Japan has a rich history of iron casting, and the city of Yamagata (Northern Japan) has a very strong reputation for their excellent, traditional skills. The origins of casting in Yamagata date back to the Heian period (794 -1185), but the craft only flourished after the Edo period (1603 – 1868), when the lord of Yamagata Castle made all craftsmen live together to focus on excelling in their specialty and crafting Buddhist decorations and souvenirs that would become famous all over Japan.
Yamagata casting is now recognized as one of the best in Japan. Whereas other type of castings are characterized as hard and masculine, Yamagata casting is appreciated for being ‘Usuniku-birei’’ – thin and beautiful.
After the Meiji restoration (1868) the focus turned to pots, kettles and tea ceremony tools, which led to iron casting officially getting recognized as ‘Traditional Japanese craft’ in 1975.
After graduating art school and working in a studio, Hisanori Masuda opened his own studio ‘Chushin Kobo’, in Yamagata in 1977.
His objective was to revitalize the casting industry through smart, modern designs. He is both a craftsman and a designer. Masuda’s mission is to ‘recreate objects retaining the beauty of traditional Japanese cast iron but stylishly adapted to fit contemporary life-style’.
He is now a university art teacher and crafter, and has participated in many international exhibitions, winning various prestigious awards for his outstanding designs.
His mission is to "recreate objects retaining the beauty of traditional Japanese cast iron but stylishly adapted to fit contemporary life-style."
Whereas Yamagata castings were especially popular for Japanese tea ceremony items, these items are not used daily and are therefore relatively expensive. Chushin Kobo focusses on daily life items that are not just beautiful, but especially functional and therefore relatively less expensive. A lot of time goes into the design of each item to make sure it is of the highest quality and will ensure the best functionality.
For example, the famous Chushin Kobo teapots have won the "Good Design Award" and are rated: "simple, yet extraordinarily beautiful with a unique, soft texture and glow, and an excellent design, minimizing leaking from the spout, is comfortable to hold and easy to clean".