The Painstaking Process of Making Gold Leaf: Kanazawa Artisans Display Their Specialized Skills

Guide to Japan Culture

Making gold leaf is the signature handicraft of Kanazawa. Pieces of a specially prepared gold alloy are passed through rollers that press them to a thickness of about 0.01 millimeters. The sheets of gold foil are placed between pieces of paper and stacked, and the stack is pounded to spread them and make them even thinner. The sheets are meticulously transferred to another stack of paper and pounded again. This process is repeated thousands of times, until the sheets have been thinned to 0.001 mm. Further pounding reduces the thickness to 0.0001, at which point the sheets are finally ready to be used as gold leaf. This material is so light that it is blown away by the smallest breath of air. Skilled workers handle it with a set of traditional bamboo implements. The final step is to cut it into squares of various sizes and mount it on sheets of mat board. From start to finish the process relies on the work of artisans specializing in particular tasks.

(Originally published in Japanese. Created in cooperation with Kanazawa Cable Television.)

Kanazawa Ishikawa Hokuriku artisan gold