Wakasa Agate Work
Wakasa now stands in present-day Fukui Prefecture. One of the old villages of Wakasa was called Onyu and it was this area that was served by the main shrine of the province. Back in the Nara period (710-794), a sea-faring people known as the Wanizoku, who made jade the object of their faith, came to the area and built what was called the Wani-kaido, a road in front of the shrine. Here they started making jade objects and Wakasa Meno Zaiku is said to have begun at this time.
In the middle of the Edo period (1600-1868), a technique to enhance the color of agate by heating it was perfected and by the 19th century, a range of cutting and shaping techniques were added.
Agate is a semi-transparent type of quartz with markings similar to annual rings. The same people who noticed that it turned a wonderful color when heated to between 200-300°C, perfected the firing techniques that are now so special to Wakasa Meno Zaiku. Being an extremely hard stone, a great deal of time is taken over cutting and polishing the stone in order to create lovely animals, Buddhist statues, censers, sake cups and all kinds of personal ornaments.
Agate is a semi-transparent quartz with distinctive tree ring-like patterns. The unique Wakasa tempering technique came into being when people first noticed that this quartz took on a beautiful hue when heated at a temperature between 200 and 300 degrees. These exceptionally hard stones are carved and polished over time to transform them into lovely animal shapes, Buddha images, incense burners, goblets and various ornaments.
How to make
Agate-processing can be roughly divided in four stages: stone gathering, tempering, sculpting/molding and polishing. Once the stones have been cut to enhance individual characteristics like natural patterns, etc. and heated in order to bring out their beautiful color, they are then carefully sculpted and polished employing unique precious-stone crafting techniques to transform them into delicate and tasteful art objects.