Beauty and techniques of handicraft inherited in Kanazawa -4-

―Interview with Jang Dayeon, a technical trainee at Kanazawa Utatsuyama Kogei Kobo―

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 Utatsuyama Kogei Kogo” in Kanazawa City is a comprehensive facility of traditional crafts to inherit the spirit and role of “Osaikusho” established during the Edo period by the Maeda family of the Kaga domain. Here, young craftsmen who will lead the next generationof craftwork devote themselves to polishing their skills in the five fields of pottery, lacquer arts, dyeing, metalworking, and glass.

On this occasion, we interviewed Jang Dayeon, a technical trainee of pottery from South Korea.

―What made you leave Seoul, South Korea and learn pottery in Japan?

Jang Dayeon; I studied ceramics design at university in my home country and had taken up porcelain painting as a hobby. 

There was an occasion when one of my seniors showed me a Kutani ware sake cup, which is a traditional craft of Kanazawa, Ishikawa. The overglaze painting used in Kutani ware is totally different to that of European styles. There is also a glossiness like glass, formed when items are heated after being glazed repeatedly.

I was strongly attracted to the expressions that I had never seen before and began thinking “I want to learn Kutani ware in Japan.” Searching for places to learn Kutani ware, I found “Ishikawa Prefectural Kutani-yaki Technical Training Center” in Nomi City, Ishikawa Prefecture. I had an interview with my clumsy Japanese and was given a position. I then spent a year learning about Kutani ware. 

As I learned about Kutani ware overglaze painting, I also became interested in the shapes of pottery. After completing the training at the center, I joined the Graduate School of Fine Arts at Aichi University of the Arts to learn design and molding techniques with the aim of creating, with my own hands, a shape to complement my paintings. 

―You then returned to Ishikawa and became a trainee at Kanazawa Utatsuyama Kogei Kobo this time. 

Jang Dayeon;Yes. After learning the techniques of “painting” and “shape,” I aspired to create my own work, so I joined Utatsuyama Kogei Kobo to acquire the necessary abilities.

In addition to pottery training, this facility provides the opportunity to learn the unique Japanese cultures of tea ceremonies, flower arrangement, and calligraphy. Tea ceremonies in particular give me ideas from a creator’s perspective, as various crafts including pottery are used for both practical and ornamental purposes. 

―The elaborate and dreamy overglaze paintings of your work strike the eye. What gives you inspiration?

Jang Dayeon; My year at the Kutani-yaki Technical Training Center was a fulfilling time, learning about the Kutani ware that I admire. However, at the same time, it was also a painful year for me as I did not have a very good command of the Japanese language and had none of my family or friends there. In order to distract myself from the solitude and loneliness, I would just keep drawing, in tears, like writing a diary, all the while thinking that “this experience should help me to create great work one day.”

The pottery works that I produce now reflect my own imagined scenery from that time,as if I was seeking a healing light in the dark.

―How do you see Kanazawa? 

Jang Dayeon; Although Kanazawa is often compared to Kyoto, it does not have as much in the way of appealing, large-scale sightseeing spots, but it is possible to enjoy the sightseeing like a treasure hunt. You’ll find some pretty landscapes, craftsmen’s studios, and nice restaurants as part of everyday life. 

I’ve heard that there were active exchanges between Ishikawa and South Korea in the olden days. This is probably why I feel that they have a somewhat similar cultural climate.

―You will be graduating from Kanazawa Utatsuyama Kogei Kobo in March 2019. What are your plans after graduation?

Jang Dayeon; I will be based in South Korea and plan to travel between Korea and Japan to engage in activities, such as solo exhibitions. In addition, I would like to disseminate Kanazawa’s charms in South Korea. Kanazawa has a deep culture, including tea ceremonies. You can also learn a lot from their spirit, such as attentiveness and compassion. It would be a waste if I was the only one aware of this, so I want many people in South Korea to also know about it.

Given the boom in Japanese confectionery currently taking place in South Korea, I hope there will be deeper interactions between the two countries in terms of culture.

Jang Dayeon

From South Korea. Graduated in 2008 from Seoul National University of Science & Technology. With her admiration for Kutani ware, she came to Japan on her own, trained at the Ishikawa prefectural Kutani-yaki Technical Training Center, studied at the Graduate School of Fine Arts, Aichi University of the Arts, and since 2017 has been serving as a technical trainee at Kanazawa Utatsuyama Kogei Kobo. She has engaged in group exhibitions and other activities. In May 2019, she plans to hold a solo exhibition at a department store in Osaka.

Kanazawa’s handicrafts, which date back over 400 years, continue to develop even now alongside the policy of each era and the passionof the people in this area. Please look forward to a future of beautiful craftworks that transform according to the changes of the times and the culture of Kanazawa that nurtures them. 

Beauty and techniques of handicraft inherited in Kanazawa -3-

– Surviving gracefully through the changing times –

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.

*Following “Beauty and techniques of handicraft inherited in Kanazawa -1-” we will introduce the history of Kanazawa’s traditional handicrafts.

The roots of Kanazawa as a city of traditional handicrafts date back to the Edo period (1603–1868), a time when the samurai reigned. During this period, daimyos from different parts of Japan ruled over their “han” (domain). For example, the Maeda family ruled the Kaga domain, which had Kanazawa as its capital. 

In the following Meiji period (1868–1912), however, a centralized state was constructed under the new government, who adopted a policy of reorganizing the traditional “han” as “ken” (prefecture) and “fu” (urban prefecture) in order to control them in a unified way. 

Kanazawa’s crafts were at stake after losing the protection of the Maeda family, who were patrons of arts and crafts. Nevertheless, they gained new strength thanks to a thriving pottery and copperware export business, in addition to the establishment of a school teaching arts and crafts for the promotion of industry (present Ishikawa Technical Senior High School). 

The school’s graduates slowly moved away from manufacturing toward the promotion of industry and began creating craft works for appreciation. A large body of craftsmen then became established in Kanazawa, which became known throughout the country as a craft kingdom on a par with Tokyo and Kyoto.

A contemporary art exhibition was held in the city only two months after the end of the Second World War. The following year saw the establishment of a school that would form the basis of the present-day Kanazawa College of Art. In the chaotic times that followed the war, it was a great accomplishment as a regional city to be working on art activities before other cities.

The succession and development of Kanazawa’s traditional handicrafts was also aided by the fact that the city sustained no war damage.

In 1989, Kanazawa Utatsuyama Kogei Kobo (crafts studio) was opened in Utatsuyama, eastern Kanazawa, as a facility to inherit the spirit and role of “Saikusho” run by the Kaga domain. It nurtures craftsmen living in a new era. Kutani ware masterpieces draw particular attention as there was once a Kutani ware kiln in Utatsuyama. 

The slopes that climb up to Utatsuyama are known as atmospheric walking paths. They include “Kikou-zaka,” which extends from near the Tenjin Bridge crossing the Asano River, and “Korai-zaka/Kogi-zaka,” which starts from Utasu Shrine in Higashi Chayagai District. You can enjoy a pleasant stroll while looking down at the streetscapes of Kanazawa, which retains its traditional culture to date.

the Kikou-zaka slope; address: Tokiwa-machi, Kanazawa

Kanazawa Utatsuyama Kogei Kobo

  • Open: 9 am to 5 pm (Visitors must enter by 4:30pm)
  • Closed: Tuesdays and Dec. 29 to Jan. 3
  • Admission fee: 300 yen
  • Address: To-10 Utatsu-machi, Kanazawa
  • Contact: Tel. 076-251-7286
  • WEB:

*Kanazawa Utatsuyama Kogei Kobo is under renovation until November 2019.