Metal One Metal One Coporation
  HOME     JAPANESE     CHINESE     SITE MAP  
Value One - A Communication Medium of the Metal One Group -
HOME > Value One > Metal Culture > Kumamoto
From Value One, Winter 2016 No. 51  

Coal-black ferrite characterizes the beauty of higo zogan in this work by Tsunakazu Seki
 

A Traditional Art That Incorporates Iron Rust

Zogan or inlay craft is a unique technique of inlaying beautiful shapes of gold and/or silver into the surface of iron or another metal (the Chinese character zo is also pronounced katachi, meaning "shape"). It is one of Japan's oldest traditional crafts, having a history of more than thirteen centuries.

Higo zogan became very popular during the Edo Period (1603–1867). Its originator was reportedly Hayashi Matashichi, a craftsman serving Hosokawa Tadatoshi, who became the feudal lord of Higo (which corresponds to today's Kumamoto Prefecture) in 1632. Hayashi used this method to embellish the handguards of swords and barrels of matchlock guns.

The art is characterized by the intentional use of iron rust to create a feeling of sophistication and to unveil the beauty of ferrite. The production process is extremely delicate, and takes a great deal of trouble and time. In the most advanced process—known as nunome zogan or texture inlay—the craftsperson cuts fine nicks using a chisel in four directions—longitudinally, obliquely rightward, obliquely leftward and latitudinally—to give the ferrite surface's a cloth-like texture. Designed shapes and lines of gold and silver are struck in over the nicks, and unnecessary nicks are carefully smoothed out with iron bars. After that, the product is soaked in a special rust-producing liquid to achieve overall rusting. Finally, it is boiled in tea, whose tannin colors the product a distinctive black and stops the rusting.

Having developed as an art of decorating weapons, higo zogan suffered a quick decline in demand after the Meiji Restoration government prohibited the wearing of swords. Yet the craft regained prosperity by focusing instead on decorative objects and tea ceremony utensils. After World War II, artisans including Tahei Yonemitsu, who was later named a Living National Treasure, enthusiastically taught young followers. Today, more than a dozen zogan craftspeople rival one another in the making of accessories and other small objects including pendants, earrings and necktie pins.


Tsunakazu Seki became a pupil of Yonemitsu at the age of fifteen, and has turned into one of the top-ranking zogan artisans. His many distinguished products include tea ceremony utensils such as kogo (incense containers). "I am rather old, but I am still very eager to meet the challenge of creating something new," he says.

Sumio Yoneno, another Yonemitsu pupil, has concentrated on the guidance of younger artisans. "Handguards that Mr. Yonemitsu made will not look obsolete even when they are a hundred years old," Yoneno states. "I hope that young people make not just fashionable ornamental objects but also products that will remain attractive even after many years."

The dignity and refined artistry of higo zogan, embodying a long, distinguished tradition, will continue to keep its brilliance beyond the limits of mere time-honored craftsmanship.

Tsunakazu Seki crafting nunome zogan




A work by the late Living National Treasure Tahei Yonemitsu






Metal Culture
2018
Hikone
Koto
Hagi
2017
Hirosaki
Hiroshima
Osaka
Muroran
2016
Fukuyama
Misato
Matsudo
Kumamoto
2015
Minamisatsuma
Sumida
Sano
2014
Osaka
Hitoyoshi
Seki
Oshu
2013
Hiroshima
Tokyo
Kawasaki
Nishinoomote
2012
Osaka
Yamagata
Funabashi
Sanjo
2011
Kitakyushu
Nagoya
Echizen
Hamamatsu
2010
Miki
Izunokuni
Kure
Osaka
2009
Inazawa
Kobe
Kuwana
Nagaoka
2008
Kami Town
Ota City
Kamogawa
Hiroshima
2007
Kamaishi
Higashi-Osaka
Nagahama
Tosa
2006
Izumo
Himeji
Sakai
Tsubame
2005
Kumano
Kawaguchi
Seki
Nishiwaki
2004
Minato Ward
Sakaki
Morioka
Introduction of Group Companies
Topics
Foreign Correspondenc
?Terms of Use  
(C) Copyright Metal One Corporation. All rights reserved.