Satsuma porcelain is a technique that was imported to Japan from Korea in the late 16th century. Satsuma buttons were created using the same technique for export to America and Europe during the late 19th century. By the Meiji period the craft spread to Kyoto and settled there while it fizzled out in Kagoshima. The main attribute to Satsuma porcelain and buttons is the fine detail of the ukiyoe motifs, and the finely crackled glaze. The technique slowly died out in Japan in the 1960’s with only a handful of craftspeople capable of passing on the knowledge.
Shiho Murota is one of the few people continuing this craft. During my visit to Kagoshima recently I had the chance to visit her studio and have a look at her work, and hear her story first-hand. Her studio is in a small mountain village. There, Murota-san is creating her own original designs, and buttons. Some of her work is traditional ukiyoe style and others are more modern. From skulls, spiders, and anchors to cute floral design, and simple timeless geometric patterns. She not only makes buttons, but wooden Zippo lighter cases with Satsuma button accents, rings, brooches, and pins. They are so elaborately detailed some of the best parts are hidden within the design.