Polished and polished
until it is clear, the mirror
reflects snow flowers
Spotless, shiny mirrors reflect reality as it is-and thus, mirrors have been regarded as sacred objects since ancient times. Mirrors have been counted as one of the Three Sacred Treasures -along with gems and swords- since Japan’s pre-history. Unlike utilitarian glass mirrors in use today, these traditional ceremonial mirrors are made from nickel or bronze. Mirrors were also often used as burial accessories during the Kofun period (3rd-7th century). Then, in early modern Japan, mirrors were one of the essential components of religious and ceremonial occasions -as well as an important dowry item for brides from daimyo class families.
Mirrors were essential tools in the lives of Japanese people for so many years, so naturally, there have always been people who have produced and cared of them. These people were called Kagami-shi, or ”Master of Mirrors.” However, as modern technology for producing glass mirrors emerged, demand for old copper or bronze mirrors decreased and thus, the number of Kagami-shi diminished as well.
There is a Kagami-shi in Kyoto who continues the ancient tradition of mirror production today. Akihisa Yamamoto is the Kagami-shi who takes over the 5th generation of the workshop, Yamamoto Gokin Seisakusho. Since 1866, Yamamoto Gokin has focused only on traditional Japanese mirror manufacturing, and many of their mirrors were delivered to temples and shrines as scared objects for prayer. While helping his father and grandfather, who were also the Kagami-shi, the young Yamamoto discovered joy and fun in mirror making and decided to become a Kagami-shi after graduating from university.
Makyo or sacred mirrors, are special mirrors that, when reflecting a beam of light, show an image engraved in the surface of the mirror. They are made mainly of polished bronze. According to various sources, during the Edo Period, when Christianity was prohibited by the authorities in Japan, these mirrors were used to project the image of the Christ so that the so called “hidden Christians” (kakure kirishitan) could secretly worship it. Today, Yamamoto Gokin Seisakusho is the only company in Japan that makes such mirrors. Established back in the Edo Period, the company manufactures traditional Japanese metal mirrors, such as sacred mirrors enshrined in temples and shrines, and has passed its exquisite techniques down through the generations of skilled craftsmen. This product is created by Akihisa Yamamoto, the fifth generation master of the company who studied the techniques for making sacred mirrors under his grandfather Oryu Yamamoto and was involved in the creation of the sacred mirror presented to the Pope by Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe. Today, the company strives not only to preserve the traditions of sacred mirror making but also to bring them into the future by participating in art projects and undertaking various new challenges.
Yamamoto Gokin Seisakusho:
Address: 6-6 Ebishunobanba-cho Shimogyo-ku Kyoto-fu 600-8837
Advance contact is necessary if a visitor wishes to visit the studio.