Nestled among the famous rice fields of Niigata prefecture, the town of Tsubame has long been known for its history of metalworking. With historical advantages such as local sources of raw copper, as well as its inspiring location near the famous Yahiko shrine, it has been home to a wide variety of metal craftshops since the Edo period.
Here at Gyokusendo, these traditions are still alive and well. For almost two hundred years, here in Tsubame we have seen the beauty of the changing seasons, surrounded by natural splendor and the material and creative wealth of our local area. And so we continue to be inspired and in our turn, to create yet more beauty…
Tsubame is one of the world’s leading production areas of metal products, with its roots in the manufacture of Japanese nails around the beginning of the Edo Period. In the late Edo Period, a travelling craftsman from Sendai introduced the method of manufacturing Tsuiki copperware to Tsubame, and the founder of Gyokusendo, Kakubei Tamagawa, was one of the few who successfully mastered this difficult process. Supporting the development of Tsuiki copperware in Tsubame was the fact that raw materials were easily obtained, as fine coppers were produced in the nearby village of Yahiko.
Gyokusendo first began by manufacturing everyday implements such as pans, pots and kettles, and later gradually added artistic elements and more decorative items. When Japan participated in the Vienna World Exposition for the first time in 1873, Gyokusendo products were selected for display, and even before the beginning of WWII, Gyokusendo products had already received over 30 coveted awards, at various domestic and international exhibitions. In 1894, we created a flower vase to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the marriage of the Emperor Meiji, and since then, we have often been invited to dedicate new Gyokusendo creations to the Imperial Family on other auspicious occasions as well.
As we have maintained our traditional crafting techniques from generation to generation, our creative process has been designated an “Intangible Cultural Treasure”, both by Niigata Prefecture (where our studio is located) and by the Japanese National Cultural Affairs Agency. Living and working in the only area in Japan producing Tsuiki copperware, we are proud to continue our local tradition, manufacturing products that are as beautiful as they are useful.
Kakubē Tamagawa 【Gyokusendo First Generation 】 （1799-1872）
He learned the process of Tsuiki copperware from Toshichi who was an itinerant artisan in Sendai and started manufacturing copperware for daily use. He was awarded a posthumous prize by the Minister of Agriculture and Commerce in 1901.
Kakujirō Tamagawa 【Gyokusendo Second Generation】（1829-1891）
He added craftwork elements to Tsuiki copperware gradually. After displaying them at the 1873 Vienna International Exhibition, our copperware has won about 30 awards at exhibitions both home and abroad, which gained a reputation as “Tsubame Tsuiki copperware.”
Kakuhei Tamagawa 【Gyokusendo Third Generation】（1853-1922）
His work won the silver prize at the world’s Columbian Exhibition of 1893 and Japan-British Exhibition of 1910.
After presenting one of our products to the Imperial Family in 1894 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the marriage of the Emperor Meiji, it has since become customary to do so for other auspicious occasions.
Kakuhei Tamagawa 【Gyokusendo Fourth Generation】（1881-1947）
After he became a disciple of Shoumin Unno who was the pride in a field of Meiji Chasers, he graduated from Tokyo Fine Arts School (current Tokyo University of the Arts.)
Since he significantly accomplished the aesthetic improvement of the products, his work won the top award at Philadelphia’s 1926 Sesqui-centennial International Exhibition.
Kakuhei Tamagawa 【Gyokusendo Fifth Generation】(1901-1992)
He instantly began reconstruction of Tsuiki copperware industry which suffered catastrophic damage by World War II.
Our production process was designated as “an Intangible cultural property” by Niigata prefecture in 1958 and as “a selected intangible cultural property” by the Agency for Cultural Affairs in 1980.
Norio Tamagawa （1942-）
He is the younger brother of Masao Tamagawa; 6th generation. He joined Gyokusendo in 1959 first. After he studied under A living National Treasure, Shiro Sekiya, he rejoined Gyokusendo in 1965. He was awarded the Shiju hosho （Medal of Honor with Purple Ribbon）in 2002 and designated as a Living National Treasure in 2010 as well as the city of Tsubame honorary citizen. He released many of the works focusing the Wood Grained Metal technique.
Motoyuki Tamagawa 【Gyokusendo Seventh Generation】 （1970-）
He inherits over the 200 years of Gyokusendo Tsuiki copperware technique and dedicates himself to develop Tsubame Tuiki copperware Industry.