The Best of Toyama: Kōgei Art and Design from Japan


Exhibition Dates: May 14 – 20, 2015

Opening Reception: Friday, May 15th, 6 – 8 PM
Location: Onishi Gallery, 521 W. 26th Street, New York City
Hours: Tuesday – Saturday, 11am – 6pm


Onishi Gallery is honored to present The Best of Toyama Kōgei Art and Design From Japan, the second collaboration with Toyama Prefecture. The spectacular first exhibition in 2014 was the inauguration of the gallery’s cross-cultural program,  My Japanese Discoveries. The goal is to introduce the international world to the unique creative and historic traditions of lesser-known prefectures in Japan. Supported by the Japanese government, the first exhibition offered highlights of Japanese heritage and arts, as well as opportunities for social exchange between artists and attendees, including local Toyama food and drink tastings in the gallery. Toyama Prefecture has nurtured art, craft, and industrial traditions for over 400 years, and in this groundbreaking second collaborative exhibition, Onishi Gallery features five artists and eleven companies from Toyama who represent over four centuries of creative development. In particular, these sixteen artists and companies embody kōgei [工芸]—work made by artists or artisans, which can be considered art and commercial product. This hybrid category synthesizes two processes, two forms, and two kinds of makers, blurring the line between past tradition and present discovery, self and society, and memory and imagination. The pieces in this exhibition showcase the beauty in this union.

Japan has 47 prefectures, each with its own distinctive art, food, and culture. Visitors often travel to Tokyo, Osaka, or Kyoto due to their accessibility rather than to the more remote prefectures such as Toyama. Overlooked by most tourists, Toyama is located in the Hokuriku region on the coast of the Sea of Japan (northwest area of Honshu island), and is characterized by a stunning, rugged landscape of steep mountains, lush, rolling plains, and the pure Kurobe River that cuts the deepest gorge in Japan. Sustained by both long-standing traditions and emerging innovations, Toyama is an applicant for UNESCO World Heritage status and a premier player on the Sea of Japan coastline. Onishi Gallery’s partnership with prefectures, like Toyama, enables individuals to experience distant and perhaps little known cultures through exhibition of their art and craftwork, which are inseparable from their history and tradition.

From the culturally rich Toyama Prefecture, the five artists featured in this exhibition stunningly demonstrate local Toyama traditions in metal and lacquer.


thumbnails2Hata Shunsai III was born in 1976. Hata is a metal artist whose family has been rooted for generations in Kanaya-machi—a district in Takaoka, a city in Toyama steeped in history. This area of Japan has been known for centuries for its exceptional metal ware crafts. Hata carries on his family tradition of crafting tea kettles, which he learned by observing his father at work since his youth. He uses loam mold casting techniques in which each piece is made from a unique mold carved and patterned by hand. While Hata’s work reflects a deep understanding and respect for the 400-year tradition of Takaoka cast metal, he has recently challenged himself by experimenting with modern designs that reach beyond utilitarian function and explore creative possibilities. With clean lines, sleek forms, and earthy textures, these kettles make bold statements about connecting the past with the future.




thumbnailsHannya Taiju was born in 1972. Hannya works in the fukiwake method, in which three different metals are individually poured into a mold within five seconds of each other. Due to the different melting points of the three metals, they do not combine but instead form unique patterns. The metals blend to create mystical weavings characterized by contrasting and curving patterns.






thumbnails3Ohara Yoshitomo was born in 1979. Ohara is the sixteenth successor of Jigoemon, a name passed down from generation to generation since 1575, along with the traditional technique for making Johana makie lacquer ware. Passed from father to son, makie is a unique Japanese decorating style in which gold or silver dust is sprinkled onto a pattern or drawing in lacquer. The special technique enables the use of many colors of lacquer to depict details of subjects as a creative statement against the restriction of pigment use in the Edo period. Johana makie is characterized by a particular white and other natural shades that faithfully represent scenes of flowers and birds. The delicate decorations on the pieces in this show shine with an iridescent glow.





thumbnails4Iwasaki Tsutomu was born in 1972. Iwasaki is a sculptor and carries on a 240-year tradition of wood carving in Nanto City, Toyama. He sculpts humans, animals, and plants, inspired by the realistic sculptural styles of the Meiji period. Iwasaki mainly uses the ichiki-zukuri and shirakishiage techniques, which draw out natural colors and textures of the wood, but he has also begun experimenting with colored carvings in recent years. In this exhibition, Iwasaki’s work represents an impressive range, from the plump flesh of a persimmon to intricately carved feathers of a rooster.





thumbnails5Demachi Mutsuko was born in 1935. She is a self-taught hyōgu artist—one who mounts Japanese scrolls and screens—who makes large three-dimensional works using a technique for which she received a patent. In this technique, she impresses gold leaves onto the surface of a fabric, pressing and sliding sharp objects along the fabric’s grain to leave traces on the surface in special patterns. Using this method, she created Ikiru (To Live), her first and last work of this scale. This piece is a circle that representing fairness and peace. Diverging from her past works, Shiawase (Happiness) is three-dimensional and resembles an enlarged version of a popular Japanese children’s toy otedama (beanbag). These pieces are remarkable in both their large scale and detailed hand crafted designs.





In addition to these five remarkable artists, this special exhibition showcases the work of eleven pioneering companies in Toyama Prefecture.



Nousaku makes unique pieces made of pure tin in their innovative way based on traditional techniques.  Their products attract people from all over the world.








Nagae develops products designed to highlight the beauty of metal, and provide a sense of luxury and fun in everyday life. Their work is based on delicate crafting methods typical of Japanese artisans.






thumbnails8Syouryu reduces the degradation that usually accompanies the bending of tin products to produce “tin paper” capable of being folded like origami paper. They do this by hammering tin sheet metal.






thumbnails11Takenaka Douki develops products with flowing form that illuminate the natural beauty of aluminum.






thumbnails10Kanaya presents carefully crafted cast metal products with design and functionality that match modern lifestyles.






thumbnails11Momentum Factory Orii has created unique coloring techniques based firmly in Takaoka’s tradition of copperware that are used in developing interior products and construction fittings.






thumbnails12Amano Lacquerware applies the tradition of Takaoka lacquerware (the use of mother-of-pearl) to clear glass to create “Raden Glass,” an original product that merges traditional craftsmanship with modern sensibility.






thumbnails_exOda Tosou, versed in the expressive techniques accumulated from Takaoka lacquerware’s 400 years of history, provides advice on a wide variety of materials to best bring out the desired patterns and colors of each piece.






thumbnails13Keijusha, a Japanese paper producer, strains washi sheet by sheet from cold water, and then fortifies it with an original processing technique to create a durable product. The washi is then dyed in beautiful colors and patterns and used to make business card holders, cushions, stationary boxes and other goods.






thumbnails14Matsui Silk Weaving, a silk fabric producer for 130 years, blends together the elegant sheen and natural essence which comes from the unique thread used in dupion silk, produced by the mysterious meeting of two silk worms in a double cocoon. The irregular thickness of the thread creates a sophisticated look and feel that cannot be replicated by manmade products. And finally,



thumbnails15Yujin Jiki Club brings together Toyama’s glass manufacturing and plating techniques, creating artistic objects that have the characteristic feel and gloss of plating and the transparent qualities of glass.






These five artists and eleven companies not only carry on the rich creative and cultural heritages of the Toyama region, but they re-imagine them in 2015 at home and abroad to appeal to ever-changing technologies, tastes, talents, and traditions. The innovative and time-honored craftwork and artwork in this unique collaborative exhibition are not to be missed.

For more information, please contact Nana Onishi at 212.695.8035 or nana@onishigallery.com.