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.
Kanazawa still feels like a castle town. It is the site of a castle as well as many samurai houses. In addition, the romantic teahouse streets have not changed at all.
Nishi Teahouse Street is to the south of the Sai River, and is synonymous with Kanazawa. In the third year of the Bunsei period, the Kaga Domain had the street built along with Higashi Teahouse Street.
Even today, Japanese-style restaurants and geisha-girl delivery stores produce items of great elegance. After dark, the sounds of the shamisen can be heard, lending the streets further charm.
In olden times, most teahouses used to refuse first-time customers. This was the case with Higashi Street, but now there are Japanese-style hotels, souvenir shops and cafes lining its sides. It is most enjoyable to walk down the street.
Nishi Teahouse Museum is located in the building where Seijiro Shimada, a writer born in Mikawa, Ishikawa prefecture, lived when young and there are items exhibited here describing his early life.
Born 1959 in Yamagata City, Yamagata Pref., Japan. Mr Okuyama worked for auto manufacturers in various strategic roles including as chief designers for GM (USA) and Porsche (Germany), then as creative director at Pininfarina S.p.A.(Italia), later he became independent. He is well known worldwide as a designer for Maserati Quatrroporte, Enzo Ferrari and Ferrari Scaglietti. He also worked on industrial design projects in a wide range of fields including public transportation with trains and planes, furniture, product design, interior design, spatial design and urban planning. He created and marketed the “KEN OKUYAMA” brand for eyewear. In 2006, he established the “Yamagata Koubou” furniture brand. He is currently an honorary professor for the Industrial Design program at the Art Center College of Design (USA) and at the Kanazawa College of Art (Japan). He is also vice chair of the jury for the Good Design Award and runs the Yamagata Carrozzeria Project. He lives in Italy.
Ohi pottery is a traditional handicraft handed down for about 330 years in Kanazawa City, Ishikawa Prefecture. The making of Ohi pottery dates back to 1666, when the fifth lord of the Kaga domain, Tsunanori Maeda, invited the founder of the Urasenke school of tea ceremony, Senso Soshitsu, from Kyoto. At this time the first Chozaemon Ohi accompanied him to make tea utensils. Chozaemon found suitable clay at Ohi village and started making tea bowls and jugs that suited Soshitsu’s taste. He became the founder of Ohi pottery.
Ohi pottery masters have succeeded the name of Chozaemon Ohi and now the tenth generation of Chozaemon Ohi carries on the tradition.
Ohi pottery is made in a unique process, which uses no potter's wheels. The pottery is shaped by hand and working-out of the details is given by knives and planers. A special glaze is used to produce a unique amber coloring, which gives a very sensitive and mysterious impression.
The works of the successive generations of Chozaemon Ohi are displayed at Ohi Pottery Museum, which is located next to the kiln of the present generation.
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.
Gold foil, which is pure gold, is mixed with small amounts of silver or copper, so its color may change through years.
The square corners of the photo are where water vapor from the hot springs has bubbled over and they are continuously exposed to water. Moreover, because some of the water comes from the ‘natural hot spring’, the material is corroded easily. So, gold foil was applied to the back of the acrylic board to protect the surface.
You cannot find any spot of attachment glue on the gold foil.
Even though the foil is exposed to water, it has a beautiful gloss.
Seen from the lobby of the hotel, it seems as if a hot spring were bubbling up from a gold ingot.
■ Dormy Inn Kanazawa courtyard
* gold foil applied to the back of clear acrylic board with silicon coating
*size w55×d55×h45 cm
*designed by n.o.a
■produced by Ubushina, Yudai Tachikawa
Kanazawa Shimizu is a group of spring water that gushes out over 100,000 tons of clear water per day. There are seven water outlets, of which the largest one is located in the prefecture’s Inland Water Fisheries Experiment Station in Matsuo, Hachimantai City, Iwate Pref. This cool, pure water is used for various purposes including trout aquaculture, water supply and irrigation. There are several legends about this spring water. One of them goes that a dragon with seven heads, which lived in Mt. Iwate, wanted to see a village at the foot of the mountain and went underground one day. The seven outlets are said to be where the dragon popped up its head. Another legend tells that an ogre, who had done ill to people, was thrown into its eyes by the villagers. The springs are where the ogre washed his eyes following the god’s words.
Koto, or a Japanese harp, was first played in Japan in the Heian period (794-1192). However, it was the Kamakura period that today's 13-string sou (a Japanese classic harp) came to be called koto. In Kanazawa, manufacturing koto began after the Edo period. As playing the koto was considered as one of the samurai class women's requirements, koto became a popular musical instrument. The one kept in the Yokoyama family, who was a powerful retainer of the Kaga clan, is decorated with elaborately elegant gold-leaf paintings on the whole surface, which indicates there was already an excellent craftsman making koto harps in Kanazawa.
Kanazawa koto harps are made of paulownia wood from Hakusan mountains. They are elegant art work, the surface of which are decorated with Makie (gold and silver leaf paintings) or Raden (mother-of-pearl inlay). Even today a lot of people play koto harps in Kanazawa, where many concerts are held by both famous and obscure koto-players.