Japanese metalwork is a traditional craft dating back hundreds of years to the Edo period.
Goldsmithing is a particularly select profession in Japan, and masters of this art are renowned for their skill, steadfastness, and rich sensibility.
Read on to learn more about the masters who create everlasting beauty through gold, building on skill and passion passed down for generations.
Hoseki OkuyamaGoldsmith, Preserver of Important Intangible Cultural Properties of Japan（Living National Treasure）
Born in Yamagata Prefecture in 1937, Hoseki Okuyama served as an apprentice to the master tankin (metal hammering) artist Shuho Kasahara before going on to study under Mitsuteru Tanaka. Since setting out on his own at the age of 27, Hoseki has forged a distinctive career as a goldsmith spanning more than 60 years.
He specializes in gold damascene and depicts unique, majestic worlds featuring trees and flowers as motifs. In recognition of his exceptional work and outstanding craftsmanship, Hoseki was named a Preserver of Important Intangible Cultural Properties of Japan (Living National Treasure) for metal hammering in 1995, making him the youngest person to hold the honor at the time. In 1997, he received a Medal with Purple Ribbon, one of the Japanese Medals of Honor.
He continues to create exquisite works to this day while also working to train the next generation, ensuring that the storied traditions of tankin live on.
Koichi IshikawaGoldsmith third master of Ishikawa Studio
Ishikawa Studio was bestowed with the Japanese Prime Minister's Award in recognition of its illustrious history, including the creation of gold cups for sumo wrestling tournaments and items commemorating the wedding of Japan’s current Emperor, Emperor Naruhito, during his time as Crown Prince. Carrying on centuries-old traditions dating back to the Edo period, the studio creates some of Japan’s most renowned pieces of tankin (metal hammering).
Koichi Ishikawa was born in Asakusa, Tokyo in 1949 and is the eldest son of Seitaro Ishikawa, the second master of Ishikawa Studio. He began his apprenticeship under master goldsmith Tadashi Muto at the age of 18. After mastering the necessary metalworking techniques, he returned to Ishikawa Studio to work with his father, grandfather and uncle.
He continues to explore new frontiers that reflect the times through his work, honoring the traditions of his forebearers all the while.
Koichi received the Tokyo Governor Award in 1988.
Hiroaki IshikawaGoldsmith artist fifth master of Ishikawa Studio
Born in Asakusa, Tokyo in 1980, Hiroaki Ishikawa is the second son of Koichi Ishikawa, third master of Ishikawa Studio. Hiroaki began learning metalworking techniques under the tutelage of his uncle in 1999.
His first work was featured in the Japan Gold and Silver Creation Exhibition, where it won the Taito City Mayor Award. He began studying under Hoseki Okuyama, a Preserver of Important Intangible Cultural Properties of Japan, in 2001 with the aim of further refining his metalworking prowess.
Building on talent that bloomed at a young age, Hiroaki went on to assume the position of the fifth master of Ishikawa Studio.
His innovative goldsmithing has won numerous admirers for the way it expresses new ideas born from his sharp perceptiveness and steadfast craftsmanship.