Takaoka copperware

Takaoka copperware Takaoka doki

Strength, delicacy and flexibility
from large Buddhist statues to delicate accessories


What is Takaoka copperware ?

Takaoka Copperware is produced in the area around Takaoka City in Toyama Prefecture. The various products range from small items such as indoor ornaments, Buddhist tools, and vases to larger items such as temple bells, Buddhist statues and copper statues.
Takaoka Copperware sales comprise more than 90% of all domestic Japanese copperware sales, which makes it Japan’s number one form of copperware production. There is no doubt many people that have unknowingly seen Takaoka Copperware, as most of the anime character statues installed in urban revitalization projects across the country are made with Takaoka Copperware. There is also a lively export market, and Takaoka Copperware is highly regarded in the many countries to which its products are exported.
The characteristics of Takaoka Copperware include the skillful hands-on casting techniques of the artisans, and production techniques such as polishing, metal carving and inlaying. These techniques have been combined and developed to create a wealth of styles. People are fascinated when they see the strength, delicacy and flexibility of Takaoka Copperware templates, which are made in such a way that they take on a deeper expression over time and can be enjoyed as they develop throughout the years.


Takaoka copperware - History

The origins of Takaoka Copperware go back more than 400 years to the Edo Period. In 1609, Toshinaga MAEDA, the second generation lord of the Kaga Domain acquired Takaoka Castle. Following that, seven casting masters were brought to Takaoka in order to develop the area around the castle in 1611. A casting plant was built in modern-day Kanayamachi in Takaoka City by the casting masters, who first started by producing iron goods for daily life, such as farm tools and pots. Later, copperware production began during the Tenpo and Koka Periods (1830-1848).
In the Meiji Period, numerous items of Takaoka Copperware were displayed at World Expositions in Australia and in European cities such as London and Paris, which brought about a Japanesque sensation. The Meiji and Taisho Periods saw the active production of ornaments and tea ceremony implements, and as Takaoka Copperware became well known in Japan as art crafts, the increase in demand for Takaoka Copperware gifts led to much development.
In 1975, Takaoka was designated as Japan’s first national traditional handicraft production area.

General Production Process

  1. 1. Model production Casting involves melting the metal at a high temperature, after which it is poured into a template with the desired shape. Casting starts with the production of a model.
    The model becomes the basis of the end product and is made using easy-to-process materials such as wood, plaster, clay or resin according to the product design, sketches or other plans.
  2. 2. Loam Based on the model, a template is made in order to pour in the melted copped using fire-resistant materials. The model is coated with a parting agent, which is covered with hardened layers of paper clay and roughing loam (sand). Iron bars or other materials may be placed inside for reinforcement. The template is completed by thoroughly drying it once it hardens.
  3. 3. Combining templates The template is made from a setting the external template together with the internal template, which is slightly smaller than the model. The thickness of the cast product can be regulated as it is determined by the gap between the external template and the internal template. The uniformity of this gap makes the finish of the casting more beautiful.
  4. 4. Completion of external template The external template is completed by removing the external template from the model after it is completely dry.
  5. 5. Refining and melting Refining involves removing foreign matters and increasing the purity of the metal. In addition to refining the metal at a high temperature, hot molten metal is made by melting solid metals.
  6. 6. Casting (injection of melted alloy) The process of pouring molten metal into the template is called casting. During the manufacturing of Takaoka Copperware, a copper alloy molten metal at a temperature of between roughly 1,150°C and 1,250°C is poured into the template. If the temperature is too high, the surface of the completed cast will be rough, which may inhibit its beauty, so temperature control during casting is incredibly important. There are also dangers that lead to accidents due to the high temperatures, so this work requires careful attention.
  7. 7. Template removal and finishing process The copper is left to cool down after the molten metal is poured into the template during casting. When it is completely cooled and solidified, the external and internal templates are removed, and the product is taken out. The product is then moved on to undergo finishing touches.
  8. 8. Polishing, metal carving, inlaying and coloring The finishing touches include polishing, metal carving, inlaying and coloring.
    The polishing process includes not just polishing, but also chemical polishing, which is used in order to smooth out any uneven areas by applying an acid solution.
    In metal carving, the surface of the metal is engraved using a chisel, and the design is carved into the metal. Metal castings with carvings are called “karakane-imono (bronze casting)”, which is said to have been created by Takaoka Copperware. Inlaying is a decorative technique in which the surface of the product is shaved and overlaid with another metal. Inlaying includes line inlays, in which lines are overlaid with gold and silver, cut and insert inlays, in which holes made in the surface are overlaid and brazed with another metal, and high relief inlays, in which bulges are made in the surface.
    Coloring involves using natural coloring materials and chemicals that are used to provide rust colors and other colors that bring about the characteristics of bronze.
  9. 9. Template removal and finishing process Coloring involves using natural coloring materials and chemicals that are used to provide rust colors and other colors that bring about the characteristics of bronze.

Where to Buy & More Information

Takaoka Doki Museum

See more Metal works

See items made in Toyama