Osaka Suzuki is nestled in a quiet residential neighborhood of the Higashi Sumiyoshi district in the heart of Osaka. The southern area maintains a traditional feel that reflects its artisan heritage and friendly old-town community. On the other hand, the northern area has a modern urban feel with office buildings, lively shopping streets and upbeat entertainment areas. These complementary cultures are also seen within Osaka Suzuki as it remains committed to its craftsmanship past while adopting innovations.
Given the historical role of pewterware in religions, it seems fitting that the famous Sumiyoshi Grand Shrine is nearby. Besides being one of Japan’s oldest and most important shrines, it is remarkably beautiful, with traditional construction and colors that magically pull you back to earlier times.
A subtle blend of tradition and innovation
Pewterware first appeared in Japan over a thousand years ago, and tinsmiths were known to be living around Kyoto from the 1600s. In that era, tin was considered a precious metal like gold or silver and was mainly found at shrines, imperial courts and wealthy households. Over time, tinsmiths slowly ventured to Osaka, and as the Meiji era ended, there was a strong base of companies making pewterware for the general public. And in 1983, the Government of Japan designated this Osaka Naniwa style of pewterware as a “traditional craft” based on its cultural importance.
Osaka Suzuki, a maker of Osaka Naniwa pewterware, was established by Yaichiro Imai in 1949 as a group of five tinsmiths wanting to preserve their craft. Today the company is led by his grandson Tatsumasa Imai who is recognized as a “Contemporary Master Craftsman.” Under his leadership, Osaka Suzuki has become the market leader of pewterware in Japan, with a reputation for exciting new products and techniques.
Tatsumasa Imai, who repeatedly says “if we stop, tradition dies,” has attracted a talented young team with more than half in their twenties and thirties to ensure pewterware traditions continue with future generations. At the same time, their youthful outlook also brings new ideas that reflect a modern lifestyle and evolving tastes.
The crossroads of beauty, precision and tradition
Tin is an extremely soft metal which requires unique skills and offers unique opportunities for handcrafting pewterware products.
Fortunately, craftsmanship has always been a cornerstone of Osaka Suzuki. Every product, simple or elaborate, is handmade through casting, cutting, painting, etching and polishing by an experienced Master Craftsman. Tea canisters highlight their incredible skills, with handmade lids creating a tight metal-to-metal seal that protects tea leaves from moisture.
Osaka Suzuki produces unrivaled designs and patterns. The range of surface styles is impressive as different textures dramatically change the appearance while always staying warm and soft to the touch. Also, decorating with lacquer has added a new dimension – for example, the popular Mount Fuji tumblers are not only shaped like the symbolic mountain but now share its natural beauty with dramatic colors.
Osaka Naniwa pewterware makes drinks taste better. Tin has unique ionic properties that remove unpleasant tastes from sake and impurities from water. And tin is 50 times more thermally conductive than porcelain. Why is this important? It lets you quickly warm or cool drinks like sake in a water bowl and sense the temperature of your drink by touching the cup. Both features make drinking more enjoyable.
Balancing beauty with purpose in our lives
Pewter has become remarkably popular for home decor in general and tableware in particular. The reason is simple. People are discovering the soft beauty that this neutral shade of gray can bring into their daily lives. Its subdued color complements table settings and creates a striking contrast with fabric tablecloths or wooden tables. Osaka Naniwa pewterware brings this casual elegance to formal dining moments and relaxed daily moments alike.
Osaka Naniwa pewterware offers a wide range of beautiful and practical products that you can easily introduce into table settings. Simple chopstick holders are an elegant way to highlight lacquered chopsticks. Patterned tumblers offer an artistic alternative to sparkling crystalware. And stylish vases accentuate the natural beauty of flowers.
Relaxed moments, whether alone or with friends, are also ideal times to use Osaka Naniwa pewterware. Consider small plates, sake sets and tea sets to create a friendly ambiance that reflects your personal style. Casual with rattan accents. Elegant with traditional designs. Playful with lively colors.
Osaka Naniwa pewterware is visually appealing and engages all of your senses. As Tatsumasa Imai suggests, “If you use pewterware once, you will discover what it is all about.”
2012 Modern Master Crafts (Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare)
2019 Japan Chamber of Commerce Chairman’s Award (National Traditional Crafts Exhibition)