Kagaya Kyubei and Edo-kiriko glass

Mysterious glass marchant Kagaya Kyubei

Edo-kiriko is a Japanese glassware designated as a traditional craft by the country in 2002. The history of Edo-kiroko, with delicate cuts on vivid colored glass, dates back to the first half of the 19th century. In 1834, Kagaya Kyubei carved a surface of a glass with emery powder for a decoration, that is thought to be the beginning of the traditional glass product. 

Who is Kagaya Kyubei?

The American Admiral Matthew Perry came to Shimoda in 1853 with the letter of President Millard Fillmore. His visit is a historical event that everyone knows in Japan that triggered the Meiji Restoration. He came to open a small island that had been isolated for more than 200 years and was surprised to see a product given by the Japanese side as a gift. He never thought that Japan, which had been considered an undeveloped small country, had such a sophisticated cut glass technology. That was Edo-kiriko from the glass merchant Kagaya Kyubei.

However, there is not much detailed information about him, and it is certain that Kyubei was originally the name of Minagawa Bunjiro and was a salesclerk of the Kagaya. It was during this period that he invented a facet that carved the surface of the glass with emery powder. After that, he was allowed to established the new Kagaya in Oodenma-cho and changed his name to Kyubei. 

The classic patterns of Edo Period for decoration including Yarai and Kagome Pattern were already introduced to the Kyubei’s glassware.

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He once became the owner of the main store, but when he handed it over to his former owner’s son at the beginning of the Meiji period and set up his new store again though he was in the advance of old age.

It wasn’t so easy to become a salesclerk of a big merchant at that time, so he was a clever person and would have made more effort. Above all, the fact that he came up with the method of facet work proves it. Also, he was so adroit to deliver the proud product for Perry’s gift.