Celebrating Japanese Craft Traditions amid Cherry Blossoms
With springtime sakura in full bloom, World Monuments Fund (WMF) and the city of Kanazawa held a workshop on Japanese gold leaf crafting in the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa. In a speech, Mayor Takashi Murayama, expressed his appreciation for the support given by WMF and Tiffany & Co. to Kanazawa’s heritage when the two organizations partnered in 2022 to launch a training program dedicated to gold leaf craftwork.
Located in northeastern Japan, Kanazawa is responsible for 99% of Japan’s supply of gold leaf, which is used to adorn everything from monumental buildings to diminutive household goods. Inscribed on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List, Japan’s traditional gold leaf working faces an uncertain future given the advanced age of its few remaining practitioners. With this in mind, the educational program launched by the City along with WMF and Tiffany & Co. was designed to pass on key craft skills and an appreciation for the art to the next generation.
In his keynote address, WMF Program Manager Hunghsi Chao shared WMF’s experience with pedagogical initiatives in China in the form of the CRAFT Educational Program, a two-year conservation curriculum based around work at Qianlong Garden in Beijing’s Forbidden City that grew out of a master’s program at the Tsinghua University School of Architecture. A collaboration between WMF, the Palace Museum, and Tsinghua, CRAFT is the first formal master’s program in China designed to meet international standards, combining Western scientific approaches with Chinese traditional artisan techniques.
During a panel discussion, Chao and Mitsuo Inagaki, WMF’s field representative in Japan, discussed threats to the survival of gold leaf craftwork in Japan and current efforts to preserve and pass on this intangible cultural heritage. WMF and the City also mounted an exhibition devoted to Kanazawa gold leaf (known as entsuke kinpaku) and its production, which involves stretching a dime-sized piece of golden alloy into a sheet measuring 1/10,000 of a millimeter in thickness.
Guests at a talk on WMF's CRFT educational program and its work to revitalize Kanazawa gold leaf craftwork
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