Discovering Japanese Craftsmanship: Gold Leaf in Kanazawa

Kanazawa is known for its artisan works.  The craftsmanship in this western Japanese town is deep and varied, ranging from carpentry to pottery to fabrics to metallurgy.

Metallurgy?  Yup.  Among its many products, Kanazawa is especially proud of its gold products.  Chief among those is gold leaf, especially since it accounts for the overwhelming majority of Japan's domestic gold leaf production.
Gold leaf is a unique product because it is not a stand alone Craft; that is, it is made for the singular purpose of enhancing other crafts and goods--everything ranging from kakejiku to lacquer jewelry boxes to fancy desserts.  Fortunately, Kanazawa also specializes in all manners of media which can use gold leaf, so the industry was able to flourish during the Edo period (1603-1868) to today.
Today, Kanazawa has a few easy ways to enjoy gold leaf:

1) Visit the Gold Leaf Museum

The Yasue Gold Leaf Museum located walking distance from Kanazawa's Higashi Chaya district is a fascinating place to learn about the craft of gold leaf making.  The museum is instructive, offering insight into how these 0.0001 mm thick sheets of gold are made and showcasing the tools that are used.  The museum is open from 9:30 AM to 5:00 PM, and adults get in for just 300 yen (students and younger are free).

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2) Try your hand at Gold Leaf application

 A few doors down from the Gold Leaf Museum is Sakuda Gold Leaf Shop, a place where you can pick a box or a plate and try your hand at applying gold leaf in a variety of patterns.  Given how delicate gold leaf is, you can imagine how tricky it can be handling and applying gold leaf on your own.  Fortunately, the kind staff at Sakuda are more than accommodating in assisting you as you make your own gold leaf treasure.  Here was my attempt at "rabbits in the moonlight."  No significance there--just happened to grab those stencils!  The Gold Leaf application costs 600 yen and takes about one hour to complete the experience. Times for hands-on sessions are as follows: 9:00, 10:30, 1:00, and 3:00.  Reservations are required so call ahead at 076-251-6777.

3) Eat a decadent gold leaf soft cream!

Have you ever eaten a soft cream and thought to yourself, "This needs more bling?"  Me neither, but you can nevertheless find one with some more shine to it at Higashi Chaya, where they coat your soft cream in sheets of gold leaf.  Head over to Imai Kinpaku (Imai Gold Leaf Shop) and ask for a Kinpaku Soft Cream at the register. For 450 yen, you can eat some of Japan's fanciest soft cream. 

So there you have it...

...a rundown on Kanazawa's gold leaf production and how to enjoy it.  So if you find yourself in Kanazawa, I say zehi, don't miss out on this unique craftsmanship! 

(Cover photo courtesy of Flickr user Art Garcia-Cuellar)

Mike B