Nousaku, Going Beyond Metal Casting
Located in Takaoka, a town that flourished into a metalwork district 400 years ago, Nousaku is a five-generation family business that has shifted its activities from making Buddhist ritual objects to beautiful home accessories.
Published June 10th 2018 on the former blog
When it comes to Japanese craftsmanship Kyoto and Kanazawa quickly come to mind. But recently Takaoka in Toyama Prefecture has been putting more effort into promoting it’s crafts. The moment you arrive Takaoka, a giant buddah sculpture made of metal welcomes you to the city. This buddah is one of 3 famous great buddhas in Japan but this one is infused with bronze and made in a technique that the region is famous for.
It all started 400 years ago when lord (“daimyo”) Maeda Toshinaga offered seven master casters tax exemptions to set up business in what was then his castle town. Since then Takaoka has been one of Japan’s leading centers for metal ware. The most notable one is Nousaku that started it’s business by creating metal Buddhist altar fixtures in 1916. When the current president (5th generation) took over the company, times were tough and the industry as a whole was struggling. With his arrival they started to expand it’s product lines significantly to include more approachable products for a wider audience which as a result has led them to be one of the most successful businesses in the region.
They have recently rebuilt their campus completely with offices, factory, cafe, shop and even a workshop space where visitors can experience the craft with their own hands.
When you first enter the building a large golden silhouette of Japan made of brass welcomes you. Behind it you’ll see an impressive wall made of models that have been used over the past 100+ years.
The building is based on the concept of “Industrial Tourism” which is nicely incorporated into the “Toyama Doors” wall where many local places are introduced on small cards that can be taken with you and accompany you on your trip around the area.
The workshop lets you experience the traditional tin casting technique hands-on. You’ll be able to choose between making a sake cup, small bowl, chopstick rest and more. The workshop’s duration is about 90min. More information about the workshops and more can be found on their site.
I hope you enjoyed the little architectural tour and maybe consider visiting next time you’re in Japan. You can find more information on Nousaku’s website which is very well localized. Let me end with the sound of the beautiful Nousaku wind bells.
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STORIES BEHIND THE PIECES
Kiyoko Matsuoka, 4th-generation shibori master
Shibori, meaning “to wring, squeeze or press” is the process of shaping cloth before dyeing to create various designs on the textile. Rather than using the cloth as a two dimensional surface, the Shibori textile has a three dimensional element, given that each technique requires years of experience to master.
Hiromichi Nakade, Maker of Oryoki Bowls
Meet Hiromichi Nakade and Kazuya Fujimoto, the makers of the Oryoki and Kodaiwan bowls. A master craftsman sits with his former apprentice to speak about their hope for the declining crafts industry in Japan, as well as the appeal of craftsmanship.