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Gold Silver Copper Wood-like pattern ”Craftsman Yoshimitsu Hayashi” – skills from the Akita clan

Gold Silver Copper Wood-like pattern ”Craftsman Yoshimitsu Hayashi”
- skills from the Akita clan

Craftsman Yoshimitsu Hayashi
Akita-City Akita

Craft Born from the Akita Clan

”Kin gin do mokume gane” – As the words imply, it is a work of art that is given a wooden texture by layering, engraving and stroking gold, silver, copper and red copper. It was originally a technique invented by Shoami Denbei, a trusted metalsmith to Satake Yoshizumi, the third Lord of the Akita Clan. The technique was used on the rim and handle of swords. The metals were heated to approximately 1100 °to get them to stick together. As the melting points for gold and silver are different, it calls for very high skill. Therefore works using gold and silver were not made for a long time. After 40 years of research, Yoshimitsu Hayashi, whom we interviewed, was able to revive the artform.

60 Years of Creating Works of Art

One of the reasons we contacted Hayashi was because we were awed by the works of art we saw at a craftwork exhibition. When you actually see the pieces, it is hard to believe that they are metal. Hayashi urged me to hold one. ”Here, try holding it.” When you hold it, you can feel its weight. The delicate designs take on a mysterious beauty once you realize that they are metal. Hayashi has been creating pieces since his teens. The metals he used varied. He first started with iron, and after the war, mainly stainless steel, which he still continues in the present.
”I studied very hard. And I kept on making things one after the other, so I learned a lot through experience.” Hayashi says. The balance between gold, silver, and other metals, the sequence, has all been learned through experience.

Donating an Incense Burner to Todaiji Temple

This traditional craft uses metal. It tends to become expensive when gold and silver is used. So you need to be cautious. Hayashi says, ”Of course you need technique, but you need courage as well.”
”I tend to be antsy when I’m not creating something. I need to keep creating.”
He still continues to create actively even at the age of 77. In the summer of 2014, he was planning to donate an incense burner with gold-silver-copper wood-like pattern to Todaiji Temple in Nara. Hayashi positions this as ”a culmination of my work” and has named it ”Kegon”. The piece and his skills will remain ”treasures” of Japan.


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