Noto Peninsula is located in the central part of Honshu Island in Japan, sticking its head out to the Sea of Japan – Ishikawa Prefecture covers the majority of its land and the area that spreads to the west from the root of the peninsula.
Kanazawa has its roots in “Kanazawa Midou” hall, which was built in the middle of the 16th century as a hub of Honganji Temple to spread its religious work. Maeda Toshiie, who was known as a competent underling of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, later built a castle there, and it developed into one of the biggest cities of the era, following Edo, Osaka and Kyoto. Since it was never damaged in wars, much of its streetscape still remains as it used to be – featuring a town of samurai around the castle, a bustling town of merchants and a town of temples established to protect the castle town. The city is very popular among foreign tourists too, as they can enjoy a taste of an old castle town.
Kaga Domain, which used to dominate the area in the Edo era from the 17th century to the 19th century, was a great fostering place for education and literary work; thus many traditional craftworks emerged from the castle town, Kanazawa, and its surrounding areas. Among them, the city of Kanazawa in Ishikawa Prefecture produces 99% of all gold leaf made in Japan.
The root of gold leaf production – a process of stretching a tiny amount of gold until it is equally 1/10,000 of a millimeter in thickness – is not very clear. Yet Toyotomi Hideyoshi, one of the great rulers of the country, was known for his love of gold, and every ruler in the history of Japan liked to use gold leaf in buildings and furniture as a representation of their power. There were times when the production of gold and silver leaf was strictly prohibited in places other than Edo and Kyoto, as the feudal government tried to solidify its economic system, but Kaga Domain secretly kept on producing gold leaf, developing various traditional artifacts and methods that use gold leaf, including Kutani-yaki porcelain, Wajima-nuri lacquer and Kaga-makie, the lacquer artifice technique.
After many twists and turns, the official permission to produce gold leaf was obtained again, and it has been used since in many forms to this day. Also, the leaf-making technique in its production is applied to other metals such as silver, tin and brass. The possibilities are endless, as they can be used in architecture, traditional craftwork, paintings and contemporary interior goods with subtle changes in composition and through special processing. As gold is a safely inhalable material, it is also used in the decoration of food and in cosmetics.
A piece of gold leaf can make us feel rich and cheerful. Gold leaf can be purchased as a souvenir, so you can enjoy gold in different scenes of your everyday life!
Photo by Ishikawa Prefecture Tourism League
Ishikawa Prefecture Tourism Bussan Museum
2-20 Kenrokumachi Kanazawa-shi Ishikawa-ken
Kanazawa Hyakubangai Souvenir Museum
1-1 Kinosinbomachi Kanazawa-shi Isikawa-ken