Yamanashi has many local industries that are deeply rooted in its history and climate, and are well known nationwide, including the wine, textile, insho seal and washi (traditional Japanese paper) industries. The industry that particularly stands out nationally is jewelry. Yamanashi’s total jewelry production stands as high as 37.8 billion yen per year, or a third of the Japanese market—making Yamanashi the number one producer in Japan.
The history of jewelry in Yamanashi can be traced back to the Jomon Period (14,000 B.C.-300 B.C.), but the development of decoration techniques came to the fore during the late Edo Period (1603-1868). Yet it was the Meiji Period (1868-1912) that ushered in the golden era for crystal jewelry. When the Meiji government promulgated a mining act, intense excavation commenced. Though crystal mining existed throughout Japan at the time, no resource district could be compared to the mines surrounding the foothills of Mount Kongo in Yamanashi, leading the region to become Japan’s chief production center for crystals. Later, due to the exhaustion of local gemstone resources and other factors, some dealers inevitably went out of business. However, a great effort was put into importing gemstones from abroad and shipping both domestically and internationally, enabling the region’s high-quality polishing techniques to be passed on.
One characteristic of Yamanashi’s jewelry is its integrated production, a methodology that is uncommon even worldwide. Everything from the cutting of gemstones to the metallurgy and even the finishing touches of the jewelry are all done within the prefecture, and products ranging from metal crafts to jewelry are widely produced in the region. Consistent quality has been cultivated in these various metal works, and a stable production output has been maintained.
Today there are over 1,000 companies involved in Yamanashi’s jewelry industry. These companies have stoically pursued the peak of quality, with local appraisers of precious metal products ensuring that high-quality jewelry products like no other are constantly being produced.
A production center revitalization project has recently been developed, by which the entire industry aims to improve the quality of all aspects of production, including materials, techniques and design. Recognized under the brand Koo-Fu , training programs have also been implemented to cultivate young successors to the industry. With a combination of an established tradition and a welcoming embrace of younger generations’ innovative ideas, Yamanashi jewelry will surely continue to prosper for years to come.