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.
Chukin is a casting technique where molten metal is poured into a mold to make a vessel or utensil.
The chukin technique dates back a long way to the Yayoi period and features a variety of casting methods: 'sogata' ('so' technique), 'rogata' (lost wax technique), 'sunagata' (with sand) and 'yakigata' (by firing).
Depending on the shape and form of the object to be cast, the correct method should be used. The casting processes invcolve great experience and advanced skill.
Living National Treasure Osawa Komin was born in 1941 in Takaoka-shi, Toyama Prefecture, an area famous for copperware. Osawa is designated as a holder of the important intangible cultural property of metal casting. Known as the master of 'yakigata' casting, Osawa researched and came up with an original technique called 'casting basis technique', in which patterns are directly impressed on the surface of the vessel.
Despite the responsibility involved in inheriting such a traditional technique, Osawa ingeniously applies the technique to meet the expectations and standards of the modern world. He always keeps in mind his original intentions, while constantly moving forward and expressing fresh, natural sensibilities and sensations. Osawa is constantly challenging himself in the world of metal casting.
Mamoru Nakagawa was born in 1947 in Kanazawa district, Ishikawa Prefecture. In 2004, he was designated as a Living National Treasure for his copper-casting and metal inlay techniques.
After graduating in fine art from Kanazawa College of Art in 1974, he was apprenticed to Kaishu Takahashi, a metal craftsman and studied copper casting and the traditional skill of metal inlay. In addition to learning traditional techniques, he also experimented with various materials, such as 'tagane', and mastered his own techniques to create original contemporary pieces. Whereas traditional cast metal vessels tended to be monotone, Nakagawa introduced color and brought a fresh sensitivity to the craft.
Nowadays, Nakagawa works as a professor at Kanazawa College of Art and as a director at the college's research section where successors to the craft are instructed.
Hoseki Okuyama was born in 1935, in Shinjyo, Yamagata Prefecture.
Hoseki's family was famous for the craft of 'tankin'. In 1995, he was designated as a Living National Treasure for his tankin skills. Tankin is a metalcraft technique that involves hammering heated metal and molding it over a plate called an 'ate-kin'.
Hoseki has lived his life fully. He came to Tokyo when he was only 15 and became apprenticed to Soho Kasahara, a silver craftsman. Later, when he was 27, Hoseki became independent and established his own studio. In the years that followed, he was a working craftsman.
During the oil-shock of 1975, he received fewer orders, yet he chose to concentrate even more on his work. Over time, his skills were recognised and in 1984 he finally won a prize from the Director-General of the Agency for Cultural Affairs at the traditional Japanese handicrafts exhibition.
Sometimes it takes several months to make a piece that Hoseki is personally satisfied with.
Kozo Ueda is a Tokyo silverware craftsman who was born in 1939 in Daito-ku, Tokyo. He was awarded a medal of honor by the government. In 1954, he began making silverware under the instruction of his father, Shinjiro.
His wonderful silver dishes show a unique Japanese delicacy, combined with a Western durability and utility. The sincerity and beauty of his works ensures that they are often passed down from generation to generation.
He says: 'My mission is to continue to suggest to Japanese people that there is a genuine and mature silverware culture. Silverware should become family treasure if it is used for 50 or 100 years, and I'd llike to see its value strengthened with age and use.’
In 1984, he became a director of the Tokyo Gold and Silverware Industry Association and then administrative director.
In 1990, he was designated a Traditional Craftsman by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry.
Metalworking involves techniques such as casting, hammering and carving on materials such as gold, silver, copper, iron and brass. Working with metal began in Kyoto and has been practiced as a craft for 1200 years since the Heian period.
With the growth of Buddhism, more temples came to be built, each one with Buddhist images. This contributed to the advancement of metalwork techniques.
When Kyoto became the capital city in the Heian period, metalwork craftsmen moved to Kyoto from Nara. They produced metal arms, money, and large-scale castings.
From that time, the sophisticated aesthetics and culture of Kyoto nourished the craft, which increasingly came to focus on beauty and elaborate design. Metalwork ranges from necessities, like pans, to ritual articles, like chimes, as well as hand-made accessories. Nowadays a variety of crafts are designed and manufactured.
Kyoto incrustation is a traditional craft that is made by inlaying pieces of shaped gold and silver into the base metal. Nowadays the artistry is used in personal belongings, such as necklaces and brooches, and for interior decorative objects, such as clocks and picture frames.
The technique of incrustation originated in Damascus, Syria, in the Middle East. Later it spread to Europe, China, Korea and finally to Kyoto in the 14th century. The technique became prevalent in Kyoto in the late-Edo period, with the trend for incrusted inlay work on the scabbards of samurai swords.
In the Meiji period, incrustation workmanship was admired in America and became a major export. Due to its delicacy and elegance, no other craft could follow. Each of the pieces crafted by proficient craftsmen show different characters and are brilliant.