Traditional Craft men & women in Taito city

Kikinzoku Kakou [ Precious Metal Working ]

Tanaka Yasuji

Mr. Kouji Tanaka is a metal ornament craftsman who produces ornaments made from precious metals at his shop, Kazarishoku Takuwa. He mainly produces custom-made ornaments.

Mr. Kouji Tanaka decided to become a metal ornament craftsman because his grandfather was one. From a very young age his grandfather told him that he was very skilled at making things with his hands and he naturally turned towards the path of a craftsman. Mr. Kouji Tanaka stated, “My father chose a different line of work so maybe my grandfather wanted me to succeed him instead.”

Metal ornament craftsmen are craftsmen who have learned many techniques to process precious metals such as gold, silver, and bronze. By looking at artifacts from the Yayoi Period (c. 300 BCE – c. 250 CE) we can clearly see that the history of using precious metals to make ornaments is very long. Accessories made of metal may not be made very often nowadays, but in the Edo Period (1603 – 1868) they were very popular. The birth of metal craftsmen dates back to the Heian Period (794-1185) and the skills and techniques of silverwork have been passed down since that time. At the end of the Meiji Period (1868-1912) metal craftsmen split into two different sections; one for those who work with Shinto shrines, Buddhist temples, and Omikoshi (portable shrines), and the other for those who make rings, pendants, and earrings from precious metals such as gold and silver.
When Mr. Kouji Tanaka first started working at the shop he was mainly creating kimono obi-dome (an ornament worn over a kimono sash), but now focuses on accessories such as pendants and earrings.

The process of creating ornaments from precious metals starts with acquiring sheets of precious metals from a specialized metal supplier. Then deciding on a design for the ornament and cutting the required parts to make that design from the metal sheets. The parts are soldered into shape and if detailed work is necessary they are taken to an engraver. Lastly, precious stones are set into the metal and the final product is polished.

From the start, Mr. Kouji Tanaka was responsible for ‘Yosemono’, which involves soldering parts into shape. ‘Yosemono’ is very complex as the craftsmen have to use a variety of different types of metal which all melt at different temperatures. They need to calculate the time and temperature required for each metal and work quickly to accomplish the desired result. Also, in the case of stone setting they need to consider the delicacy of the precious stones they are working with and handle them carefully.

Originally, Mr. Kouji Tanaka was only in charge of ‘Yosemono’ work; the processes after that such as engraving designs on the surface of the ornament would be accomplished by an engraver. Recently, however, he has learned to do the engraving himself as the number of engravers has decreased.
Also, during the bubble (1986-1991) when the economy was incredibly good he decided on designs himself and sold ornaments at a wholesale store, but now the structure has changed and most customers place orders for custom-made ornaments directly.

“Recently the number of metal ornament craftsmen who are quitting is increasing, but I plan to continue being a metal ornament craftsman and will keep increasing my skill set while telling others about the existence of craftsmen. From now on, if I have the opportunity, I’d like to teach the general public the skills to make metal ornaments as well.” Mr. Kouji Tanaka explained.

Kazarishoku Takuwa

Address: (Tokyo) Taito, Moto Asakusa 4-7-8

Telephone: 03-3841-8291

Hours: Irregular hours

Holidays: Sat, Sun, and National Holidays