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Kutani porcelain

Kinzangama Kiln

Photo by Naoto Takano

Kinzangama Kiln is a pottery located in Takando, Komatsu City in Ishikawa prefecture with more than 100 years of history. It specializes in over glazed paintings of Kutani porcelain, especially excels in "Kinsai", glaze painting with gold. Minori Yoshita, the third generation of the Kiln, has inherited various techniques of Kutani porcelain, improved the technique of "Yuri-kinsai" and was designated as a holder of Important Intangible Cultural Property (Living National Treasure). Yukio Yoshita, the fourth generation, is now exploring a new expression of colored “Kinrande” which is suitable to the times. 

Photo by Naoto Takano

Technique of Kinzangama Kiln


Yuri-kinsai is a technique to express patterns with gold decoration such as gold leaf and gold powder on surfaces, apply glazes over and then fire them. Since the Edo period a gold decoration technique has been developed, however, sometimes gold on a surface got worn away or peeled off because of aging. To solve this problem, Yuri-kinsai was invented by sealing gold in glazes with thick gold leaf. Impressed with the works by the pioneers, Minori Yoshita from Kinzangama Kiln established a three-dimensional expression by shading with both thick and thin gold leaf. He developed his own world, using concrete patternlike flowers and butterflies, while Yuri-kinsai had been used only in ground patterns or geometric patterns until then. The role of Yuri-kinsai is not only to prevent gold from peeling off. Through the glassy coating of glazes, a strong metalic shine would be suppressed and gold comes to give us elegant, subtle and profound brilliance.

Yuri-kinsai by Minori Yoshita

1. Applying a ground glaze and firing

Apply color glazes as base color on a ground of porcelain after being bisque fired, glazed an glaze-fired, Add color glazes such as yellow-green, navy blue, purple and red over it and then fire.

2. Drawing in ink

Make a rough sketch in ink on a color-glazed surface following patterns. No ink trace remains after fired. Every piece of patterns has numbers in order.

3. Cutting gold leaf

Cut gold leaf into each part following a pattern with scissors for surgery made in Germany.

4. Pasting gold leaf

Paint "funori" glue on a rough sketch and apply gold leaf with tweezers in serial numbers. Dry them up for half to one day.

5. Making a decoration on gold leaf

Make a decoration on dried gold leaf, applying more delicate expressions. Kin-gaki, drawing with gold glazes and Hari-bori, carving with needle are the main technique.

6. Firing repeatedly

Fire decorated works so to fix gold leaf. Then apply transparent glaze and fire them again, which is a final firing. Firing twice in making porcelain and three times in decoration; fire five times in all and finally complete. This is why Yuri-kinsai is said to be an elaborate technique.

Photo by Naoto Takano

Technique of Kinzangama Kiln


Kinrande is a decorative technique to create with gold decorations on the surface of multicolored over glazed porcelain wares and works produced with the technique. It started in Song Dynasty, China , and Kinrande works was started to produce in the Edo period in Japan. Kinrande has some variations such as "kin-kaki" to draw a line with gold paint, "kin-furi" to splash gold powder, and "kin-hari" to paste gold leaf. Gold powder used in gold decorations have been homemade in Kutani. Fine particles of gold powder are sold, but the handmade gold powder is finer and restores the gold color better. The gold powder is used with glue in over glazed painting. After decorated with gold, they are fired in a special kiln used for over glazed painting. To apply some gold decorations repeatedly, like splashing gold powder on drawn lines or drawing lines on pasted gold leaf, it is necessary to be fired after each process generally. With minute attention, gorgeous and splendid Kinrande works are produced through many production processes.

Photo by Naoto Takano

Kinrande by Yukio Yoshita

1. Forming and firing

Ordinary Kutani-yaki kilns divide the production process into making a porcelain and painting glazes. In Kinzangama Kiln, however, they engage themselves in both in some works. Making forms by potter's wheel or stamping out, they dry works and then shape them neatly by trimming. Then porcelain clay diluted by water is thinly spread on its surface as to enrich an expression of color images of over glazed paintings, and fired.

2. Water repellent and glaze firing

A water repellent ​which is applied on a bottom not to be glazed is painted on a surface of each piece. Then glazes are applied and they are fired in a kiln. The water repellent makes a surface rather rough and this produces a soft shadow effect when over glazed paintings are applied.

3. Over glazed painting

Dissolved western paints are applied. In the parts where water repellent has been applied color blur effects are available like watercolor paintings. Drying rapidly by blowing warm air let the natural color irregularity fixed. Then works are fired in a special kiln used for over glazed painting.

4. Applying colors

In the same process as above 3. various colors are applied and firing is required in every color.  By applying traditional colors lightly such as burnt sienna, grass blue and purple which have been used since Old Kutani, an imaginary gradation of colors is produced.

5. Splashing pieces of gold leaf

Painting dissolved "funori" glue on which pieces of gold leaf are to be pasted, pieces of gold leaf are splashed from above with thick brushes randomly on purpose. Tap a surface over lightly with cotton to fix and adjust gold leaf. Then remove unnecessary gold leaf with a brush.

6. Painting gold

Using thin brushes, lines of color sections are drawn with gold powder mixed with glue and water. These lines bring geometric order to a soft layer of colors. The also help ashine of gold and pale colors of glazes to show off each other.

7. Firing

Print gold after a finishing fire and then works are completed. 

the third of Kinzangama Kiln

Minori Yoshita

"Tradition means to add and pile up something suitable to the times"

I started to work on with Yuri-kinsai works in 1972. I wanted to express concrete objects with gold leaf itself. A Yuri-kinsai technique so far had been adopted only to ground patterns or geometric patterns on backgrounds due to technical restrictions. But I wanted to establish a new Yuri-kinsai technique, collaborating concrete expressions of Kutani-yaki with design expression I had worked on until then. Now the techniques are nearly completed. Just nearly. There are many other things I want to try, something in motion like a flying bird spreading its wings. A Yuri-kinsai technique has a process to cut out a gold leaf. This is why patterns of shading colors are difficult. Now I hope that coming folks will resolve this problem with gold powder or something else.

I don't think tradition is an only repeated work of something splendid which had been suddenly born in a certain time. Techniques and materials could be traditional, but we always have to add something suitable to times. I believe that to add and pile up is a tradition. It is impossible to remain the same as before, for some materials are disappearing with the times, while the techniques have been improving. It was us that introduced an electrical control system to an electric kiln for the first time in Kutani. I also made a devise to carve patterns into gold leaf with a needle by myself and use a hair clip in holding gold leaf. Thus I am getting a hint from all the daily things and working out. Without inventing by myself, it is difficult to produce a new work. I believe that a traditional technique will be succeeded universally with these everyday trials.

Photo by Naoto Takano

Photo by Naoto Takano

the fourth of Kinzangama Kiln

Yukio Yoshita

"Colors and Gold of Kutani-yaki tradition are newly created as a modern expression"

Even though my works now appear a little different from traditional Kutani-yaki works, the root is a traditional technique. Among them is a technique to multicolor over glaze, which could be often seen in grass and flowers design of old Kutani-yaki works. This technique produces a delicate and inter mediate color tone by applying paintings instead of mixing colors. I have tried this technique with western colors, imagining it must be beautiful like a watercolor if applied slight.y. I also thought that expressions of colors would become richer if I produce a porcelain in a different texture like that of pottery. This is why I put uneven pattern on a surface. Then I reached the way to make use of water repellent agent in making the ground. Moreover, I apply "kinsai", gold glaze painting which is a main technique of Kinzangama Kiln. Gold leaf is also applied. Thus, I have adopted traditional techniques in a unique way and my works have gradually become gorgeous. These 2 or 3 years, I sometimes apply nothing to a ground of porcelain and leave it white. I am aiming to strengthening the beauty of colors ad gold owing to a contrast between various colors and white ground. By trial and error, I have made my own style. The next renovation will be, I guess, to invent my original Yuri-kinsai, under glazed gold painting by applying glazes on. My task is to master "kinsai", diverse techniques of "kinsai" a gold painting.

Photo by Naoto Takano

Photo by Naoto Takano

Rumico Yoshita

Rumico Yoshita has been expressing a unique world of her own with a very novel painting technique using bubbles and original forms. She puts every work of hers into not words but sounds and names them.

1999  Awarded Excellence Prize of Asahi Modern Crafts Exhibition

1987  Graduate from Ishikawa prefectural Kutani-yaki Technical Training Center. Join Kinzangama Kiln.


1985  Graduate from Kanazawa University. Enter Ishikawa prefectural Kutani-yaki Technical Training Center.


1962  Born in Ishikawa prefecture

Photo by Naoto Takano

Photo by Naoto Takano

Meet the Artisan
3-Day Kutani Porcelain Studio Visit and Kanazawa City Tour
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