The History of Gold Leaf

Kanazawa accounts for more than 98% of all gold leaf production in Japan. Kanazawa's artisan gold leaf techniques have been passed down because of the climate and natural features of the area, and it is said that it is also because of the undivided passion of the refined Kanazawa craftsmen who have continuously passed down only the superior techniques.

1.The Beginning of Gold Leaf

The history of gold leaf in Japan

It's unclear exactly when gold and silver leaf was first created in Japan, but gold was used to symbolize eternity and the unchanging in temple buildings and Buddhist statues in ancient times. Together with the adoption of Buddhism in Japan that developed in the Heian, Muromachi, and Azuchi-Momoyama Periods, traditional Chinese metal leaf making techniques came to Japan and became established as distinctly Japanese, and developed into what we know today.

The history of gold leaf in Kanazawa

It's uncertain when gold and silver leaf making began in Kanazawa. However, Toshiie Maeda, first lord of the Kaga Domain, was chosen to welcome the mission from the Ming Dynasty on the battlefield during Toyotomi Hideyoshi's invasion of Korea in 1593. In order to decorate spears and other items for the welcoming, an order was given for gold and silver leaf production in feudal Kaga and Noto, and production began.

Kanazawa metal leaf, and the climate of the Hokuriku region

Kanazawa developed as a production area for gold leaf, due in part to the climate of the Hokuriku region, with suitable humidity, heat, and water quality for metal leaf production. The persevering "artisan spirit" and techniques that were fostered by the land are also main factors in the development of gold leaf.

2. Kanazawa Metal Leaf and the Warring States Period (1467 - 1603)

Gold, a symbol of power

Toyotomi Hideyoshi, notable for his love of gold, preferred gold leaf and used it in castle towers and furniture. A large amount of gold-leaved roof tiles have been excavated, including roof tiles from Jurakudai, a residence built by Toshiie Maeda ,and daimyo feudal lords, featuring the umebachi mon, the Maeda family crest from nearby Fushimi Castle. It is speculated that many daimyo feudal lords used gold leaf in many ways as a symbol of power, such as on roof tiles and interior decorations.

Kanazawa metal leaf, created in secret

In the era of Tokugawa Ieyasu, production of gold and silver leaf came under strict control as a way to establish an economic system in the feudal government. This "Ban on Gold Leaf Production" strictly prohibited gold leaf outside of Edo (modern-day Tokyo) and Kyoto. However, gold leaf production continued in secret in the workshops of the Kaga Domain. From this, people in the Kaga Domain focused their energy into the development of traditional crafts, such as Kutani ware, Wajima lacquer, Yamanaka lacquer, and Kaga maki-e, and the cornerstone of today's craft kingdom, Ishikawa, was established.

The metal leaf shops of Kanazawa

While the ban on gold leaf was still in place, an opportunity came for Kanazawa gold leaf in 1808. Ninomaru Palace, part of Kanazawa Castle that was lost to fire, needed to be rebuilt and a large amount of gold leaf was needed. Hakuya Sasuke, who managed the gold leaf business in Kyoto, was ordered to prepare gold leaf, and craftsmen experienced in gold leaf were summoned from Kyoto. The townspeople of Kanazawa used this opportunity to begin trying to establish a metal leaf production industry, but the ban on gold leaf continued to be enforced, being re-issued 3 times in 1820, 1824, and 1826 by the feudal government. Despite this, gold leaf production still continued in secret in the workshops of the Kaga Domain.

In 1830, due to the efforts of the Domain, the Goto family from Edo Kinza (gold guild) granted Sasuke Notaya with a "Gold Leaf Retailer" sign as a license for selling Edo gold leaf, and in 1845, Notaya was granted official permission to sell Edo gold leaf.

3. Modern Developments in Kanazawa Metal Leaf

The Meiji Restoration and the development of Kanazawa metal leaf

In 1864, the Kaga Domain received permission to establish their own gold leaf production, and using this opportunity, the quality and volume of Kanazawa gold leaf was developed greatly. Due to the abolition of metal leaf guilds and the collapse of the feudal government with the Meiji Reformation, Edo gold leaf, part of the once-regulated gold leaf industry, came to an end, and the predominance of Kanazawa metal leaf grew almost overnight.

The World War and the rapid progress of Kanazawa metal leaf

Germany was once the largest production center of metal leaf in Europe, but damaged from the First World War, it was hit with a devastating blow, causing the metal leaf industry in Kanazawa to develop rapidly. Kanazawa metal leaf developed through the laying of deep roots in religion, being used in Buddhist altars, Buddhist religious objects, and decorative gift cords.

4, The Limitless Possibilities of Kanazawa Metal Leaf

Kanazawa metal leaf, continually evolving

Kanazawa metal leaf, once just a material, has come to be associated with Kanazawa Metal Leaf Craftwork, and it has earned its status as the representative traditional craft of Ishikawa, the craft kingdom. Gold leaf is not only a craftwork, but has also come to be used in food and cosmetics, and recently, demand has increased for gold leaf as a new material that expands the expressive power of buildings and furniture.

The power of expression in Kanazawa metal leaf

Kanazawa metal leaf is a general term that includes gold leaf as well as silver leaf, tin leaf, and brass leaf. Metal leaf doesn't simply express the hues of the metal itself. Rather, through delicately changing combinations, special processing, and changing the way the leaf is attached to surfaces, the expressive power of metal leaf expands without limit.

We will continue creating history for Kanazawa metal leaf into the future.

Business

Metal leaf materials

Metal leaf materials

We have developed a wide variety of Kanazawa metal leaf with original technologies, including gold leaf made from traditional methods.

Metal leaf materials

Craftwork

Craftwork

We deliver Kanazawa metal leaf craftwork utilizing lustrous and beautiful Kanazawa metal leaf.

Craftwork

Cosmetics

Cosmetics

We manage the sales of oil-absorbing paper and gold leaf cosmetics, and we also act as an OEM.

Cosmetics

Edible gold leaf

Edible gold leaf

We handle generous edible gold leaf and sweets made from craftsmanship.

Edible gold leaf

Building decorations

Building decorations

Utilizing traditional methods for Kanazawa metal leaf, we create a new power of expression for modern architecture.

Building decorations

Metal leaf processing

Metal leaf processing

We extract the charm and appeal of industrial goods and create traditional craft items complete with beauty in their use.

Metal leaf processing

Tourism

Tourism

We support tourism in Kanazawa that allows visitors to enjoy gold leaf.

Tourism