Craft Your Own Piece of History in Kumamoto
Try your hand at Higo Zogan, Kumamoto’s traditional art of metalworking
Originally used to decorate weaponry, the time-honored art of Higo Zogan is a type of Damascene, an inlay metalworking art practiced most prominently in Kumamoto Prefecture and Kumamoto City. Dating back to the Edo period some four centuries ago, this technique further evolved since the prohibition of swords in the Meiji era, as early craftsman were inspired to develop and expand its forms into modern manifestations that flourish to this very day.
Still actively honing this traditional art are the craftsmen at Mitsusuke, a group dedicated to creating a new age of Higo Zogan. They offer Damascening workshops at their studio, giving visitors a one-of-a-kind chance to experience this art hands-on. Higo Zogan consists of five intricate steps: engraving, inlaying, rusting, polishing and finishing. There’s no need to be intimidated, however—Mitsusuke’s master craftsmen will guide you through the process.
First, you’ll learn about the rich history of Higo Zogan and the painstaking detail that goes into each piece in a short lecture with Mitsusuke’s resident master, Yuji Osumi. After this, you’ll jump right in and wield your hammer to patter the design down with delicacy. Once you’ve achieved the vibrant gold and silver contrasting against the dark iron base, carefully engrave your design and watch it come to life. If you’re ever feeling unsure, the master will be on hand to assist you throughout the experience.
After you’ve successfully carved out your design, leave the experts to take care of the rest while you wait for the finished product from the comfort of your own home. In a short span of a few weeks, you’ll receive your own ornament of history, courtesy of Kumamoto’s traditional art and your own effort and creativity.
Higo Zogan can be found a 5-minute walk from the Daniyamamachi (B5) stop on Route B of the Kumamoto City Tram.
Higo Zogan Mitsusuke
approx. 60 min. or more