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Kirikane - A Traditional Japanese Decorative Technique

This video, titled "Japanese Craftsmanship: Japanese Crafts "Kirikane" (Japanese Craftsmanship:日本の匠「截金」), was produced by "Japanese Craftsmanship."
It introduces the culture of Kirikane, a traditional Japanese craft.

Kirikane is a decorative technique that involves cutting thinly stretched gold or silver foil into small pieces and creating patterns while pasting them to an object.
Since ancient times, kirikane has been essential for decorating Buddhist statues and paintings as well as for decorating spirit tablets.
Kirikane is an indispensable traditional Japanese technique in the world of Buddhist art.

The History of Kirikane, a Traditional Japanese Craft

It's estimated that kirikane was already being used for the decoration of tableware, Buddhist statues, and decorative boxes in Asian countries in the pre-era (BC).
In Japan, too, kirikane came to be used for carving Buddhist statues and making Buddhist paintings from around the Nara Period (710-794) onward.
It's only in Japan, however, that kirikane culture has been inherited for traditional crafts despite thousands of years of history.

To date, three people, Baitei Saita, Daizo Nishide, and Sayoko Eri, have been designated as Important Intangible Cultural Properties (Living National Treasures) in the art of kirikane.
These three kirikane craftsmen were recognized for their mastery of advanced kirikane techniques and their efforts to spread the culture of kirikane.

The Traditional Japanese Craft, Kirikane - How It's Made

Kirikane artisans first create patterns with motifs of nature, plants, and animals, which are then repeated geometrically.
They then bake four sheets of foil as thin as 1/10,000th of a millimeter, burn them together, cut them carefully, and attach them according to the prepared pattern.
The cutting and attaching can be seen at 0:46 in the video.

On top of gold and silver foil, platinum foil is sometimes used for kirikane as well.
The skill of master artisans is indispensable in creating beautiful kirikane works of art.

Experience Traditional Kirikane

If you'd like to experience the traditional culture of kirikane, we recommend visiting a shop that sells traditional crafts or checking out a kirikane exhibit.

There are many different types of kirikane works of art, such as decorative boxes and tools.
Many pieces made using traditional Japanese crafts are expensive, but some of can be found for surprisingly reasonable prices, so be sure to check them out if you're looking for gifts or souvenirs.
We recommend attending a class where you can experience traditional Japanese kirikane and learn about the history and techniques of the craft.

Summary of Kirikane, a Traditional Japanese Craft

Kirikane is indispensable to Japanese Buddhist art culture and traditional crafts as a whole.
You can see various kirikane works at 1:55 in the video.
The appeal of kirikane lies in its elegant beauty.

Kirikane works are also available for purchase, so if you're interested in these high-quality items, be sure to check them out.

Written By
Last Updated : Sep. 15, 2020
坂崎 なお(Nao Sakazaki)
Interested in Japanese culture and traditions! I'll be introducing lovely scenery to you!
Kirikane: A Japanese Technique That Uses Gold Leaf to Draw Patterns on Buddhist Decorations. Check Out the Beautiful Craftsmanship in These Works of Art Created by Highly Skilled Artisans!
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