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"Higo Zogan" - A Traditional Craft of Kumamoto Prefecture

For those seeking the beauty of Japan's traditional crafts, or wondering what types of traditional handmade goods Japanese artisans make, this is the video for you!

This video, "手技TEWAZA「肥後象がん」Higo Zougan Inlay," was created by "Traditional Crafts Aoyama Square" (伝統工芸 青山スクエア).

This video introduces higo zogan craftsman Inada Kentaro. In the video, he is seen using the traditional methods of higo zogan to create a chopstick rest. This is a wonderful video to get a sense of the beauty of Japanese products.

An Introduction to the Traditional Japanese Craft, Higo Zogan

Higo zogan is Kumamoto Prefecture’s traditional craft. It is a form of metalworking where gold and silver leaf are inlaid onto iron in order to create designs.
Higo zogan has a long history, and was first used in sword mounts and fixtures, gun barrels, obi fasteners, and hairpins. Now, it is used to create accessories such as tie pins, necklaces, hair pins, cufflinks, loop ties, and earrings, as well as stationery such as ballpoint pens, fountain pens, paperweights, and paper-knives. Many types of products are created using higo zogan.

With higo zogan’s birthplace being Kumamoto Prefecture, in recent years, higo zogan pendants featuring Kumamoto’s mascot Kumamon have also been created. The adorable designs make these pendants perfect as gifts.
The beauty of Japan’s traditional craft is perfectly paired with modern designs, leading to the creation of attractive products.

The Crafting Process of Higo Zogan

This is an introduction of higo zogan’s crafting process according to the video. The object made this time is a chopstick rest.

・Base-making (生地作り, kiji-dukuri) (0:21)
The raw material, iron, is cut and then polished to smooth its corners.

・Inlay preparation (布目切り, nunome-kiri) (0:41)
Using a tool called the “tagame,” grooves are carved vertically, horizontally, and diagonally.

・Inlaying and hammering (打ち込み、叩き締め, uchikomi, tatakishime) (1:10)
Using a specially sized deer antler, gold or silver is inlaid onto the iron base.

・Smoothing the surface (布目消し, nunome-keshi) (1:55)
Using a tool called a “kisaki,” areas with grooves are smoothed and polished.

・Rusting (錆び出し, sabidashi) (2:11)
Using iron rust coloring, the surface of the product is blackened.

・Rust-proofing (錆止め, sabidome) (2:30)
The product is inserted into boiling tea for rust-proofing.

・Heating (焼き付け, yakiduke) (3:02)
Heating prevents the appearance of rust after aging.

The completed chopstick rest is shown from 3:17 in the video.

This is all introduced in detail in the video, so definitely check it out.

Purchasing Higo Zogan Products

Now, we'll introduce a place to purchase higo zogan products.
We recommended "Higo Zogan Mitsusuke" (肥後象嵌 光助) in Kumamoto.
At this store, you can even try your hand at making accessories.
From accessories such as pendants, brooches, earrings, and gold leaf paintings, to pieces of artwork - There are a multitude of items available, so definitely check them out.

In addition, Higo Zogan products are also available through the Internet, so definitely try that out too!
As for how to care for the products after purchase, use a dry, soft cloth or a piece of tissue to wipe the product in order to maintain its shine.

Summary of Higo Zogan, the Culmination of Craftsmen's Skills

In the video, the process of Higo Zogan as well as the necessary materials are explained in more detail than in this article, providing an interesting introduction to Higo Zogan.

There are also many products perfect as souvenirs introduced in the video.
For those who have had their interest piqued by Kumamoto’s Higo Zogan, definitely check out the video!

【Official Website】Traditional Crafts Aoyama Square

Written By
Last Updated : Jun. 12, 2022
鈴木 正孝(Masataka Suzuki)
A writer born and raised in Asakusa, Tokyo who loves traveling and novels

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Kumamoto Prefecture's Traditional Craft
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