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Contemporary artworks by Hiroto Rakusho combine oil painting with metalwork. (Courtesy of Gold Leaf Kyoto)

Japanese craftsman makes ancient art 'new' again

Hiroto Rakusho's gold leaf work gives soul to heritage facsimile project

FRAN KUZUI, Contributing writer | Japan

KYOTO, Japan -- A hostess pours sake for Hiroto Rakusho in the private bar of one of Kyoto's long-established ochaya teahouses, where geishas entertain visitors with traditional song and dance. Suddenly Rakusho erupts into a belly laugh, eliciting elegant giggles from several kimono-clad women.

This rarefied atmosphere might be incongruous for a laid-back contemporary artist wearing chic, flowing garb he has designed himself, were it not for Rakusho's family history. He is not only a guest at the bar, but a neighbor and member of the close-knit community of Kyoto artisans and custodians of its traditions.

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