– 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.
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: www.utatsu-kogei.gr.jp
*Kanazawa Utatsuyama Kogei Kobo is under renovation until November 2019.