金繕い or 金継ぎ: a Japanese form of Pottery Repair

A Japanese artisan uses 金継ぎ to repair a ceramic dish.

As some of you may know, I’ve recently returned to studying Japanese. This is something I’d invested heavily in several years ago, but during the course of several traumatic life events had managed to lose sight of. Coming back to it was like a breath of fresh air, an invigorating return to purpose. Because I didn’t have enough to do already, right?

I’ve always loved language, but had never attempted (before Japanese) to learn in earnest a language other than English, but my experience with Japanese has opened me up to a world of possibilities and perspectives. It may sound cliche, and I certainly felt it a cliched enough thought when I heard people say such things about learning new languages prior to my own linguistic endeavors, but it is as true and as useful as people make it out to be. This experience has also taught me a lot about my own native language, helping me to view it from the perspective of an outsider.

So I thought it might be fun to share some of these things with you from time to time, especially given that part of me still seems to consider the serious study of Japanese one of the most productive and enriching things I’ve undertaken, to the point where I continually debate attempting to invest enough time and energy to eventually use it professionally. Certainly such a course wouldn’t be an easy one, especially having started my study of the language much later in life, but there’s a good chance this is the way my future “official” university education may be heading.

Which brings me to today’s post. Someone shared a Facebook photo with me earlier today which briefly described a Japanese technique called 金繕い (きんつくろい) or Kintsukuroi. The word comes from 金 (きん、こがね、かね), meaning gold, metal, or money, and 繕い (つくろい), meaning mending or repair. It seems that this may actually be a less common term than 金継ぎ (きんつぎ) or Kintsugi. Similarly, 継ぎ (つぎ) refers to a patch, or patching. In short, this is the art of repairing broken ceramics using lacquer and gold or silver powder, the end result of which will be a strikingly beautiful object whose look is made more remarkable for the fact that it was broken.

I was unable to find either of these terms in my go-to dictionaries, which are based on WWWJDIC and JMDICT, so it’s hard to get an official call on this. If there are any Japanese natives or experienced speakers who could comment and give us more insight into the context, that would be awesome! Without anything else to go on, the informational Facebook post did suggest that this can also be a verb phrase, intimating an appreciation of the final product and the fact that it is more beautiful to look at than it may have been originally.

I’ll leave you with a 金継ぎ video showing a large lot of finished items, courtesy of goldenicco, who has apparently been an extremely industrious artisan. If you’re interested in seeing more, you can copy and paste the Japanese terms from this page (if you don’t know how to write them), and you can find instructional videos as well (including some in English if you search using the Romaji—the English alphabet—versions of the terms).

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