Kanazawa Gold Leaf
"Dazzling beauty, a pivotal figure in Japanese aesthetics" 

Kanazawa gold leaf, crafted in and around Kanazawa City, Ishikawa Prefecture, stands out for its glittering and elegant shine, a testament to the region's skilled craftsmanship.

Dominating over 99% of Japan's gold leaf production, it plays a pivotal role in the country's cultural heritage. This exquisite material adorns many historical sites, including the iconic Nikko Toshogu Shrine, and is a key element in various traditional crafts. From lacquerware and Buddhist religious artifacts to textiles and Kutani ware, Kanazawa gold leaf is integral in shaping the Japanese aesthetic that deeply values the splendor of gold.

History of Kanazawa Gold Leaf

It is said that gold leaf was first produced in Kanazawa in 1593, when Lord Maeda Toshiie, the founder of the Kaga domain, received an order from Toyotomi Hideyoshi during the Korean War.In 1808, the burning down of the Ninomaru Palace at Kanazawa Castle was the catalyst for the establishment of the foil industry in Kanazawa. Although a large amount of gold leaf was needed for the revival of the industry, the shogunate at the time placed only Edo foil under the protection of the shogunate, and prohibited the production of other types of foil. Therefore, it is said that the Kaga clan was secretly making foil in craft workshops. Therefore, the technique of gold leaf production was inherited throughout the years.

In 1864, only the official foil of the domain was allowed to be made into foil, and Kanazawa foil made great progress. Furthermore, with the disappearance of Edo foil in the Meiji era (1868-1912), Kanazawa foil could be produced and sold throughout the country as a market.During World War I, Kanazawa foil was mechanized to meet global demand. During World War II, the foil manufacturing industry was temporarily destroyed by restrictions on the use of metals, but production resumed during postwar reconstruction and the uses of gold leaf expanded.

Charm of Kanazawa Gold Leaf

Kanazawa gold leaf is not just a material, but has established itself as one of the traditional crafts representing the craft kingdom of Kanazawa.

The Shibi (bird's tail-shaped ornaments attached to both ends of the tiled roof) of the Great Buddha Hall of Todaiji Temple and the Torige Ryujo Zu Byobu (gold folding screen) in the Shosoin are examples of temple's gold leaf craftwork. It is also an important material used in the production of a variety of cultural assets and works of art, such as Nishijin Ori brocade in Kyoto and Wajima lacquerware in Ishikawa. In recent years, gold leaf has also been used for food and beauty, such as in "gold leaf soft ice cream" covered with gold leaf, "gold leaf facial mask," in which gold leaf is applied directly to the skin, and "gold leaf nails," in which gold leaf is placed as an accent in nail art. In addition, demand for gold leaf has been increasing as one of the materials that enable new creations in architecture and interior design.

Kanazawa gold leaf is a generic term for not only gold leaf, but also silver, tin, brass, and other metal foils. Not only does it show the color of the metal itself, but also by subtle changes in composition, the addition of special processing, and different ways of attaching it to the surface, the freedom of creation is unlimited. Kanazawa gold leaf will continue to play an important role in Japanese crafts while opening up a new history.