokyo National University of Fine Arts & Music, he practiced and cultivated his urushi techniques. His sophisticated technique of 'atsu-gai raden' is an original development from a tradition. His combination of 'hishimon' and 'hanamon' patterning makes his pieces stand out and draws praise for their beauty as a contemporary art form.
Mamoru Nakagawa was born in 1947 in Kanazawa district, Ishikawa Prefecture. In 2004, he was designated as a Living National Treasure for his copper-casting and metal inlay techniques.
After graduating in fine art from Kanazawa College of Art in 1974, he was apprenticed to Kaishu Takahashi, a metal craftsman and studied copper casting and the traditional skill of metal inlay. In addition to learning traditional techniques, he also experimented with various materials, such as 'tagane', and mastered his own techniques to create original contemporary pieces. Whereas traditional cast metal vessels tended to be monotone, Nakagawa introduced color and brought a fresh sensitivity to the craft.
Nowadays, Nakagawa works as a professor at Kanazawa College of Art and as a director at the college's research section where successors to the craft are instructed.
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.
Takaoka copperware is a traditional handicraft of Takaoka City in Toyama prefecture, with a history of four centuries. Fine, smooth surfaces, subtle coloring, delicate patterns and graceful shapes; these are the specialties of Takaoka copperware.
Some 400 years ago, when Maeda Toshinaga built Takaoka Castle, the 2nd Kaga domain head set up a foundry in Kanaya, today's Takaoka city, in order to ensure prosperity for the town.
At first, the main products cast in copper, other than orders from the domain, were ironware such as temple bells, garden lanterns, farming implements and kettles. After that, small copper items for Buddhist altars came to be made. In the Meiji and Taisho periods, many kinds of copperware were produced, such as braziers, items for tea ceremony and ornamental goods.
Takaoka copperware became highly prized all over Japan. In 1873, it was critically acclaimed at the World Exposition in Vienna and gained world recognition.
In Showa 50, Takaoka district was designated as a production area of a Traditional National Handicraft for the first time in Japan.