Shifting from decorating armors to accessories. “Higo-zogan (damascening)” that transcends generations
During Edo period, Hosokawa Sansai, the lord who ruled Higo-no-kuni (current Kumamoto Prefecture) invited one blacksmith from Omi-no-kuni (current Shiga Prefecture). The craftsman’s name Was Hirata Hikozo. It is said that he served the Hosokawa clan to make weapons with high skills. Since then, these skills had increased sophistication; in particular, the characteristic damascening technique applied to handguards and kozuka (knife attached to a sword sheath) was passed on to present times after about 300 years, and became a traditional finesse of Kumamoto called “Higo-zogan.”
Originally a technique to decorate weapons!?
Pendant top (butterfly) 12,960 yen (tax included, the same hereafter). Body height 25 mm x width 25 mm x thickness 1.6 mm. 24- and 18-karat gold are used to display a variety of shades.
Higo-zogan developed mainly as a technique to decorate weapons; the issue of sword prohibition decree in Meiji era forced the art to decline temporarily, but the craftsmen have been trying to venture into new realms such as decorating accessories, stationery, and furniture. “Mitsusuke” is also one of these groups of craftsmen that tackles with creating a new era of Higo-zogan; this store has been offering handguards to the feudal domain since Edo era (it was established as specialty store of Higo-zogan in Meiji 7). Mr. Yuji Osumi, the fourth generation of Higo-zogan master decorates many items with damascening.
Bookmark (ginkgo) 8,640 yen. If you place it between the pages, you won’t see the decoration; that’s what makes this bookmark “iki” (chic).
Higo-zogan, in a phrase, is a technique where you drive pure gold or silver into iron (the base metal) to provide decoration. You add fine notches on the surface of iron with a chisel, drive in gold or silver with antler, then you apply tannin to prevent rust and polish the hammered gold or silver...Higo-zogan is made via very detailed processes.
The gold and silver work sparkle against the black background of iron without paint. The elaborate contours that are hammered in, and the slightly embossed design; these may be called as a decoration skills suitable for accessories regardless of gender.
From left, fountain pen (cherry blossoms), fountain pen (ginkgo); each 32,400 yen. Inlaid gold applied on the bottom of the cap.
High-end stationery such as fountain pens are also great motif of Higo-zogan. Fountain pens with pure gold damascening on #3776, the masterpiece of Platinum Pen were selected as gifts to the leaders attending G7 2016 Ise Shima Summit.
You will find a modest Japonism in the traditional design and decoration in gold and silver which are not gaudy. Not only Prime Minister Abe would like to offer such item as a gift to someone from abroad, right?