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2022.03 Discover Toyama’s Ancient Heritage of Craftmanship, Through the Metalwork and Lacquerware of Takaoka [PR]

Takaoka City is located on Toyama Bay in northwestern Toyama Prefecture, on the Sea of Japan. Since the construction of Takaoka Castle in 1609 by the wealthy Maeda family, the city’s traditional crafts and spirit of craftsmanship (“monozukuri” in Japanese), have been passed down the generations and refined, for over 400 years. We can still see this heritage of craft through Takaoka copperware, Takaoka lacquerware, Etchu Fukuoka Sugegasa (sedge-woven hats), and other products.

 

You can see traces of the past in local architecture including Zuiryuji Temple, Shokoji Temple, the Great Buddha of Takaoka, and the traditional streetscapes of Kanayamachi. See the beauty of Takaoka and appreciate the craft heritage and folk culture of this well-preserved city.

 

Takaoka: a city formed by nature and craftsmanship 

 

Takaoka City is a center of commerce and craft but is also rich in nature, with mountains to the west and Toyama Bay to the northeast. Amaharashi Coast is within the Noto Hantō Quasi-National Park, on Toyama Bay. From the long stretch of white-sand beach, you can see the Meiwa Rock, framed against the backdrop of the majestic Tateyama mountain range. It is a view that has inspired poets since ancient times. 

 

A splendid view of the Meiwa Rock and the Tateyama mountain range from Amaharashi Coast

 

Takaoka was founded in the early 17th century when the military commander Maeda Toshinaga, the second head of the powerful Maeda family of Kaga (present-day Ishikawa Prefecture), built Takaoka Castle. The moat and original stone walls of the castle  remain in Takaoka Kojo (Old Castle) Park. The parklands convey the beauty of each season, with cherry blossoms in spring and rich autumn colors in fall.

 

 

Stroll through Takaoka Kojo (Old Castle) Park, to enjoy seasonal blooms and colors.

 

Explore Takaoka’s craft heritage

 

You can see many traditional crafts in Takaoka such as Takaoka copperware, Takaoka lacquerware, and Etchu Fukuoka Sugegasa, but you can also experience these crafts up close and try your hand at making something. In recent years, the traditional techniques have been adapted to create products with cutting-edge designs that suit modern lifestyles.

 

Takaoka copperware ranges from small, decorative items such as ornaments, Buddhist ritual implements, and flower vases, to large Buddhist bells and statues. At Nousaku, you can enjoy a guided tour of the foundry and make a tin sake cup to take home. The showroom and store of Kanaya has a wide range of stylish homeware products and accessories made using traditional techniques. There are many opportunities to try your hand at traditional crafts at workshops across the city. Experiences range from making your own lacquerware pendant to creating an original copper coaster.

 

 

 

Nousaku has a history of producing cast-metal objects and other handicrafts with sophisticated designs.

 

Casting molds on display at Nousaku

 

Examples of Kanaya’s stylish products include a floor lamp and a shoe horn.

 

At Kanaya you can buy stylish homewares by craftsmen and up-and-coming designers.

 

Takaoka is recognized as one of the top lacquerware areas in Japan. Takaoka lacquerware has been used for chests of drawers and armory equipment and developed unique techniques such as aogai-nuri (inlaying fine slivers of shell to create decorative motifs), yusuke-nuri (using rust lacquer to create scenes of animals and people), and chokoku-nuri (carved wood coated with lacquer). The Takaoka Regional Industry Centre and other facilities have workshops where visitors can experience the crafts and galleries where they can see them.

 

Takaoka lacquerware uses sophisticated techniques including carving and inlaying shells and gemstones.

 

At Takaoka Regional Local Industry Centre, you can experience casting production.

 

In Japan, where rice cultivation is a thriving industry, sugegasa hats are a traditional handicraft that has offered protection against the rain and sun to farmers engaged in rice cultivation, for over 400 years. The town of Fukuoka in Takaoka City prospered as a wholesaler of these woven hats around the latter half of the 17th century, and now 90% of all sugegasa in Japan are produced in Takaoka.

 

 

Sugegasa, a traditional hat for outdoor work is woven from Carex dispalata (sedge), and comes in numerous shapes. They are also worn for various rituals and festivals.

 

Stroll traditional townscapes

 

Takaoka has several well-preserved townscapes, where you can see typical buildings from the Edo period (1603–1867). Strolling these streets is like stepping back in time.

 

The elegant townscape of the Kanayamachi district is rich in architectural heritage. It is designated an Important Preservation District for Groups of Traditional Buildings, and features well-preserved streetscapes with a beautiful contrast between the timber lattice facades of the townhouses and the cobblestone pavements. At the Metal Casting Museum, housed in a traditional townhouse, you can learn more about the 400-year history of the local metalworking industry and its casting techniques.

 

Another well-preserved townscape is the Yoshihisa Important Preservation District for Groups of Traditional Buildings in the northern part of Takaoka. The streets of Yoshihisa are lined with the wide, traditional wooden houses of rice merchants. During the Edo period the government rice storehouses for the whole province were in Yoshihisa, and the area was vibrant with trade.

 

In Kanayamachi, some of the traditional buildings with beautiful senbon goushi (latticed wood facades) are now used as cafes and lodging facilities.

 

The streets of Yoshihisa, a district for rice merchants during the Edo period

 

Takaoka’s magnificent temple architecture

 

The magnificent temples of Takaoka are a testament to the importance and influence of the area, since the Edo period (1603–1867). Many prospered under the patronage of the powerful Maeda family who ruled the region in the Edo period and display the skilled craftsmanship of Toyama.

 

Unryuzan Shokoji Temple was established in the 15th century, and was the main temple of the Shinshu school of Buddhism in Etchu province (modern day Toyama Prefecture) The 12 buildings of the temple complex, including the main temple building, the main hall, and the shoin (study), have been designated Important Cultural Properties. Over time, the buildings became damaged and fell into disrepair, but conservation and repair work since 1998 has restored them to their magnificent late-Edo-period form.  

 

Unryuzan Shokoji Temple is steeped in history and beauty.

 

Takaokayama Zuiryuji Temple was built in memory of Maeda Toshinaga (1562–1614), the second daimyo of the Kaga domain, and the founder of Takaoka City. This Zen temple has a grand layout, and construction took around 20 years, completing in 1663. The Sanmon Gate, Buddha Hall and Dharma Hall are designated as National Treasures, while structures including the Somon gate, meditation hall, and a tea ceremony hall, are designated Important Cultural Properties. The temple is considered an exemplary example of Zen Buddhist architecture of the early Edo period.

 

The Buddha Hall of Zuiryuji Temple is a National Treasure.

 

The Great Buddha of Takaoka is a bronze seated statue of Amida Nyorai (the Buddha of Infinite Light), at Hotokusan Daibutsuji Temple. At 16 meters (around 52 ft.) high, it is one of the largest Buddhas in Japan. Construction of the Great Buddha began in 1907, using the best casting technology of Takaoka. Statues of the Amida Triad and Buddhist paintings are displayed in a hall within the pedestal of the Great Buddha.

 

The Great Buddha is a symbol of Takaoka, and an example of the city’s high level of metal working expertise.

 

Experience Toyama’s rich food culture

 

With its location on the coast of the Sea of Japan, Toyama’s cuisine has a reverence for seafood and rice. Its stunning landscapes, which have drawn poets since ancient times, have also influenced the area’s sweets.

 

One of Toyama's famous gourmet foods is masuzushi. It is a circular pressed sushi made with trout seasoned with salt and vinegar, that uses techniques handed down since the Edo period (1603–1868). The delicacy became popular after it was given as a gift to Toyama’s ruling family. It is still a popular gift to bring back from Toyama and is sold at specialist stores and restaurants across the region. 

 

Toyama’s seasonal sweets reflect the beauty of the local landscape. Ohnoya, a long-established confectionary shop has been in business since 1838, and offers a variety of seasonal sweets using local ingredients. Ohnoya’s line of sweets includes traditional Japanese confectionery related to the Manyoshu, Japan's oldest collection of poetry. Tokonatsu is a popular sweet inspired by the snow on top of Mt Tate, as celebrated in an ancient poem. 

 

Masuzushi from specialist store from Masu no Sushi Honpo Minamoto. Seasoned trout and rice are wrapped in bamboo leaves and pressed in a tub.

 

Tokonatsu is a famous confectionery from Ohnoya confectionary store made with rice and white bean paste, and inspired by an ancient poem.

 

Getting to Takaoka

 

Takaoka is in Toyama Prefecture, on the Sea of Japan. It takes about 2 hours and 20 minutes from JR Tokyo Station to Shin-Takaoka Station by Hokuriku Shinkansen. From JR Osaka Station or JR Kyoto Station to Shin-Takaoka Station via Kanazawa Station by limited express train, it takes about 3 hours and 30 minutes. Getting around Takaoka is easy on foot, and you can use trams, buses, taxis and rental bicycles to explore the city.

 

Related Links

 

Takaoka tourism portal site

WEB:https://www.takaoka.or.jp/en/?lang=en

Toyama Cultural Heritage

WEB:https://toyama-bunkaisan.jp/en/

 

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