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.
Isao Onishi was born on June 30, 1944. In 2002, his original skill, Kyu-shitsu or lacquer craft technique, was designated as an important intangible cultural heritage.
After learning the basics of carving, from 1974, Onishi was apprenticed to Akaji Yusai and learned the rudimentary skills of lacquer coloring as well as 'magewatsukuri'. Magewatsukuri, or the bentwood technique, involves the bending of the wood into rings which become part of the body of each piece.
Onishi does all parts of the process by hand: from coating to construction. His much-praised works have won several prizes, such as the 40th Ministry of Education Prize at the Japanese Traditional Craft Exhibition, and 15th Director General of the Agency for Cultural Affairs Prize for Japanese lacquer tradition.
In addition, Onishi is focusing on the preservation of the tradition and, for many years, has been working at Ishikawa Prefecture's Wajima Lacquer Technical Training Institute as a lecturer.
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.
Tarumi Waterfall is a rarely seen kind of waterfall because it runs from a cliff directly into the sea. It is located between the towns of Wajima and Suzu in Ishikawa Prefecture, and is an outstanding feature of the 2km-long Sosogi shoreline.
The head of the waterfall is 35m high. The waterfall usually runs down the cliff into the sea like a white thread and never stops, even in mid-summer.
On windy winter days, however, the view completely changes; spray does not fall into the sea but into the sky! This makes it a so-called 'Upside-down Waterfall'. Flowers of waves splash in the sea and the waterfall goes up to heaven like a dragon; it really is like a scene from fantasy.
There is a walkway near the waterfall that you can enjoy walking along. But, if you see the 'Upside-down Waterfall', it means it's a very windy day, so you should be careful.
Hegura Island is located about 48km north of the Noto Peninsula. The shore has complicated inlets and cliffs formed by exposure to rough waves. The island is about 13m high and some 5km around and is small enough to explore in an hour.
In the past, fishermen from Wajima on the opposite shore would come here during the summer fishing season. But now, the number of inhabitants is increasing. Thanks to currents and landforms, it has many good fishing spots and is especially popular with ama, professional woman divers, who were described in an ancient poem in the Manyoushu (A Collection of a Myriad Leaves).
The views around the island have not changed so much over time and, in summer, many ama come here to dive for fish. In fact, the island is mainly fished by ama, their main catch being abalone, agar, soft seaweed and turban shells.
In addition, the island is a good resting place for birds migrating between Japan and the Asian Continent. In fact, there are some birds that can only be seen here in all Japan.
99% of Japan’s gold leaf is made in Kanazawa, Ishikawa Pref., which is due to the fact that climate and water in this area is suitable for gold pounding and that the producing places of Buddhist family altars and lacquered ware, for which gold leaf is consumed in high volume, are close to this city. A gold leaf is 1/10,000 to 2/10,000 mm thick, which is almost transparent. It is said that a piece of gold sized as large as a ten-yen coin can be thinned out into a sheet as large as a tatami-mat. A gold leaf must be uniformly flat without breaking or tearing. Imai Gold Leaf Co., Ltd. established in 1898 is Japan’s only one gold leaf trading company that has its own factory. It deals in other metal leaf such as silver leaf, platinum leaf and edible gold leaf as well. The company has handed on the traditional technique and tries to pass it on to the posterity, pursuing the beauty of gold leaf. In the showroom of the company, the hands-on-experience section is provided for the customers to know the charm of the gold leaf “with their own eyes and heart.”
Echizen is one of the five big producing areas of Japanese lacquer ware
(Yamanaka, Aizu, Echizen, Kishu, and Wajima). Echizen lacquer ware, or
Kawada lacquer ware, is produced around the area of Kawada-cho and
Katayama-cho, Sabae City, Fukui Pref., where you can find a lot of lacquer
craft workshops and lacquerers. The history of Echizen lacquer ware dates
back to the 6th century, about 1500 years ago, when the emperor of the times
ordered a lacquerer to apply recoating of lacquer on a kanmuri or a formal
headpiece of the emperor. After having recoated the kanmuri, the craftsman
also presented a black-lacquered bowl to the Emperor, who was strongly
impressed with its beauty and encouraged this handicraft. Echizen lacquer
ware is still practically used in our daily life because it is not only
elegant and beautiful but also hardwearing and easy to use. Its gloss colors
contain profound beauty under its surficial gorgeousness.
Sakurai lacquer ware is one of Ehime Prefecture's designated traditional craft and has a long history, which began in the Edo period (1603-1867). According to the record, there were seven lacquerers including Monzaemon Tsukihara in as early as 1828. When the craft first began, so-called “Shunkei” style was adopted and it was used for inexpensive ware for common, daily use. However, during the Tempo era (1830−1843), the distinctive “kushizashi” method of joining the four corners of jubako (stacked lacquer ware boxes) by adding comb-teeth shaped parts to the bottoms of the corners was developed, which gave the Sakurai lacquer ware a unique quality. With this progress, the Sakurai lacquer ware, which had been unknown for a long time, were well known throughout Japan. Further development continued with the invitation of experienced and talented lacquer ware craftsmen from other regions of Wajima and Kishu, improving lacquer finishes skills such as “chinkin” (gold foil) and “makie” (gold and silver powder), which were taken over up to the present. You can see the 200 years of history and the craftsmen’s progressive spirit in this proud traditional craft.