Tokyo silverware

Tokyo silverware Tokyo ginki

Radiant, chic and deep articles
created with diligence and rigor


What is Tokyo silverware ?

Tokyo Silverware is a form of metal handicraft produced mainly in Tokyo wards such as Taito-ku, Arakawa-ku and Bunkyo-ku. It is a traditional craft that has been passed down from the Edo Period, and even today there are artisans known as tankinshi, choukanshi and shiageshi that continue with the same techniques. Silver is used as the main raw material, and there is a wide range of products including containers, ornaments, ear-cleaning picks and personal accessories. Silver is also used for the production of many types of cutlery, such as baby spoons and pastry knives, as it is harmless and long-lasting.
The characteristics of Tokyo Silverware are its elegant radiance peculiar to silver and its chic Edo-style appearance. Most of the processes involved in its production require diligent work, and artisans make use of various techniques to produce unique articles. Also, silver reacts with sulfide gas in the air to produce a sulfurization phenomenon where it gradually loses its luster. The various textures that can be enjoyed with the finishing method known as furubi, which produces an antique-style atmosphere using this phenomenon, are another of the silverware’s charms.
Tokyo Silverware boasts consistent popularity thanks to the refined style of the artisans’ techniques, and is used for an array of gifts and souvenirs in addition to items for daily use.


Silverware in Japan has a long history, and the names of silver tableware and drinking vessels can be seen in the Engi-Shiki governmental regulations. Silver is said to have been a precious material in Japan even before the appearance of its many silver mines, such as the Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine. Going into the Edo Period, silverware artisans known as shiroganeshi appeared, as did producers of metallic ornaments known as kinkoshi, who produced a wide range of articles. Silverware and silver tools are said to have been popular among merchants even in those days.
People from around the world were fascinated with Japan’s silver products exhibited at the International Exposition in Paris in 1867, and the excellent techniques and unique ideas behind Japanese silverware became highly topical. Thereafter, as European techniques were introduced, silver products with an even more diverse range of appearances started to be produced. With the increased travel of foreigners to and from Tokyo after WWII, demand increased among Americans for silver products as souvenirs. New products were made later on, and even today people are fascinated by the charms of Tokyo Silverware.

General Production Process

  1. 1. Hammering (a) In order to make the metal easy to treat, a process known as namashi is performed to heat and soften the ore.
    (b) The necessary area is marked off on a silver sheet. Round items are shaped with scissors.
    (c) Circular items are turned into a plate shape by placing a silver sheet across the hollow of the workbench and striking it with a wooden mallet. Articles are cast by hammering using a metal hammer and a tool known as a “backing strip”.
    (d) The hardened ore is set and hit repeatedly. The ore is refined while repeating the setting and hitting processes.
    (e) A certain form is prepared and patterned. A pattern of rocks or kikkoumon attached to a metal hammer is driven in.
  2. 2. Metal carving and inlaying Metal carving is a technique of carving patterns with a chisel.
    (a) Designs are copied to traditional ganpishi paper and attached to an incense burner. Resin is poured into the incense burner in order to make it easier to strike with a chisel.
    (b) Needle driving is carried out to apply the traces that will form marks when carving with a chisel.
    (c) Various chisels are used as appropriate to make the pattern stand out.
    Inlaying is a technique of cutting out the patterned parts of the ore to inlay into other metals.
    (a) A silver sheet is set and leveling is carried out by flattening the sheet on top of an anvil.
    (b) Traditional ganpishi paper is attached to the silver sheet, and the patterned parts of the ore are cut out.
    (c) Other metals are applied to the cut-out ore parts, and these are cut out after marking.
    (d) The fingertips are used to carefully inlay the pattern into the ore.
    (e) Borax is spread onto the inlayed part with mongane, and silver pewter is applied. The raised parts of silver pewter are cut off and smoothened with whetstone.
  3. 3. Finishing Stewed finishing
    (a) The inlaid incense burner is polished with Suruga charcoal. This is performed with polishing sand or baking soda.
    (b) Arashiuchi is performed to bring out a tasteful finish by removing the gloss of the material.
    (c) The material is tended to using baking soda or horn powder, and the oxidized film is removed using plum vinegar. It is then soaked in grated daikon juice. Stewed finishing is performed by coloring the articles with copper sulfate and green rust dissolved into water, and then washing them with water.
    Kinfurubi finishing
    (a) The material is tended to by removing oiliness with polishing sand or baking soda, etc.
    (b) After applying a mixture of rough emery, kinarashi is applied.
    (c) Kinfurubi liquid is produced and used to coat the ore with cotton that has been soaked with the liquid, and the pieces are then exposed to sunlight.
    (d) The darkened texture is tended to using horn powder or baking soda. The pieces are finished while checking the overall conditions.

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