Daishoji is located in today's Kaga city in Ishikawa Prefecture. This was once a thriving castle town within the highly productive million-koku branch domain of the Kaga Domain.
Daishoji is a place where history and tradition live. The streets still retain a mellow and relaxed atmosphere evocative of the Edo period. At the base of the Kinjo mountain castle are the old Zen and Nichiren Buddhist temples standing side by side. Visitors come all year round to see the historical sites here.
Among the temples, Jisshouin is famous throughout Japan for its beautiful wisteria. The gilt-painted shoji screens are also magnificent. Choryu-Tei pavilion and garden, located in the grounds of the Enuma Shrine and once part of the mansion of Daishoji's 3rd lord, seem to imitate the Kenrokuen garden. Here the elaborate and detailed drawing room and tea room are interesting. This garden is designated as an important national asset.
Chinkin is the technique of decorating lacquerware by carving patterns into the lacquered surface using a special chisel called “chinkin-to,” then gold leaf or powder is inlayed into the curved design. The technique is said to have been introduced from China in the Muromachi period. It is the traditional handicraft in Wajima City, Ishikawa Pref. Fumio Mae (1940-), the holder of National Important Intangible Cultural Property (Living National Treasure) in Chinkin, studied under a master craftsman and his father, Tokuji Mae after his graduation from the Japanese Painting Department of Kanazawa College of Art in 1963. He advanced his studies in Chinkin-to chisels and even contrived his own chisels. Using a variety of excellent Chinkin techniques, he has created original, sensitive and expressive works. He is also contributing to the technical training in lacquering at the Wajima Lacquer Technique Training Center.
Yukirinsai is one of the most painstaking pottery techniques. First, the glaze of the base color is applied to the surface of the vessel to be fired. Then gold leaf id applied onto it and it is covered with another layer of the transparent glaze and further fired at higher temperature so that the gold leaf is effectively sandwiched between two layers of glaze.
This adds to the durability of the gold decoration and makes the glitter of gold more contained and elegant. As the beauty of the finished work solely depends on the simple combination of the gold leaf and transparent glaze, careful attention must be paid to the hue of the base color and the layout of the gold leaf. It also requires a highly specialized technique to ensure that the gold leaf doesn't roll up or melt into the glaze during firing.
All these meticulous care comes into fruition of a highly elaborate work with the gold leaf decoration looking as if it emerges up to the surface of the vessel. Although most of the pottery techniques used in Japan were introduced from China, this Yurikinsai technique was invented by the hands of Japanese potters. What covers the glitter of gold may be the Japanese veneration for modesty.
It is believed that far in the future, Miroku Bosatsu, or Maitreya Bodhisattva will become a Buddha, and then appear on earth to save those unable to achieve enlightenment, thus bringing universal salvation to all sentient beings.
The most well-known statue of Miroku Bosatsu in Japan is the one housed at Reihokan (the temple museum) of Koryuji Temple in Uzumasa in Kyoto. This Miroku Bosatsu Hankashi-yui-zou statue represents the seated Miroku with the finger of the right hand touching the cheek, as if in deep meditation or musing. The mystic smile and the gentle and sensitive finger put on the cheek are breathtakingly beautiful. The round outline gives feminine-like impression. The smile on its face is generally called an archaic smile.
It is said that this red pine wooden statue used to be decorated with gold powder. There are two theories as to where it was carved; one theory states that it was brought to Japan from the Korean Peninsula judging from the facial expressions and the material wood, and the other theory states that it was carved in Japan. The argument is yet to be settled. The clear eyes seem to suggest that it was brought from the continent.
The Ko-jishi mask is a kind of fierce deity masks representing a young lion, which is an imaginary holy creature and is often treated as an elfin-like being. The lion masks originate in Lion Dance in Dengaku and Sarugaku, which were introduced from China in the ancient times. The Ko-jishi mask is gold in color and has the up-slanting eyes with the eyeball looking upwards, which express an alert and agile young lion taking aim at his prey. Compared with the O-jishi mask, which is used as a parent of Ko-jishi, this mask is full of youthful vigor. The Shikami mask is sometimes used in stead of Ko-jishi, for it also looks like a young lion clenching its teeth.
Technology in Japan allows for the production of the world’s thinnest gold foil. It is so advanced that gold alloy the size of a ten-yen coin can be stretched to the size of one tatami (traditional Japanese flooring: approximately 1.6562 m2). The technology for creating foil is no longer limited to just gold, but to all kinds of metals, which allows for a wider variety of colors as well. The ring above is made of acrylic fiber, foiled with sterling silver. The integration of the foil’s thinness with the absolute clarity of the acrylic fiber results in a ring that has ice-like characteristics, it being light, airy and translucent. The thinly stretched silver foil gives this ring the appropriate hard texture and feel that sterling silver should have.
-Sterling silver-foil finish
Design: Masako Saka (acrylic)
Produced by: Ubushina,Yudai Tachikawa
“Ubushina” is derived from the ancient Japanese word for birthplace
“ubusuna” and is the name of a project managed by t.c.k.w inc, a compay
run by design director, Yudai Tachikawa.
Ubushina introduces the techniques used by outstanding artisans to
commercial projects undertaken by contemporary architects and designers and,
through structuring the overall project and product planning stages,
manages to carefully implement the techniques all the way through to the
consumer. They visit artisans’ studios and workshops nationwide and
intricately plan how their extraordinary techniques can be implemented and
applied to commercial products. They engage architects and designers to find
out their needs and requests, contemplating a product’s overall strategy
and attending to every eventuality so that the techniques and design work
What is remarkable is their attitude in which they try to bring out a new
value in traditional artworks and artisans’ handicrafts such as lacquer
ware, metalwork, gold leaf and bamboo craft. Fusing unique traditional craft
methods and a modern day design aesthetic, they create exciting new products
with fresh contemporary values.
It is Kanazawa gold leaf that has given glitter to Kinkakuji Temple, Nikko Toshogu Shrine, and many other handicraft works such as lacquer ware, Buddhist altars, fabrics, and Kutani ware. The city of Kanazawa in Ishikawa Prefecture has a 400-year history of producing gold leaf and is the only place in Japan where gold leaf is still made.
During the Edo period (1603-1868), the Tokugawa Shogunate set up a gilders’ guild and confined the production of gold leaf only to Edo and Kyoto. However, the Kaga domain maintained production a secret in order to promote the domain’s industry. With a lot of rain and snow, the climate in this area was suitable for making gold leaf, which contributed the development of this craft. During World War I, when supply of gold and silver leaf from Germany was stopped and replaced by Kanazawa leaf, it secured itself an important position in the world.
Kanazawa gold leaf craftsmen can pound a piece of gold in the size of a 10 yen coin evenly into the size of two tatami mats. Even though gold leaf is so thin that we can see through it, the brightness and evenness of the final leaf are not lost. Pounding gold leaf requires refined techniques for each process, which enabled numerous cultural properties to be handed down to the present day.