The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G.K. Chesterton

Wednesday, 21 March 2007

Gold, glass and ceramics

What do these three have in common? Not much - only the fact that we did kinpaku (gold leaf) pressing, glass-making and ceramic molding last weekend.


This prefecture produces about 98% of Japan's gold leaf. The shop that we went to in Nanao handcrafted omikoshi (portable shrines) and we tried our hand at simple gold-leaf pressing. Use cotton wool to press the gold leaf onto a surface primed with glue, then you use a brush to gently press the leaf onto the surface. Spray with a lacquer spray and it was done. Interesting stuff, but not terribly exciting or creative.

Holding about 300000yen (AU$3000) worth of gold between my fingers; these mini gold bars are pressed thin to produce gold leaf which are then used to decorate them portable shrines:

Trying our hands at gold leaf pressing:


At the glass museum in Notojima, we had a mini-workshop on glass craft. For this particular workshop, we made small glass beads. We chose our desired colours and pattern, and set to making our beads. We sat in front of a hot bunsen burner and melted the glass to mold it into a sphere, and then 'painted' the surface of the bead with more melted glass of a different colour. The bead was left to cool, and then decorated with other glass beads to make a necklace or a keitai (mobile phone) charm.

Making the glass beads; the final products (one adorning my keitai)


Maneki neko is a "beckoning" cat sculpture popularly displayed in Japanese restaurants, stores and pachinko parlors. The Japanese believes that a raised right paw brings in fortune whilst a left paw attracts friendship/luck/etc. We had the chance to get our hands dirty to make a ceramic maneki neko - I was greedy and made my neko with two paws raised :P We will receive our glazed and baked neko in a few weeks time..

The kanji character I wrote on my neko means 'happiness', and the one on Rob's neko means 'freedom':

and Spa!

We found the time in between these activities to visit a 'foot onsen' in Wakura (a famous town next to Nanao founded on the discovery of natural hot spring 1200 years ago) in our prefecture). There were instructions on how to make Onsen Tamago (Hot Spring Eggs). These are like soft-boiled eggs, except that the yolk is harder than the whites. This is achieved by cooking the eggs (in shell) in hot water below boiling temperature for an extended period of time. This particular onsen water was 80degC, and the suggestion was to submerge the eggs for 15minutes.

Enjoying the free foot onsen; cooking onsen tamago:

We also visited the Nakajima Aquarium where we were given a tour of what happens behind-the-scene in that aquarium. We also enjoyed an amazing dolphin show and had the opportunity to pat the dolphins!

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