Takaoka is a town of copperware artisans
The city of Takaoka, situated in the western part of Toyama Prefecture,
is the home of a traditional craft known as Takaoka Copperware dating back to the Edo Period.
Kanaya Machi, the home of generations artisans of Takaoka Copperware,
has a parade of thousand-latticed houses so atmosphere-filled that makes you feel as if having time-slipped back to the Edo Period.
Why not try sharing the experience those G7 environment ministers had in Takaoka on a visit to Japan?
Come visit Takaoka, look around moldering workshops, taste the firsthand feel of making your own accessories,
and fully enjoy Kanaya Machi.
A view of Takaoka Kanaya Machi
Strolling in Kanaya Machi, the town of casting artisans,
You have seen huge bells on your visits to Japanese temples.
Those bells, amazingly 95% of them, are manufactured here in Takaoka.
Well-melted metal is poured into the casting molds by the professional hands called casting artisans.
Takaoka Kanaya Machi is where the casting artisans live.
Toshinaga Maeda, the second lord of the Kaga Maeda Clan, invited from Osaka 7 casting artisans and had them inhabit in Kanaya Machi.
That’s how the town first started off.
Ever since the town has rigidly lived up to its history, preserving the traditional township with its traditional atmosphere.
A straight line of the stone-paved street stretching over 500 meters or so, side-lined with thousand-latticed houses,
Kamaya Machi is a showcase of the Japanese atmosphere.
By the way, the Takaoka Copperware is the name attached to all metal wares (crafts made of metal) manufactured in Takaoka.
Meaning that the raw materials employed to make such metal wares vary in type from copper, aluminum alloy, tin, and iron, etc.
Complete view of Kayana Machi
Time-slipping into good old days of the Edo Period
Walk a step into Kanaya Machi, you’ll see before you an Edo street vividly come alive.
Kanaya Machi is best featured by the term “Thousand-latticed Houses”.
The thousand-lattice is locally called “samanoko”.
Walk around the town, and you are sure to feel out a sort of elegance so nostalgic that you will dwell deep in comfort.
Look at a red-painted mailbox standing by the street – a truly retro image alive.
Takaoka stands out with a variety of objects that portray the characteristic image of a town of casting.
Rajio Taiso or Radio calisthenics, a unique object of Takaoka Copperware
Takaoka’s 500-meter Street is designated a “traditional architectures preservation district”
and the township is mandated to retain its traditional appearance.
Environment ministers on a visit of Japan for G7 meet experienced the tour to Kanaya Machi
You can see for yourself firsthand how the artisans at work.
One of the sites is the "Risaburo Workshop" of Kanaya Machi.
The exterior of the Risaburo Workshop
The workshop is free to visit but you are required to contact in advance.
Behind the gallery is the Risaburo Workshop, where Mr. Soichiro Jinpachi (art name: Risaburo),
a Takaoka copperware artisan and Risaburo the 4th, was at work making a flower vase on the day of our visit.
The Risaburos has long been casting artisan, father to son, and Risaburo the 4th, Soichiro, was designated a traditional craftsman.
Yuji, Risaburo the 5th, is also a traditional craftsman. They collaborate father to son in the traditional craftsmanship.
The workshop is loaded with a variety of tools along with a furnace to melt castings.
Very impressive to look at.
In 2016, the environment ministers who attended the G7 meet visited Kanaya Machi and experienced casting firsthand right here at the Risaburo Workshop.
Inside the storehouse full of tools
While browsing through the workshop, you can try casting just as those ministers had done
- drawing pictures of your choice on the sand mold, carve it with a nail, and pour tin over it.
That way you can have wind-bells, paper wights, wine cups, and what not, quite easily made.
It takes about 90 minutes to 2 hours for fees of ¥3,000.
A fee of ¥4,400 is charged for each wine cup.
Visitors from all over the world have had the experience, says the workshop hostess who showed a message book to prove it.
The workshop hostess also serves as a volunteer guide.
The workshop hostess, Mrs. Yoshiko Jinpachi, is active also as a tourist volunteer serving Kanaya Machi.
What is Kanaoka Copperware?
TaKaoka Copperware is a traditional casting craft manufactured in Takaoka City, Toyama Prefecture.
The industry first started manufacturing flower vase and later Buddhist atar fittings such as "karakane imono" or metal-caving,
and developed into what is today called Takaoka Copperware.
In 1975, Takaoka was designated the first production site of traditional crafts in Japan.
Over 400 years have elapsed since the birth of Takaoka Copperware, and Takaoka City,
the one and only production site of copperware, is still active and buoyant in manufacturing a wide variety of products.
It's amazing to see that most of the Buddha images, large and small, are manufactured here at Takaoka;
so are all sorts of Buddha altar fittings, incense burners, flower vases, tea sets, lanterns, and the rest of crafts.
The Great Buddha of Takaoka, one of three great Buddha images of Japan, is of course a Takaoka copperware.
Why not try making your own accessories at old private houses?
If you happen to be one of those wishing to briefly experience the art of Takaoka copperware,
The store opened in 1890 as a manufacturing wholesaler of metal castings.
It also sells souvenirs and operates a cafe alongside.
At the store, you can try fixing your own accessories with scissors.
You bend and cut out milder metal sheets like tin into pierced earrings, keyholders, necklaces, and so on.
Experiencing hand-making accessories
A fee per piece ¥2,000～; it takes 30 minutes to an hour to fix one.
The store carries all sorts of souvenirs for you to choose from but none is better than your own handmade article!
Give it a try.
A bracelet with a tin string
Charming tin strings for ¥900 each; done in Ajiro knit, spiral knit and such ductile traditional Japanese knits so easy to fold.
You can use it as a bracelet to wrap around your wrist, place it somewhere in your room to look at, or however else you care to use it.
Kanaya Machi is a live town of people living in classy houses.
Let us observe public manners when touring the town.
At twilight times when tourists are scarce, you might have a chance of peeping into the innocent life of local people.
That may be another essence of your enjoyable tour of Kanaya Machi.