Souvenirs from Kanazawa 金沢のお土産
Lacquerware with gold leaf
Credit: Haragayato, wikimedia
An example of mizuhiki
Credit: Jérôme Laborde
Kanazawa (in Ishikawa prefecture) has been known for centuries for its high-quality crafts. An important city during the Edo period (1603-1868), the many wealthy nobles and samurai who lived there contributed to the development of luxury crafts.
Even today, Kanazawa is famous for its lacquers and objects gilded with gold leaf. Since June 2009 the city has been registered in the Unesco "Creative Cities Network", in the field of crafts and folk art. This makes it very easy for you to find pretty souvenirs to bring back home.
- Gold leaf
Kanazawa is responsible for more than 99% of the production of gold leaf from all over Japan. Used for centuries in the manufacture of jewelry, lacquers, screens or partitions, it is also found in sake or Japanese sweets.
More recently, it's very popular to add it to cosmetic products. Gold leaf is credited with various powers such as improving skin firmness, boosting metabolism and healing properties. Creams, tonic lotions or mattifying papers (to absorb excess sebum) containing gold leaf are on the rise and make for an original and useful gift.
Discover: Yasue Gold Leaf Museum
Named Kanazawa shikki, Kanazawa lacquer is one of the main high-end craft products in the city and its surroundings. It owes its existence to the daimyo, the great territorial lords of the Kaga domain (former feudal domain located in the current prefectures of Ishikawa and Toyama) who appreciated beautiful dishes and high quality items.
Kanazawa shikki are known for their delicate inlays of gold or silver leaves or cultured pearls. All items are handmade and can be considerably expensive. However there's something for every budget, and items such as bowls or lacquered chopsticks can be purchased for less than 3,000 yen.
In Japan, wrapping a gift is an art. Mizuhiki is the perfect example of this sophisticated craft. It is made with cords or thin strips of washi (Japanese paper) which are twisted in three dimensions then glued together to form a sort of knot with a specific and often symbolic shape. It's used to decorate packages, or attached to envelopes that are offered in special situations: marriage, congratulations or death.
The "Kaga mizuhiki" from Ishikawa prefecture is known for its very elaborate patterns such as knots in the shape of a turtle, pine or even crane. Light and very small, a mizuhiki is a unique gift and perfect if you don't have much space left in your suitcase.
Related : Furoshiki, the art of packaging
- Kaga temari
Temari are traditional balls made with silk bands or colored decorative threads with geometric patterns. They were offered to children by their parents during the New Year. Nowadays, they are considered highly decorative handicrafts.
Kaga temari, from the old province of Kaga, are said to have been made since 1601, when the very young 3-year-old wife of the Kaga daimyo joined her husband with a temari in her luggage. It was customary then for girls to carry a temari in their trousseau, as a wish for happiness.
Read more: Traditional Japanese toys
Unlike other teas that are made only from tea leaves, Kanazawa's specialty is tea made from roasted tea leaves, stems, and twigs. Kanazawa kukicha (kuki meaning twig) is also called Kaga bocha. It is enjoyed for its light taste and low caffeine content.