Takaoka Cast Metal Becomes a Registered Tangible Folk Cultural Property

Originally written for the Vol.4-No.5 edition (March 14, 2011) of the Toyama Hot News e-newsletter.

Temple bells, bronze statues, flower vases, and tea utensils – the city of Takaoka produces ninety percent of Japan’s copperware products. The Takaoka Casting Museum’s Takaoka Cast Metal Manufacturing Tools and Products have been selected to be registered on the Tangible Folk Cultural Property (yūkei minzoku bunkazai) list, the first in Toyama. This registration system by the Japanese government’s Agency for Cultural Affairs guarantees protected status as a Japanese cultural legacy.

Cast metal in Takaoka dates back to the Edo period, and the Museum’s Takaoka Cast Metal Manufacturing Tools and Products comprises of 1,561 items. There are 1,482 manufacturing implements such as tools for making molds, bellows used for casting, and chisels for finishing touches, and 79 finished products that showcase Takaoka casting techniques, ranging from pots and vases to Buddhist altar equipment and modern art pieces.

The collection exemplifies the root of Takaoka’s copperware industry, the production techniques of cast metal. They belonged to metal carving artist Kanamori Eiichi, who was from Takaoka and was a Living National Treasure as a Preserver of Important Intangible Cultural Properties.

The Takaoka Casting Museum opened in spring of 2005. There is a particular beauty to the tools used by the cast metal artisans, made to fit the hands that would wield them.

In 1611, Maeda Toshinaga, the second head of the Kaga Domain, invited seven casters and built a cast metal workshop in order to help stimulate the area around the castle. This marked the beginning of a long history of cast metals in Takaoka. In 1975, Takaoka copperware became a Traditional Craft of Japan.

Kanaya-machi is the district in Takaoka that is the birthplace of its cast metal industry. Latticework houses elegantly line the streets. You can appreciate the weight of four hundred years as you walk on the stone pavement. At the Ootera Kohachiro Shop of Metal Craft Goods & Café & Gallery (established 1867), you can find sparkling traditional crafts, wind chimes, and tableware. The shopkeeper also looks to the future, hoping for Takaoka Copperware that would suit modern lifestyles. At the cast metal workshop Risaburou, you can not only view and buy items, but you can make a reservation to create your own cast metal work.

Spend some time taking a leisurely walk around the Kanaya-machi neighborhood for the museums, galleries, and workshops, and experience the world of the cast metal artisans.

Source (article and photo): Toyama Just Now