Nikko carving is a traditional handicraft in Nikko City, Tochigi Prefecture. In 1634, the 3rd Shogun, Tokugawa Iemitsu declared that he was going to give a large-scale improvement to Toshogu Shrine, by which it was rebuilt into the present magnificent forms. Then he assembled as many as 1,680,000 workmen including miya-daiku (carpenters specialized in building temples and shrines), horimono-daiku (specialist carpenters engaged in transom sculpture), lacquerers, metal workers, and painters from all over the country. Among them, 400,000 were horimono-daiku and what they made at their leisure was the origin of the present Nikko carving.
After the construction of Toshogu Shrine, some of the horimono-daiku settled in the town of Nikko and were engaged in repair work or improvement work of Toshogu, while kept on making wooden trays or furniture, which were sold to sightseers as souvenirs. Since the Meiji period (1868-1912), a large number of Nikko carved products have been exported.
Most of the products are made of chestnut wood. Nikko carving products have a warm feeling of wood and a nice taste that is created by careful handiwork. There are also expensive products made with Tsuishu technique, in which thick layers of solid lacquer is engraved with designs.
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.
Chokin is a technique used to decorate and embellish a metal article by carving and embossing it with a chisel. It is said that chokin originated as far back as the Kofun period, when techniques such as 'kebori' (fine line carving) and 'sukashibori' (carved openwork) were skillfully and elaborately used to create accessories and so on.
After the Muromachi period, as the crafts for sword-related equipment flourished, chokin metalworking techniques and technology also developed.
At the beginning of the Meiji period, the passing of the Haito-rei law (banning swords in public) led the way for the chokin technique to be used to make accessories and so forth instead. This laid the foundation for the chokin technique seen today.
Mitsuo Masuda (born 1909 and still alive today) is a designated holder of an important intangible cultural property (Living National Treasure) of metal carving. After graduating from the chokin section of the Metal Works Department of Tokyo Art University, Masuda became a pupil of Kenkichi Tomimoto and brought many superb creations into the world.
The most notable feature of Masuda's work are the references to nature in his carved patterns, resulting in carvings that are rich in the sense of the season.
It is said that his plated and gilded creations in particular receive high acclaim and praise. Masuda's bold yet eloquent works show an aesthetic sense of beauty that has been refined over 70 years.
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'.
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.