14 July – 26 August

Open weekdays 09:30 - 17:30, closed weekends
Admission is free, but photo ID is necessary to gain entry to the Embassy.

The Embassy of Japan, 101-104 Piccadilly, London W1J 7JT

GOLD: ALL THAT GLISTERS - JAPANESE GOLD DECORATION is an exhibition that brings together examples of the art of gold decoration in Japan. It contains works that continue age-old traditions requiring immense skill and exciting contemporary pieces which look to the past for inspiration.

“Zipangu, the land of gold”; this is how Japan was described in the popular 13th-century book, The Travels of Marco Polo. The Venetian's account of Japan led Europeans to believe in a far-off land of tremendous wealth. Columbus later sailed across the Atlantic Ocean in search of it.

19th-century soba choko repaired with kintsugi;
courtesy of T. Toomey

Camelia & Chrysanthemum bowl with gold
by Hosono Hitomi



Gold and porcelain have long been combined: KUTANI ceramics from Ishikawa Prefecture are well known, since the Edo Period, for their opulent decoration. These skills can be seen in the works from the KINZANGAMA kiln and KUTANIJUKU takes these traditions in a new direction with playful humour. One particularly fine piece on display, an incense container, is by Living National Treasure, YOSHITA MINORI.

London-based Japanese artist HOSONO Hitomi applies gold leaf to delicate and elaborately sculptured porcelain. She studied the art of Kutani decoration in Kanazawa. She has received a long list of awards for her work and most recently she is a Jerwood Makers Open 2014 winner.

There is stunning lacquer work from maki-e craftsman MATSUDA Shokan. Maki-e (sprinkled pictures) is the technique of making decorating lacquer sprinkled with gold (or silver) powder and the most highly refined of Japanese lacquering techniques. The powder is applied to lacquered designs while the lacquer is still damp. Different sized particles and several techniques are used allowing for a variety of different decorative textures. His writing case, suzuri-bako (inkstone box) shows all of the various maki-e decoration techniques.

There are Edo-period (1603 - 1868) examples of the art of KINTSUGI. This is the Japanese technique of repairing broken ceramics with a lacquer and rice glue resin dusted with (most commonly) gold powder. The repair of the broken vessel is embraced as a visible part of its history rather than something to be disguised. The process has become closely associated with wares used for the tea ceremony. The Japanese aesthetic of wabi sabi evident in the tea ceremony acknowledges the beauty in flaws and imperfection, in asymmetry, in modesty, simplicity and thrift and the acceptance of the transient nature of things.

Yobitsugi is where similarly shaped but non-matching fragments are used to replace missing pieces from the original vessel creating a patchwork effect. Glass artist, NISHINAKA Yukito brings this idea using gold into his latest works with extreme sensitivity.

This exhibition has been made possible with the generous support of Sir Hugh and Lady Cortazzi, Eshima Kaori, Horiuchi Hiroko, Hosono Hitomi, Katie Jones, Kinzangama, Kutanijuku, Matsuda Shokan, Nishinaka Yukito, Adrian Sassoon, Timothy Toomey, the British Museum, the Nezu Museum (Tokyo), and the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Maki-e writing box, lacquer and gold (c) Matsuda Shokan

Yobitsugi tea bowl, glass and gold leaf by Nishinaka Yukito