– the “Saikusho” that produced samurai furnishings –
In Kanazawa, a variety of traditional handicrafts still remain and are rooted in everyday life, helping to boost the cultural and artistic level of the city. We will explore the beauty and roots of the handicrafts that have been passed down in this city.
Kanazawa’s roots as a city of traditional handicrafts date back to the Edo period (1603–1868), a time when the samurai reigned.
During the Edo period, the Maeda family, who were daimyo (feudal lords), ruled over the Kaga clan with Kanazawa as its capital city. From the time of the first lord, Toshiie, successive lords of the Maeda family maintained a deep interest in cultural projects through tea ceremonies. In particular, the third lord, Toshitsune, was an outstanding cultural lord.
At that time, the extent of the land owned by a clan throughout the country was indicated by the “Kokudaka.” This was a measure of the productivity of the land as expressed by its rice yield. The Kaga clan had a kokudaka of one million, which was the highest in Japan.
The great Kaga clan posed a threat to the Edo shogunate. In order to demonstrate his obedience to the government, as well as to show his family status as Japan’s top daimyo, Toshitsune spent his financial wealth, worth a kokudaka of one million, on arts and crafts, including martial arts.
In Kanazawa Castle, there was a workshop called “Saikusho” as a symbol of the Kaga clan’s cultural incentive measures.
It was originally a place for repairing tools and weapons, but Toshitsune gradually transformed it into a craft studio for creating luxurious daimyo-style furnishings for the Maeda family. Along with this, many skilled craftsmen were invited from different places, such as Kyoto and Edo (Tokyo), as instructors of the Saikusho. This led to the foundation of Kanazawa’s arts and crafts techniques, which have been passed down to the present, including “Kaga Maki-e” and “Kaga Zogan, inlay.”
The techniques held by the Saikusho within the castle eventually spread to the studios that were run by the townspeople living in the castle town. This led to the formation of an unprecedented rich bank of craftsmen in Kanazawa. Indeed, the dyed kimono that served as the origin of today’s “Kaga Yuzen” was not created at the Saikusho, but rather by a dyer in the castle town who was patronized by the Kaga clan.
The Saikusho was further enhanced and developed by the fifth lord, Tsunanori, in terms of both its organization and roles. It remained as a clan-owned arts and crafts studio right up to the end of the Edo period, which was a rare thing across the whole country.
If you wish to see the great skills and aesthetics of the artisans from that time, visit the “Seisonkaku” history museum adjacent to Kenrokuen Garden. Nariyasu, the 13th lord of the Kaga clan, built it as his mother’s retirement home, with the craftsmanship of the Kaga clan featuring in both the works inside the building and in the collections on display.
- Open: 9 am to 5 pm
- Closed: Wednesdays and Dec. 29 to Jan. 2
- Admission fee: 700 yen
- Address: 1-2 Kenroku-machi
- Contact: Tel. 076-221-0580
- WEB: http://www.seisonkaku.com/english