Learn About This Mesmerizing Traditional Glass Art From Japan!

  • The moment you set your eyes on this beautiful piece of glass, you can’t help but be enchanted by its beauty. But what is this beautiful glass pattern? This mesmerizing piece of art is known as Kiriko.


    Kiriko is a type of glass art using what is called the cut glass method. By using the cut glass method, intricate patterns are cut into the glass, producing beautiful works of art known as kiriko. Kiriko is classified as a traditional Japanese craft, and the two main types of Kiriko are known as Edo Kiriko and Satsuma Kiriko.

    Edo Kiriko

    Edo Kiriko originated in Edo, which was the former name of Tokyo. The founder of Edo Kiriko is said to be Kagaya Kyubei, who from 1834 operated a glassware store located in Odenmacho, Edo. After Kagaya Kyubei completed his studies in Osaka, a city which had developed innovative methods of manufacturing glassware at that time, he went back to Edo and opened a glassware store which manufactured thermometers and eyeglasses.

    In 1873 (Meiji 6), Shinagawa Kogyo Co., Ltd. glass factory was established as part of the Meiji Government’s policy to promote new industries with the aim of catching up with Western industries. Thus, the development of modern glass production in Japan began.

    In 1881 (Meiji 14), Emmanuel Hauptmann from the UK was invited to Japan to showcase state-of-the-art technology from the UK to trainees in Japan. By combining this modern technology with the techniques from Japan, the unique style of Edo Kiriko was born.

    In the Edo period, the popular patterns made were called nanako. Nanako is a combination of the Chinese characters for fish and child. This combination looked similar to many drops of fish eggs linked together. At present, there are other patterns used either in combination with nanako or alone. Examples of patterns include chrysanthemums, hemp leaves, and yarai which looks like a shower of arrows.

    Satsuma Kiriko

    Satsuma Kiriko is a style which was produced at the end of the Edo period by the Satsuma clan. Even today, authentic representations of the artwork are still being produced.

    In the Edo period, a feudal lord called Shimazu Narioki invited glass craftsmen from Edo to produce Satsuma Kiriko. The methods used to manufacture this glass art were based on foreign glass manufacturing books taken from Nagasaki. Shimazu Nariakira, the son of Shimazu Narioki, introduced Satsuma Kiriko to Shuseikan Enterprise, which was the first western-style industrial company in Japan that had factories producing textiles, steel, and other materials.

    Satsuma Kiriko was often given as gifts to daimyo (feudal lords). After the death of Shimazu Nariakira, the production of Satsuma Kiriko ceased in the early Meiji period. This was due to factory damage during the Kagoshima bombardment, financial issues, and also difficulties caused by the Satsuma Rebellion. This led to the craftsmen and skills being dispersed to Osaka and Tokyo. As there was such a small number of Satsuma Kiriko pieces being produced at that time, the glass artworks fetch high prices as antiques today.

    Differences between Edo Kiriko and Satsuma Kiriko

    The main difference between Edo Kiriko and Satsuma Kiriko was that Edo Kiriko utilized transparent glass while Satsuma Kiriko featured colored glass and more intricate patterns. Satsuma Kiriko also featured a type of gradation known as bokashi. In the late Edo period Edo Kiriko utilized transparent glass, but after the Meiji period colored glass was also used.

    Now that you have learned about this beautiful glasswork, perhaps it is time to own one! They are definitely beautiful and unique pieces of art work that would make for some great conversation starters!

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