INOUE is a company that deals with traditional art and craft objects. It is located in the Japanese city of Hikone in Shiga Prefecture.
In 1901, INOUE’s founder, Kyujiro, began the company as a maker of decorative fixtures for Buddhist altars, or kazarikanagu, transitioning in earnest to the sale of Buddhist altars after the Second World War. After this, the company expanded to include operations not related to Buddhist altars, and in July 2009 “INOUE Co., Ltd.” was formally established.
While the primary operations of the company are the sale of Hikone Buddhist altars, we also engage in the development, production, and sale of various new brands and products using materials and techniques from the traditional arts that leverage our production expertise and deep knowledge of these areas.
In the production of Hikone Buddhist altars, a process called kobunanashoku, or “distribution to seven craftsmen” is used. As the name implies, this process involves combining the skills of seven craftsmen to produce a single altar. These skills are woodworking, kuden (or the construction of miniature roofs), carving, lacquer, gold leaf, maki-e (the application of gold powder), and kazarikanagu (decorative metal fixtures). However, Buddhist implements created in other areas include patterned cloths adorned with fabric or embroidery; painted or gilded funerary tablets carved in wood; cast implements such as flower vases; carved, hollow temple blocks; carved kirigane; Buddhist images painted in gold; mounted hanging scrolls; bamboo blinds and screens; incense and incense sticks, candles, and rosary beads; as well as, in some cases, glass, mirrors, washi paper, braided cords, tassels, and other artistic adornments.
Buddhist altars are produced by integrating objects created in areas that encompass nearly the whole of Japan; that is, they are “integrated arts.” To fulfill requests for a variety of different kinds of altars, in addition to deep knowledge of these traditional arts, the producer must manage the techniques and production while balancing cost and quality. This requires a wealth of knowledge as a traditional arts generalist in order to supervise the overall production.