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The Takaoka Copper Casting of Takaoka City, Toyama Prefecture – A Traditional Japanese Craft

This video, titled "手技TEWAZA「高岡銅器」Takaoka Copper Casting," was produced by "Japan Traditional Crafts Aoyama Square."
It introduces Takaoka Copper Casting, a traditional craft in Takaoka City, Toyama.

Takaoka Copper Casting in Takaoka City, Toyama originates from a factory opened in the Edo period (1603 – 1868 AD) by Maeda Toshinaga in the Kaga Maeda Clan with the seven metal casters from Tamba, Kyoto, said to be the birthplace of metal casting.
Most of the Takaoka Copper Casting products are related to Buddhist tools such as vases and a large part of the production process involves the attentive handiwork of artisans.
The traditional Japanese craftsmanship is appreciated even outside of Japan.
The Takaoka Great Buddha at Daibutsuji Temple (大佛寺, Daibutsu-ji) is said to be one of the most impressive pieces made by the Takaoka Copper Casting artisans.

This is a rare video that introduces the production process of Takaoka Copper Casting.
Please enjoy watching the craftsmanship of the Takaoka copper casting artisans.

Takaoka Copper Casting: One of the Greatest Treasures in Japanese Culture- How It's Done

Takaoka Copper Casting is essentially produced with a metal casting technique where a piece of metal is melted at high temperature and poured into a mold to form the desired shape.
Japanese metal casting techniques are highly recognized worldwide, and the metal casting of Takaoka City, Toyama is especially famous.
Now, let's take a look at how Takaoka Copper Casting products are made.

1. Making the original model (0:18)
Based on the blueprint, a prototype is created using wood, plaster, clay and resin.
This prototype becomes the grand image of the final product.

2. Making the mold (0:29)
A fire-resistant material is used for the original model, and a casting is made to pour the copper into.
This is said to be the most important step.
The mold made from casting sand is an example of exquisite craftsmanship.

3. Refining and melting (0:44)
Refining refers to the process of removing impurities and increasing the purity of the metal. The refined metal is melted and liquefied at high temperatures..
The molten copper alloy reaches 1200 degrees Celsius in this process.

4. Casting (1:00)
The refined molten copper is poured into the casting.

5. Removing the mold (1:23)
The cooled and hardened copper is removed from the casting and the finishing process begins.

6. Polishing (1:48)
The product is beautifully polished.

7. Coloring (2:05)
After coloring and inlays are added, the work is complete!

At 1:31 in the video, one of the Takaoka Copper Casting artisans explains “We hope that our Buddhist statues and monuments will convey what the customer had in mind, and will be loved.”

The Art Pieces of Takaoka Copper Casting Gained Worldwide Popularity at the World Expo in Paris

A number of art pieces such as Buddhist statues and vases made using Takaoka Copper Casting were exhibited at the World Expo in Paris, and the name has come to be known around the world.
These reason these artifacts are so beautifully shaped is because they were developed through producing bronze casting products adorned with carvings.
In Takaoka City, Toyama, the descendants of the master craftsmen of the past have inherited the traditional crafting techniques and skills and have created many works of art. They continue to do so even today.

Summary of Takaoka Copper Casting

The entire process of Takaoka Copper Casting has been done with the careful handiwork of artisans for more than 400 years.
"We want to pass down the 400-year-old technique to the next generation," says one of the Takaoka Copper Casting artisans at 2:26 in the video.
To inherit this valuable Japanese culture, Takaoka City has held workshops of Takaoka Copper Casting to train potential artisans.

Miyuki-cho in Takaoka City has the Takaoka Copper Casting Museum where you can see and purchase products. Some large bronze statues are valued at millions of yen (tens of thousands of dollars).
Takaoka Copper Casting products are also available at online marketplaces such as Rakuten and Amazon, and include ochoko (small sake cups), ornaments, paperweights, and more. The most popular ones are made by Takenaka Bronze Works Co.,Ltd.

The company donated a 1/100 scale bronze casting model to Zuiryuji Temple (瑞龍寺, Zuiryuji), a temple designated as a National Treasure, in Takaoka City.
The temple is one of the most popular tourist spots in Takaoka City renowned for its spring event of lighting up the temple, where the bones of Oda Nobunaga and his son are buried.
Tourists can visit the grave of Maeda Toshinaga, who was deeply involved in the history of Takaoka Copper Castings, by way of a path called Hocchodo, lined with stone lanterns.

In recent years, nine companies that are members of the Takaoka Copper Industry Cooperative Society have made original "Takaoka Wind Chimes" and sold them at the Takaoka Regional Industry Center, Takaoka Mikurumayama Museum, and shops where crafts are sold.

【Official website】Japan Traditional Crafts Aoyama Square
https://kougeihin.jp/en/

Written By
Sep. 15, 2020
Japan
児玉 勇(Yu Kodama)
A writer who loves Japan and yakitori
A Rare Video Explaining the Production Process of One of Toyama’s Traditional Crafts
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