interview 12

“When we say 1 g of gold, it has to be 1 g.”
Ms. Yuko Hori, Director and General Manager of General Affairs Department, Hori Kinhakufun (est. 1711 / Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto, Japan)
While Japanese glasses quality is the best, the materials are the same as the others. Likewise, gold blending sets a global standard and is the same all over the world. Even though the quality of Japanese gold leaf is high. The reason for this is no doubt that the techniques and craftsmanship that have been passed down from generation to generation by the uncompromising Japanese. We interviewed Ms. Hori of Hori Kinhakufun, a long-established gold leaf company that has been in business for more than 300 years.
About Gold Leaf
Gold leaf is the same thickness as “smoke”
Gold leaf is an alloy of gold with copper and silver, beaten and stretched thin. The thickness is 1/10,000 mm and people say it’s the same thickness as smoke. The gold leaf is made by a craftsman’s technique, stretching a piece of base metal the size of an azuki bean to the size of a tatami mat. We have the best skills in thinning in the world. I believe that there were little resources in Japan, which is why they stretched their precious gold so thin.
What is indispensable for making the finest gold leaf is actually “Haku uchi-shi(old-beater paper)”. It is the paper that is inserted between the gold when it is beaten and stretched thin. Paper is made by pounding and cutting the fibers of the thymelaeaceae plant several times to soften, then soaking the paper in lye, egg white, or persimmon tannin, and repeatedly pounding and drying it for about one month. The paper determines the quality of the gold leaf, which is why this process is so important for gold leaf craftsmen. We measure and wrap the pure gold mud in this paper and exchange it with the craftsmen, and it is forever unbreakable. The paper has a reverse side and an order of the paper, and the craftsmen stamp the seals of some traditional Japanese signs, sometimes with flowers on it, isn’t it nice?

About Hori Kinhakufun
We used to sell mackerel when we had nothing to sell.
Founded 300 years ago, Kyoto was the place of consumption of gold leaf at that time, with the Shogunate in the area. Gold leaf was used in traditional crafts such as shrines and temples, works of art, dyed textiles, lacquer, and ceramics, and it was a rather major work. But when they had nothing to sell, they were selling mackerel, which was the same shiny object as gold leaf. During the war, we run a hardware store and a junk shop store and selling aluminum for ship engines. In any situation, we’ve been in business for generations. Depending on the historical background, we have been surprisingly liberal and messy. However, this flexibility and moderation are important, and recently I wonder if this is the secret of our continued success.
We have seen a lot of gold, so we are confident that we are very good at recognizing the way gold shines and its color. One of our major projects now is the development of gold paint and the development and production of edible gold leaf. We are currently exploring new possibilities for gold leaf.
About Succession
Daily process becomes like a seed for the succession
We basically don’t want our children to inherit the business. As we know it’s tough, and all we do is a business. Even so, it seems that the succession is in fact taking place. One of the secrets of smooth succession is that we eat and spend time together. Every day children come here to say, “I’m home,” and they ask me, “Can I have an ice cream?” and even if I am not here, they talk to the shopkeeper and go home. This kind of relationship makes children feel comfortable been in the company. This daily process becomes like a seed for the succession.
Meaning of tradition
It ends when someone gives up
Traditional methods of manufacturing will end if they are discontinued, and for example, bathhouses are disappearing in the region. When they are gone, there will be modern public bathhouses, but that sense of atmosphere will never be felt again. Gold leaf is not for everyone, but it is still important to those who use it, and if it is interrupted, it is over. If one gives up or surrounds themselves with only their own, it’s also over. In the gold leaf making process, there is a tool called a Haku-uchi(goldbeater) knife, but nobody makes them anymore. Many things are connected so when one disappears, many things can disappear. There are ways to replace and adapt to continue, but I’m sure there will be good and bad sides of it.
Our values
Under a good peach tree, a path naturally forms
We have several company philosophies, and one of them is “a man of virtue will naturally attract admirers”. Simply said, it means that under a good peach tree, a path will naturally lead to a good path. I guess it means that you should just keep quiet and be diligent. For generations, we have been told, “If we say it’s 1g, it’s 1g; if it’s gold, it must be gold. It’s a common saying, but we never tell a lie. We have always valued trust.