Japanese metal works

Kinzoku (金属) is the Japanese word for toreutics, a type of metalworks which has the purpose of crafting artistic objects.
It is also referred to as kazari kanagu (錺金具, sometimes also 飾金具), although the word addresses the objects created through kinzoku techniques. This article makes such differentiation.

Kinzoku is technically identical to Western toreutics, which include techniques such as carving (including engraving) and hammering (chasing and repoussé).


Japanese metalworks kinzoku on KiGinKin - Buddhist altar metal decorations


The oldest examples of decorative metalworks in Japan were uncovered in Tokyo, in a neighborhood called "Yayoi". They date back to the period between 1000 and 800 BC, which owns its naming to such neighbourhood, the Yayoi period.

The kinzoku craft as we know it moved with the capital several times starting more than 1400 years ago, with early applications visible in the Hōryū-ji Temple in Nara (built between 588 and 607 a.D.)

New features were added each time the capital moved—from Nara to Kyoto and then to Edo/Tokyo—influenced by the local customs and bringing the art to levels of excellence. An important change was brought by Chinese pottery which, with its complex decorations, inspired kazari kanagu craftsmen to include new shapes and motifs in their works.


Japanese metalworks kinzoku on KiGinKin - Japanese artisan hammering copper

Did you know?

Although becoming a skilled craftsman requires several years of practice and dedication, carving shapes into metal is a simple task. There are several manufacturers who offer "kinzoku experiences", where they will show you how to make your own piece of kazari kanagu, providing the materials and tools and helping you create your own artifact.