Satsuma Kiriko Cut Glass

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Satsuma Kiriko is a form of overlaid colored glass that is famously delicate and luminous. The glass is cut boldly as well, giving it a beautiful gradation of color.

Nariokira Shimazu, the 11th generation Shimazu clan lord of Satsuma (Kagoshima) invited glass craftsmen from Tokyo to his domain to produce Satsuma Kiriko.  It was the 19th century, when many European countries and US had been exploring and colonizing Asia. These great powers also demanded for Japan to open itself to trade. Lord Shimazu foresaw that Kiriko cut grass would be an attractive object of international commerce, and bring wealth into his ruling province.

Kiriko is done cutting glass by hand, using a clear crystal glass and overlaying color glass of 1 to 3 millimeters in size. Extra layers of colored glass are then added to create a graduation of color. This is the most unique characteristic of Satsuma Kiriko.

Satsuma began producing glassware for the purpose of storing and experimenting with medicine and chemicals in 1846.  When Nariokira Shimazu took over the lordship in 1851, he encouraged his craftsmen to study the colored crystal glass. Thereafter, they succeeded in creating glass in red, indigo blue, purple (new Shimazu purple) green and other colors.  Among the many brilliant Kiriko colors, the “Red Glass of Satsuma” –Japan’s first blackish red glass with copper powder and clear red glass with gold powder– were praised as masterpieces.

Even today, Satsuma Kiriko is entirely handmade, from the glassware making process to the final glass cutting.  The natural light of these high graded crystals reveals a unique personality for each piece of glass, a very breathtaking sight.

Although glass making originally came from the Western world, Satsuma Kiriko evolved within Kagoshima, developing its own unique beauty and sophistication while blending into Japanese culture and craftsmanship. Teapots, plate, and vases in this style are particularly popular, and are sure to please anyone with distinguished taste.

Photo by Kagoshima Prefectural Visitors Bureau

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