Glass artisan relaying the beauty and tradition of Satsuma Kiriko – Shoho

Glass artisan relaying the beauty and tradition of Satsuma Kiriko – Shoho

It is said that Satsuma Kiriko made great advances during the Meiji restoration due to the 11th lord of the Satsuma clan, Nariakira Shimazu. One of the pieces he left was Satsuma Kiriko glassware that has the beauty of precious stones. He invited Kiriko artisans from Edo and exported these beautiful pieces as a way to boost his clan’s financial power.

“There are many forms of cut crystal around the world including Baccarat. The beauty of Satsuma Kiriko definitely rivals that. Colored glass are layered over clear glass, and the gradation and strength of the carvings are what make it unique.” (Glass artisan Shoho)

Edo Kiriko and Satsuma Kiriko are two of the most well-known styles of Kiriko, and each have distinct differences. Edo Kiriko glass is thin with sharp, distinct lines whereas Satsuma Kiriko uses thicker layers of colored glass, resulting in a gradation of color that gives it a smoky appearance.

The technique used in Satsuma Kiriko disappeared around 1877 when the Satsuma Rebellion occurred. The recent Satsuma Kiriko pieces are a result of the technique revived in 1986 by a local company in the Shimazu bloodline. In exactly that year, Shoho graduated from high school and joined the Satsuma Glass Atelier. Shoho mastered the Satsuma Kiriko technique, which is known to take years to even draw a single line, eventually venturing out on his own as a glass artisan.

“I have worked with glass for more than 35 years now, but I still grapple with it every day. The lines need to not only be straight, but the curved lines need to be even, and the depth of each line must also be consistent. Not only is it important to hone your skills, but you must also nurture imagination to produce pieces that tell a story.” (Shoho)

He creates modern pieces that are ingrained with the classic features of Satsuma Kiriko, and has received recognition from around the world. In fact, the Japanese Embassy in some countries present his work as gifts to dignitaries. Each piece has a theme which is inspired from both traditional patterns such as cherry blossoms and chrysanthemums, as well as more modern ones such as ladybugs and manga. Depending on the motif, the glass can be less than 1mm thick, and more than 100 tools are used, including a tool with a diamond and even one made of cloth. The clarity and color gradation is absolutely mesmerizing, and the pattern feels both nostalgic and modern. The pieces relay the bounty of nature in Kagoshima, creating new culture while continuing tradition.


Glass Atelier Busho
1965 Kawakamicho, Kagoshima-shi, Kagoshima
TEL 099-244-7515