An art piece born from a fusion of metal work and beni rouge, the skills of an artisan.

Originally published on the EDO TOKYO KIRARI PROJECT

Putting beni (Japanese traditional rouge) on lips; dyeing kimono and food with beni -- beni is a natural red pigment made from safflower, and has been used to add color to the special occasions in Japanese lives and to enhance the beauty of Japanese women over the centuries. Isehan Honten, the only extant beni shop, is committed to preserving the technique of making "Komachi-beni," a traditional rouge made from safflower, which has been continued over generations. They also operate a museum to introduce the history and culture of beni globally.

One of their initiatives is collaborations with young artists. Artists from various fields such as porcelain, lacquer ware, and Japanese paper have created receptacles to hold Komachi-beni, leaving vivid contributions to the world of traditional Japanese rouge. In the spring of 2021, the fifth installment of this project will be created by Yurie Nakashima, a metalworker. In mid-April, she will present a beni-ita , a portable lip container with elegantly engraved metalwork.

The works displayed and sold at the exhibition are all one-of-a-kind pieces of art. Each has its own seasonal flower motif, with a total of nine varieties, and each motif comes in two different shapes, square and rectangular. Each piece is made using a fine traditional technique. For example, the metal parts of the plum blossom piece feature different colored parts that are connected to form a single plate, and then the flower patterns are cut out and the colored metal parts are fitted into the slots. Even the hinges, which are made in the shape of leaves, and the borders around the mirrors, are handmade.


Admire the skillful workmanship and open the case to see the iridescent color. The moment it touches the skin, the color takes on a red hue that is unique to the wearer. This is the magic of the natural world. Komachi-beni is made with craftsmanship that employs the same methods used in the Edo period. As times change and people's demand for sustainable products that support the future is increasing, the existence of these works sends a significant and important message.

Exhibit: Artisans of the Future-Shining Engravings ※This exhibition has been closed.

Eighteen Komachi-beni compacts with seasonal Japanese flower and plant motifs, created in collaboration with metalworker Yurie Nakashima, will be on display and for sale.

Duration: April 17-May 22, 2021 
Venue: Beni Museum
Address: K's Minamiaoyama Building 1F, 6-6-20 Minamiaoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Hours: 10am-5pm (Admittance until 4:30pm)
Closed: Sundays, Mondays

*Hours and closure dates may be subject to change while the exhibition is being held.
Please check with the museum for changes.

Photos: ©Ryoichi Toyama
※This article was originally provided by EDO TOKYO KIRARI PROJECT (March 31, 2021).