I've had a right old cultural spurt over the past few weeks. From zazen meditation to silk painting and now today......gold leaf (kinpaku) chopsticks decoration! As part of my mission to buy/make Japanese only related Christmas presents I headed to the famous gold leaf shop Sakuda in the Higashi Chaya area of Kanazawa. Kanazawa is the largest gold leaf production area in Japan, boasting a 98% share of the market so thats a good reason to make something with gold for Christmas!
So todays mission was to decorate chopsticks with gold as a Christmas pressie for my sisters boyfriend Andrew. He's a big burly Ozzie tree surgeon so I'm doubting he uses chopsticks a lot but its the thought that counts right?
I arrived at Sakuda (reservation required to do this) and in true Japanese style I was greeted by two Japanese ladies who knew immediately I was Jessica San and ushered me to the workshop at the back of the shop. I paid and then was asked to choose what I wanted to decorate. There were laquerware boxes, plates and different coloured chopsticks. I opted for the black laquered chopsticks at ￥600. If I'm honest I don't love laquerware (it's heavy looking and dare I say it looks a bit plastic) however its traditional in this area so I should respect traditional craft.
The instructor, Ill call him chopstick sensei, then hand gestured me through the process. First he showed me some examples with varying patterns of gold, one had gold and black stripes across, another some little hearts.
I was then told to draw my own pattern onto a thin piece of masking tape and then cut it with one of those teeny scalpels. Well typical of me to try and be clever. I didn't just want some conventional gold pattern around my chopsticks, I wanted to personalise them with Andrew's initials. Well if anyones ever tried to draw and scalpel out a letter the size of their little fingernail then you will sympathise with me!
My terrible effort at cutting out initials
My chopsticks just rolled with gold leaf
Once I had managed to stick the butchered letters onto my chopsticks the chopstick sensei then covered them with a potent smelling glue substance. Now for the fun part. He picked up a pounded sheet of gold leaf with his tweezers that was sooo thin, 1/10,000 mm to be precise and laid it out on the mat. Just to put this gold leaf into perspective, if you stacked up 300,000 units of gold leaf it would only make a stack 1 inch high. Anyway, you then have to roll your chopsticks, one at a time over the gold leaf without touching it with your fingers (as it'll just disintergrate into your hand if you do)
Me brushing down the excecss gold leaf from the chopsticks.
At this point it looks a bit of a mess and the surface is all uneven but after a quick brushing down you have a perfectly smooth surface.
The last step is the trickiest which involves picking off the tape to reveal the original colour underneath. Chopstick sensei helped me do this, he was a real sweetie.
My finished chopsticks! Done in 45 mins
Ok so mine don't look too pro but at least they're personal......I'd definately recommend this as a fun activity on a wet afternoon in Kanazawa (there's plenty of those) I reserved but I'm sure if you just turn up they will slot you in a time.
Outside of Sakuda (in case anyone gets lost)
View Sakuda Gold & Silver Leaf Shop in a larger map