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Metalworking in Iiyama


©Shinshu-Iiyama Tourism Bureau  

HOME > Japan’s Local Treasures > Metalworking in Iiyama


Discover this ancient craft at a hands-on workshop in Iiyama

Shinshu-Iiyama Tourism Bureau


©Shinshu-Iiyama Tourism Bureau


Buddhist altars called “butsudan” have been made in Iiyama since the 17th century. Terase Shigetaka brought the craft from Kōfu in Yamanashi Prefecture to Iiyama, a city located in Nagano Prefecture, in around 1689. Back then, the altars were simple, made only from wood, but over time they developed into the intricate, gilded items which you can admire today.
As Iiyama is located in the mountains, the local craftspeople had access to vast forests which supplied both sap from urushi trees (for making lacquer) and wood. Combined with the large number of temples in the area, this created the perfect circumstances for the crafting of Buddhist altars to evolve and thrive. Stroll along Atago-machi, also called “Butsudan Street”, and you’ll still see many serene temples alongside shops dedicated to Buddhist altars.
Making butsudan is a complex process, involving woodworking, lacquerware and metalworking. You can experience a part of this process when visiting Iiyama – the hand-stamped ‘engraving’ technique which makes the altars’ metal fittings so intricate and beautiful.
You can create a bookmark in around an hour and a half, or a necklace in roughly two and a half hours, at the workshop attached to the Shin’etsu Shizenkyō Iiyama Station Tourist Information Center (book in advance). As you create your unique souvenir, you’ll have a chance to learn more about the history of the Iiyama butsudan, and metalworking techniques honed over centuries.


©Shinshu-Iiyama Tourism Bureau

How to get there

From Tokyo Station, it is approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes to Iiyama Station on the Hokuriku Shinkansen. The Iiyama Station Tourist Information Center is located on the 1st floor of Iiyama Station.


Iiyama Station Tourist Information Center
772-6 Iiyama-shi, Nagano-ken


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