Temma Kiriko: The Traditional Craft
of Japanese Cut Glass from Osaka
Kiriko is a traditional Japanese craft of cut glass. Detailed patterns are cut into colorful glass (red and blue are the most common) to create intricate designs, producing a beautiful art of glass and light. In Osaka, Temma Kiriko, an original brand of Kiriko Kobo RAU, was created in 2000, and has been gaining popularity as an Osaka souvenir, including at G20 Osaka Summit in 2019 where the world leaders attending the summit received a gift of Temma Kiriko rock glasses from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. We visited the Kiriko Kobo workshop to experience firsthand the beauty of this Japanese craft and learn the history and the art of Temma Kiriko.
Osaka’s Last Glass Processing Plant
Next to the Ebisu Gate of Osaka Tenmangu Shrine stands a stone monument that marks “the birthplace of Osaka glass”, an indicator that Osaka’s Temma area once prospered with a bustling glass industry. Having a river nearby meant an excellent transportation route for an industry and it was no surprise when the Temma area grew to be a center of glass industry in the country shortly after the manufacturing of glass began in mid-Edo Period. As the times changed and the fire safety regulations tightened over time, plants closed one after another, until only one plant remained. It was Ura Glass Processing Plant, or Temma Kiriko Co. Ltd./Kiriko Kobo RAU as it is known today.
Kiriko Kobo RAU had produced a variety of glass products since its founding in 1933 and in 2000, through trial and error, created Temma Kiriko, Osaka’s own Kiriko cut glass that is unique and different from the conventional Kiriko in Japan.
The Face of Temma Kiriko
Surrounded by the noises that fill the workshop—the sound of cutting and polishing, the noise of machines—six Kiriko artisans were working with glass when we visited. One of the six, Daisuke Ura, is the lineal successor to the creator of Temma Kiriko. He was entrusted with the business and the brand when his predecessor passed away. “I had an interest in making things.” The look in Daisuke’s eyes when he is working is nothing but absolute seriousness. The new generation of Temma Kiriko works hard to not only maintain the work the creator was proud of but also to produce innovative designs that expands the world of Temma Kiriko.
What Makes Temma Kiriko Unique?
When you look at Temma Kiriko cut glass, the designs might look rather simple compared to other well-known Japanese Kiriko like Satsuma Kiriko or Edo Kiriko. The secret of Temma Kiriko’s beauty lies in this simple design. The reason the designs look simple is the U shaped blade—as opposed to the common V shaped blade used for the conventional Kiriko—used in cutting the glass. The round edged blade produces softer, rounded lines so when the designs are cut into colored glass, the end product sometimes has more clear glass than the colored glass overall, creating a design that is rather clean and perhaps even plain.
“It looks simple but designs with less color actually have more sparkling effects when used,” explained the workshop’s representative, Koji Ura.
What did he mean exactly? Well, I saw it with my own eyes when water was poured into these glasses with “simple” designs… When the glass was filled with water, the clear glass on the sides of the glass became sort of a concave lens where the patterns on the bottom of the glass were projected. Combined with the reflection of the water, the entire glass was glowing brilliantly. When I gave it a little shake, it added movements to the water, which only enhanced the glittering effects. It looked like a kaleidoscope! It was amazing. I’m pretty sure I could have just stared into the glass for a long time.
Temma Kiriko comes with a high price tag and is beautiful as is, but its elegance stands out even more when it is used. A refined beauty that gives you pleasure for many years to come. That is what makes Temma Kiriko special.
Find Your Special Piece
The artistry of Temma Kiriko has captured many in recent years. When it was introduced at a special event at a department store one time, for example, a flood of orders and inquires followed. With growing popularity, Temma Kiriko can be found at more and more locations nowadays, but Temma Kiriko Gallery directly managed by Kiriko Kobo RAU is the best place to see firsthand the wide range of designs offered. About 5-minute walk from Osaka Metro’sTemmabashi Station, Temma Kiriko Gallery sits on the north side of Okawa River across the Temmabashi Bridge.
Drinking glasses is their sole product of Kiriko Kobo RAU today, but other Temma Kiriko glassware—plates and vases that were made in the past—are on display for visitors to enjoy. Also at the gallery, you can witness yourself the glittering effects of pouring watering into the glass that I described above and imagine how you will enjoy Temma Kiriko as you browse through the shelves. And, as you pick up the glass into your hand, you will see the fine details, perhaps even the slight differences in the same designs, as every piece is hand made.
The craftsmanship is simply amazing and I bet many of you will walk out with a piece of Temma Kiriko, whether it’s for yourself or for your loved ones back home.
If you’re at Temma Kiriko Gallery later in the day, stick around to see the Temmabashi Bridge lit up at night. Based on the history of the region, the lights that illuminate the bridge were designed in the image of Kiriko cut glass patterns.
I’d always marveled the colorful lines of lights there but didn’t know they represented the sparkling shines of Kiriko. I love that the regional culture is represented in such a unique way.
It’s definitely worth checking out!
©Osaka Convention & Tourism Bureau
[Access] About 5 mins walk from Exit 2 at Temmabashi Station.
[Hours] Tuesdays through Fridays: 1:00 pm - 7:00 pm, Saturdays, Sundays, & Holidays: 11:00 am - 7:00 pm
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