Naruko lacquer ware is a traditional handicraft in Naruko Onsen, Osaki City, Miyagi Prefecture. It is a nationally designated Traditional Craft Product. During the Kanei era (1624-1643) in the Edo period, the lord of the Iwadeyama domain, Date Toshichika, dispatched a lacquerer, Murata Uhei, and a makie craftsman, Kikuta Sanzo, to Kyoto to develop their skills in order to promote the local lacquering industry. Naruko lacquer ware has been handed down by their descendents up to the present day.
The traditional lacquering techniques include kijiro-nuri, which enhances the beautiful grains of the wood, fuki-urusi finishing, and ryumon-nuri, which produces a marbling effect. Each product has limpid beauty brought out by these traditional techniques. As lacquer is applied and rubbed down repeatedly many times to create a thick surface, Naruko lacquer ware is durable for a long-term daily use.
Niigata lacquer ware is a traditional handicraft in the cities of Niigata and Kamo in Niigata Prefecture. It is a nationally designated Traditional Craft Product. As a port used by Kitamae ships in the Edo period (1603-1868), various cultures were brought into this town both by land and sea, which contributed to the development of various craft techniques in this area.
It is said that the making of lacquer ware in Niigata started during the Genna era (1615-1624). In 1638, an authorized specialist area for selling lacquered goods was established under the name of “Wan-dana (bowl store)” in present-day Furumachi-dori Shichibancho.
Niigata lacquer ware is characterized by a number of different styles, which have been developed since the Meiji period (1868-1912). These techniques include take-nuri, which simulates the appearance of bamboo, contrived by Kyuhei Yoshida, kinma-nuri using gold leaf by Heikichi Meguro, isokusa-nuri (expressing sea-grass), hana-nuri (lacquering without grinding), nishiki-nuri (with patterns of gold) and ishime-nuri (with stone-like appearance). Among them, the solid and elegant take-nuri style is the most famous as the original lacquering techniqeu of Niigata lacquer ware.
Jubako lunch boxes come in various shapes such as cylindrical or hexagonal, but the most common is square.
Jubako are basically lunch boxes for food. They may have up to 5 layers. Officially, these layers represent the 4 seasons, so there are usually only 4 layers. Jubako may hold special food such as 'osechi' at New Year, or for hanami cherry-blossom-viewing picnics, or during athletic festivals.
It is believed that jubako developed from 'food baskets' ('shilong') introduced from China. However, there are references to lunch boxes in Muromachi-period documents, therefore, it could be said that jubako have a long history.
During the Edo period, jubako came to be used by common people, too, and their real manufacture began in 1610. Samurai and daimyo used them as lunch boxes during leisure outings, such as hunting expeditions. Later, they started to be lacquered and decorated. Even now, this traditional item is commonly used in Japan.
Gohara lacquer ware is a traditional handicraft in Hiruzen, Maniwa City, Okayama Prefecture. It is designated as an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property by the prefecture. It is said that the craft dates back to the Meitoku era (1390-1400) of the Muromachi period. The production reached its peak in the Edo period (1603-1868), when a lot of Gohara lacquer products were shipped to areas in the Sanin region.
Local chestnut wood is cut in a round slice, which is directly placed on a turner and shaped into a desired form, by which the grains of wood remain unimpaired. Then natural lacquer from Bicchu area (the southwestern part of the prefecture) is applied many times to create solid surface.
Because of its beautiful curbs of grains as well as the practicability for daily use, Gohara lacquered vessels are still loved by many people.
Hino lacquer ware is a traditional handicraft in Hino-cho, Gamo-gun, Shiga Prefecture. The craft dates back to 1533, when Gamo Sadahide, the castellan of Hino Castle, planned to build a castle town. He assembled woodcraftsmen and lacquerers working at the foot of Mt. Watamuki and made them live in the specially arranged blocks of Nusi-machi (lacquerers’ town) and Kataji-machi (woodcraftsmen’s town), where the making of Hino lacquered bowls started.
As Sadahide’s grandson Ujisato was transferred to another place in 1584, the making of this craft declined for a short time. However, as Ohmi-Hino merchants were willing to sell Hino bowls as their staple merchandise, the production of Hino bowls started to grow again and its name came to be widely known. Most of the early products that are still existing today are vessels for ceremonial use. They are characterized by the heavy body and thick foot rim.
In 2001, efforts to revive this traditional craft started by volunteers in the town. They are now working on the production of lacquer ware that can be durable for daily use.
Makie, a lacquer working technique, is a traditional craftwork passed down through generations for over 1,500 years.
While other lacquer techniques such as “Hyoumon” and “Raden” originated in China, the oldest evidence of Makie lacquer was discovered inside Shousouin Temple. It is believed the Makie technique is indigenous to Japan and is unique in the world.
The word “makie” come from “maki” meaning “sprinkle” and “e” meaning “painting”.
In the makie technique, patterns and pictures are drawn on to lacquer ware with lacquer, and while they are still wet, gold and silver metal powders are sprinkled on to designs adhering to the wet lacquer.
Any excess powder protruding from the drawings and remaining unattached to the surface are later brushed off, thus allowing beautiful patterns to finally emerge.
Makie is further divided by its techniques: Tokidashi Makie, Hira Makie, Taka Makie, Shishiai Makie, Rankaku Makie among others. The technique of “shading off” by a way of sprinkling the powder is also used. Makie is an art form with a wide variety of expressions.
The fact that metal powders are not pasted, but “sprinkled” might give some insight into the Japanese characteristic of being finely tuned to details.
Tamamushi lacquer ware was developed in 1932 by Shun Koiwa (artist name: Komei), who taught at National Tohoku Craftworks Institute established in Sendai by the old Ministry of Commerce and Industry in 1928. Traditional lacquering techniques and some innovative techniques were combined together to create a product with styles favored by foreign people.
The origin of the name Tamamushi comes from the fact that it glitters just like a Tamamushi (jewel beetle). After a base coating with lacquer, silver power is sprinkled on the surface, over which lacquer is applied 10 times, or in special cases 40-50 times. Because of this silver coating and repeated lacquering processes, its color is iridescent and mysteriously beautiful. In the final stage, patterns are drawn and decorated with the techniques of Chinkin (gold-inlay carving) or Makie (gold and silver powdering).
In the post-war period, it became very popular in foreign countries and became the major lacquer ware item for export. Today, it enjoys a good reputation domestically and overseas as the lacquer ware that fits both Japanese and Western lifestyles.
Tsuishu is a kind of Japanese traditional lacquer ware. In the making of Tsuishu, the thick layer of solid lacquer is engraved with designs such as flowers, birds, or landscapes. Tsuishu originated in China and was introduced to Japan during the Heian period (794-1192). Tsuishu ware was highly valued as tea utensils and house ornaments.
In the making of Sendai Tsuishu, however, the total production time, which is said to be several months at the maximum, is considerably reduced by producing many pieces of engraved lacquer ware of the same pattern out of one hand-carved prototype. The molded wood-carved intaglio is then coated with vermillion lacquer at least one hundred times. This streamlined production method was established during the Meiji period (1868-1912).
Special care is normally needed to handle Tsuishu lacquer ware, but improvements in heat and water resistance were made in Sendai Tsuish so that each item is suitable for daily use without losing delicacy and beauty of lacquer. This is why Sendai Tsuishu has maintained its reputation as a long-beloved traditional art work