Special Feature“Japan, the Land of Gold.” How True Is the Old Legend?
Sakuda Gold and Silver Leaf Co., Ltd., Ishikawa Prefecture
Kanazawa was the castle town of Japan’s richest daimyo lords for about 300 years, beginning around the end of the 1500s. In those days, Kanazawa was known as the Kaga feudal domain, and under the domain’s encouragement, handcrafts flourished. Those traditions remain alive to this day.
One example is gold leaf, often used to decorate Buddhist statues and artistic objects. The Sakuda Gold and Silver Leaf Atelier is located very close to Kanazawa’s Higashi Chayagai, a district highlighted by the latticework windows of restaurants serving traditional fare. Inside the atelier, gold is the predominant color, thanks to the gold leaf on ornate screens and many other works of art. Here, artisans work with sheets of gold, gently beating them until they are no thicker than one-10,000th of a millimeter. The thinness and the technique are astounding.
After you watch for a while you can try your hand at applying some of that gold leaf. First, stick some semi-transparent paper tape on lacquered chopsticks, a small container or some other craftwork. On the tape, draw a design you like. Next, use a cutter to cut along the lines you have drawn, and remove the parts that will become your final design. Apply glue to the places with no tape, and place gold leaf on top. This is the moment of decision, and the tension is thick.
Press down on the gold leaf with a brush, then gently peel off the pieces of tape to reveal your design—perhaps cherry blossoms, all in gold. The session has lasted an hour, although it seemed like just minutes. Now you have a beautiful memory of your trip.
Kamogawa Hotel Mikazuki, Chiba Prefecture
The city of Kamogawa is about two hours from Tokyo by train, on the Pacific Ocean. The hot springs and seafood are well worth the trip, and the Kamogawa Hotel Mikazuki has another attraction—a glittering bathtub made from 50 kilograms of 18-karat pure gold! When the tub was installed in June 2005, the gold was worth 120 million yen. Located in the hotel’s bathing facility, it is big enough for one person to have an opulent bath.
Any overnight hotel guest can use it, and by April 2007 more than 100,000 people had done so! So if you want a nice long soak in it, avoid busy times like weekends and holidays.