Ginza Tanaka is one of the leading authorities in the crafting of precious metals in Japan.
Since its inception, the company has continually risen to the challenge of creating new items featuring precious metals in all areas, including traditional handcrafts. Especially noteworthy is its production, since the 1970s, of kabuto helmets in honor of the Tango no Sekku festival held annually on May 5 to celebrate the good health and happiness of boys.
The late gold and silver craftsman Takehiko Seki II, recognized as a Master of Traditional Arts by the national government, crafted innumerable kabuto in his long career. He once reminisced about this difficult undertaking: “Previously, our workshop had mainly produced such items as fans and takarabune (treasure-laden boats bearing the Seven Gods of Good Fortune). We had never made kabuto pieces before.
“I started by studying antique kabuto helmets worn by real samurai warriors and reading reference materials. In creating a kabuto ornament for the Tango no Sekku festival, the design needed to reflect parents’ wishes for their sons while also being sized appropriately for the average Japanese home. Once I determined the dimensions I could estimate the quantity of precious metal required and calculate the cost of the materials. It was quite a task to find a good balance between the design, the appearance and the price.”
Seki made the silver kabuto helmet shown on the right, meticulously crafting each component down to the smallest details using skills and techniques that could be applied only to silver work. The inimitable textures and colors of this exquisite piece, made entirely by hand, contribute to its splendor.
A Master of Traditional Arts is expected to consistently produce the same high-quality pieces in large numbers. Seki once made 800 pieces in a single year, a breakneck achievement that led to the furthering and preservation of traditional skills and techniques.
Dedicated to the highest quality, Ginza Tanaka pays meticulous attention not only to the central kabuto piece into which the time-tested strengths of Japanese craft traditions are condensed, but also to the textures and colors of such accompanying ornaments as pure-silk cords and fukusa square silk cloths. The masterpieces available from Ginza Tanaka are perfect in every detail, testifying to the time, unstinting effort and obsessive attention invested in their creation.
Since it offers gold and platinum kabuto pieces as well as silver ones, Ginza Tanaka is well-versed in the characteristics of each metal. Silver is easy to craft; gold is soft; and platinum is difficult to handle because of its viscosity. The wealth of experience has given its artisans a deep understanding of the metals, allowing for the application of the ideal technique from a wide range of options. The ability to create so many things, however, brings up the conundrum of what one should make, which then leads to a number of related questions.
What products will best represent Ginza Tanaka? What kinds of items will best embody the essence of Japanese craftsmanship and have long-lasting appeal? How can Ginza Tanaka successfully nurture the next generation of craftsmen and support traditional Japanese crafts? With these issues in mind, the company continuously brings sincerity and honesty to bear in its crafting of precious metals. The glitter and high prices of the exquisite pieces certainly stand out, but Ginza Tanaka firmly believes that what really matters is encountering these magnificent works on a day-to-day basis, so that their presence can enrich both life and mind.