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. 

Beauty and techniques of handicraft inherited in Kanazawa -2-


– An interview with Mr. Tomoyuki Yamamoto, The director of Kanazawa Nakamura Memorial Museum –

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.


The crafts found in different parts of Japan are deeply connected to the daimyos who ruled the land during the Edo period. It is therefore not possible to learn about Kanazawa’s crafts without mentioning them in relation to the Maeda family/lords of the Kaga clan. The successive lords enjoyed taking part in Japanesetea ceremonies, and this is a factor in the development of craft activities in this place.

On this occasion, we interviewed Mr. Tomoyuki Yamamoto, Director of Kanazawa Nakamura Memorial Museum, known as the “museum of tea ceremony utensils and crafts.”


― In areas of Japan where the tea ceremony is flourishing, arts and crafts are also popular, but why is this?

Director Yamamoto: Tea ceremony utensils, such as tea bowls and pots, are made using different craft techniques, including pottery, metalwork, lacquer, wood and bamboo, dyeing fabrics, etc.

For the Maeda family, Sen no Rikyu, who is referred to as the “tea saint,” coached both the first lord, Toshiie, and the second lord, Toshinaga. From that point successive lords also interacted with renowned tea experts. These tea experts created a variety of utensils based on their sense of beauty, which had a strong influence on those engaged in craftwork production in Kanazawa.

Such utensils are used in the special space of a tea ceremony, as opposed to crafts, which are meant to be used in our everyday life, such as to “eat, drink, love, or wear.” The creator’s sense of beauty and the techniques used to embody this provide added value as a characteristic not seen in mass-produced items.


―What do you consider to be the charm of the tea ceremony?

―Director Yamamoto: Prior to the appearance of Sen no Rikyu, tea ceremonies were held as social occasions at which the upper classes would compete with each other over the luxury of their tea ceremony utensils. In the Azuchi-Momoyama period (16th century), Sen no Rikyu established the simple “wabi-cha” style, which went on to become the basis of the current tea ceremony. It is said that the spirituality of the Japanese, who find beauty in simple or incomplete things, is condensed in the teaceremony.

In fact, the matcha drunk at tea ceremonies is also appealing in terms of its medicinal effects. English tea, Chinese tea, and Japanese tea in generalhave their substances extracted; in the case of matcha, however, powdered tea leaves are dissolved in hot water to be consumed. This means that you ingest all of the nutrients contained in the tea leaves, such as catechins and vitamins. It is thereforea good idea to casually take part in a teaceremonyto benefit your health.


― How do you appreciate tea ceremony utensils?

―Director Yamamoto:  I am frequently asked that question while working at the museum, along with “Which is the most expensive item?” However, would an expensive item be something good?

For example, when you choose clothes in a shop, you may not necessarily like the expensive items. Even if they’re expensive, things that don’t suit you are not good for you.

We should apply the same type of judgment when viewing artworks at a museum. What you like or are interested in is the best for you,so take a moment to consider why you like it. Each piece has captions accompanying it to help you with this, with the information provided including the title, the year it was created, the techniques used, its historicalbackground, and any points to be noted.


― What do you recommend doing to try and use crafts?

―Director Yamamoto: We serve tea at a tearoom in our museum. You can use your hands and put a bowl to your lips to feel its shape that has been designed to allow you to experience the delicious taste of matcha. As well as our museum, there are many other facilities in Kanazawa City where you can enjoy hands-on experience ofhandicrafts and craft techniques; they are definitely worth a visit. New thingsflock to Tokyo and old culture is accumulated in Kyoto. In Kanazawa, new things are created on topof the old culture. I am confident that the city is worth a visit for tourists.

Some people will want to buy handicrafts, as well as wishing to see how they work out. If you obtain an item of your choice, you use it carefully in your everyday life, which I believe is the most ideal and original way of interacting with handicrafts. Some people think they are way too good to use and simply cherish them without putting them to use. But please leave the preservation work to museums and use them in your everyday life.Using things that are filled with the creator’s or your sense of beauty willenhanceyour life, sharpen your senses, and lead to a prosperous life.



Tomoyuki Yamamoto

Director of Kanazawa Nakamura Memorial Museum. Born in Kanazawa City in 1965. After graduating from the Faculty of Letters, Chuo University, began working in the Culture Section, Cityof Kanazawa in 1990. Following long-term training at the Tokyo National Museum and National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto,began serving as a curator for Izumi Kyoka Memorial Museum in 1999. Has served in the current position since 2016.



Kanazawa Nakamura Memorial Museum

  • Open: 9:30 am to 5 pm (Visitors must enter by 4:30 pm)
  • Closed: Exhibit changes from Dec. 29 to Jan. 3
  • Admission fee: 300 yen
  • Address: 3-2-29 Honda-machi
  • Contact: Tel. 076-221-0751
  • WEB:

Beauty and techniques of handicraft inherited in Kanazawa -1-

– 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.

*Maeda Toshitsune/ quote a photo from wikipedia

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.

“Kaga Maki-e”

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.

Seisonkaku Villa

  • 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: