Higo Zogan - Kumamoto Inlay (Damascene)

Inlaying is a technique of inserting pieces of metal into the base metal to form decorative patterns. In Kumamoto Prefecture, the technique called Higo zogan (Inlay) has been handed down for 400 years. In this technique, gold or silver is inserted into the iron base. It is characterized by dignified and quiet appearance. Gold and silver, making clear contrast with the dark background, add dignity to the product. The roots of this craft go back to the Edo-era, when the craftsmen began to inlay firearms and sword guards. After the wearing of swords was banned in the beginning of the Meiji-era, they turned their hand to accessories. Now items such as tie clips, brooches, and pendant tops are being made. Delicate skills and design ability are required in each of the making processes including drawing a picture on the base iron, making a fine cut in nunome shape, inserting a gold or silver plate with a small hammer made of deer horn, giving kebori carving to the gold or silver piece, applying oxidizing solution, which has been handed down in each family, on the surface to make rust spread evenly, and tarnishing as the final step. The craft with a tradition of 400 years are still alive in this land of Higo Province.