Toyama Prefecture is located in center of the Japanese archipelago, looking out on the Sea of Japan. The area is blessed with an abundance of nature and regional cuisine found through the prefecture; from the heights of the 3000m high Tateyama Mountain Range to the depths of Toyama Bay, known for its local offshore fisheries and plethora of seafood. Located in the northwest region of Toyama Prefecture is Takaoka – a city with a long history which has thrived within the field of commerce and industry.
The history of Takaoka began in 1609 when the second feudal lord of the Kaga Domain, Toshinaga Maeda, ordered the construction of Takaoka Castle. Within the context of Japan’s early Edo Period, the area was considered to be the ideal location for the construction of the castle for both military and economical purposes given the Takaoka’s proximity to the Sea of Japan, allowing easy access on both land and water. Following the construction of Takaoka Castle, Lord Maeda set out to establish Takaoka as a castle town through the encouragement of a local metal craft industry, inviting seven skilled craftsmen to the area and granting them protection along with many other social privileges. However, misfortune would soon fall upon Takaoka with the death of the Lord Maeda in 1614, along with the decree for the abolishment of Takaoka Castle the following year under the One Castle per Province Law of 1615.
During the years which followed, Takaoka developed into a town of artisans and merchants thanks to a shift in political policies headed by Toshitsune Maeda, Toshinaga’s successor and third lord of the Kaga Domain. While early efforts within the metal casting industry concentrated on the production of pots, pans and other daily living utensils, a change in demands would mean a transition towards the manufacture of flower vases, Buddhist alter apparatus, and other culturally significant decorative items of the time. It was also during this time that the region prospered as the central trading point of food commodities for all of Japan, earning the moniker as the “Kitchen of the Kaga Domain”. The cultural wealth and history of Takaoka can still be seen today encapsulated within the elaborate ornamentation of the floats featured in Mikurumayama Festival, crafted using the finest traditional techniques within the fields of metal carving, dyeing, and lacquerwork.
Nowadays, Takaoka proudly boasts the status of the largest producer of metal craft in Japan, combining traditional skills cultivated over the town’s 400 year history, with newly developed techniques. Many of these contemporary products have been designed to suit today’s modern life and are gaining much attention on a national scale. Takaoka is one of Japan’s most up and coming cities, with the travel time between Tokyo being significantly reduced since the opening of the Hokuriku Shinkansen in 2015, and its recent designation as ‘Japan Heritage’ by the Agency for Cultural Affairs.