Monday, August 3, 2009

Drinking gold at the Yasue Gold Leaf Museum, Kanazawa

Kanazawa, at first glance, is a modern thriving city but scratch the surface a little and you’ll realise its still a bit behind the times when it comes to international focused tourism. There are a few brochures in English but not really an opportunity to book a tour in English so we approached the Kanazawa Goodwill Guide Network, basically volunteers who will give you a tour of your chosen sights in Kanazawa.

Met the goodwill Guides, Mr.Akahori and his apprentice Ms Harada at the tourist office. There were some lovely little old Japanese ladies serving some refreshing ice cold black tea (bocha) with gold leaf (I'll get to that later). Lovely!

Mum drinking her gold leaf tea

We then headed to the Gold Leaf museum a few minutes walk from the station and were given a brief talk in English about the history of gold leaf production in Kanazawa and a tour of a small gallery of gold leaf handicrafts as well as gold beating tools collected by local gold leaf craftsman Yasue Komei. Kanazawa produces 90% of Japan’s high quality gold leaf and uses the gold leaf to cover vases, boxes, chopsticks, bowls, trays, screens, furniture. Come and you’ll see what I mean!

We were then taken into a tatami mat room that overlooked a beautiful little Japanese garden with carp pond. We were then offered a cup of green tea sprinkled with gold flakes. It’s meant to be good for rheumatism, so we drank although I have to admit it feels a bit strange drinking pure gold!

Me and mum with our serving of gold leaf tea and a biccie (no dunking done here..)

Bowl of gold leaf tea, you can see the sprinkles of gold floating on top

We were then given a gold leaf transfer demonstration, known as haku-utsushi, by this little old lady. Amazingly, a piece of gold the sized of a bean (about 2 grams) can be beaten so that it stretches over the area of a tatami mat, about one metre by two metres.

Once the gold has been beaten it needs to be cut to size. She picked up the incredibly thin sheet of gold with tweezers, laid it out on a small cushion and blew on gently to spread it open. She then trimmed the sheet of gold with a wooden cutting device and laid the trimmed sheet in a device full of other sheets. She then asked us to hold out our hands and she oh so delicately placed a thin sheet of gold into our palms.

Pure gold leaf in the palm of our hands!

The gold is so thin that if you touch it (which I did so I know!) it’ll just disintegrate into the sweat of your hand.

You can easily go to the Gold Leaf museum without the guides, as they have a leaflet in English. It’s literally a 5-7 min walk from Kanazawa station. For directions to the Kanazawa Yasue Gold-Leaf Museum see

No comments:

Post a Comment