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.
Ouchi lacquer ware is a traditional handicraft in Yamaguchi City, Yamaguchi Prefecture. It is nationally designated as a Traditional Craft Product. It is said that the crafts dates back to the Muromachi period (1336-1573), when the Ouchi clan, who was a prominent figure in the area, promoted trade with Korea and Ming dynasty in China and encouraged the making of this lacquer ware for export.
Ouchi lacquer ware is first undercoated with a sober vermilion, onto which motifs of autumn grasses are applied in a yellowish green lacquer. Finally, a cloud form is drawn, onto which the Ouchi family crest in gold leaf is applied.
At the present time, bowls, trays, flower vessels and dolls are being made. Among them, Ouchi doll is the most popular product. It is said that the 24th lord of the Ouchi clan invited a doll maker from Kyoto and asked him to make a doll for his wife, who had been missing the life in Kyoto. Its cute facial expression attracts people who wish a happy married life.
Takaoka lacquerware originated about four centuries ago in Takaoka, Toyama Prefecture. Takaoka lacquerware crystallises the wisdom and skills of this craft and is closely linked to the history of this area.
Takaoka lacquerware was first made in the early Edo period, when the head of the Kaga Domain, Maeda Toshinaga, built Takaoka Castle and needed the locals to lacquer weapons and daily commodities for him, such as drawers and trays with legs.
The local craft further developed when techniques for coloring lacquer, known as 'tsuishu' and 'tsuikoku', were imported from China. Other features of this craft are lacquering techniques that use ground powders ('sabi-e'), beautiful stones or iridescent shells to decorate surfaces with scenery, figures and patterns.
In the mid-Meiji period, another technique was established. Known as 'chokoku-nuri', it builds up various colored lacquers to give a three-dimensional sculptural effect that elegantly recalls the Kamakura period.
The mastery and skill of this craft were recognised in 1975, when Takaoka lacquerware was designated as a National Traditional Handicraft.
Aizu lacquerware is a traditional handicraft of Aizuwakamatsu City, Fukushima Prefecture. In 1590 (Tensho 17), Gamo Ujisato, a feudal lord of Aizu, invited specialist craftsmen and painters to initiate a lacquerware industry for the region.
Aizu lacquerware really took off after this, with the area becoming the main production center for the growth of urushi lacquer and decoration. In the Edo period, Aizu laquerware was the most prosperous lacquer business in Japan and was exported to China and as far afield as the Netherlands.
By the late Edo period, the area had suffered damage following the Boshin war but later revived to become one of Japan's chief centers of lacquerware production from the mid-Meiji period.
Aizu lacquerware involves several different techniques: 'tetsabu-nuri' (iron-rust coating with rust-brown lacquer); 'kinmushikui-nuri' (gold 'worm-eaten' coating using a process where the wet surface of the vessel is sprinkled with rice chaff); and 'kijiro-nuri' (a lacquer coating that reveals the natural grain of the wooden core vessel).
Aizu lacquerware features all kinds of lucky designs favored by the Japanese. As a traditional craft, Aizu lacquerware has survived for over 400 years.
Isao Onishi was born on June 30, 1944. In 2002, his original skill, Kyu-shitsu or lacquer craft technique, was designated as an important intangible cultural heritage.
After learning the basics of carving, from 1974, Onishi was apprenticed to Akaji Yusai and learned the rudimentary skills of lacquer coloring as well as 'magewatsukuri'. Magewatsukuri, or the bentwood technique, involves the bending of the wood into rings which become part of the body of each piece.
Onishi does all parts of the process by hand: from coating to construction. His much-praised works have won several prizes, such as the 40th Ministry of Education Prize at the Japanese Traditional Craft Exhibition, and 15th Director General of the Agency for Cultural Affairs Prize for Japanese lacquer tradition.
In addition, Onishi is focusing on the preservation of the tradition and, for many years, has been working at Ishikawa Prefecture's Wajima Lacquer Technical Training Institute as a lecturer.
Hitoshi Ota was born in 1931. He was designated as a Living National Treasure for his 'kinma' work, which is an intangible cultural heritage.
Kinma uses woven bamboo as a base material, which is then layered with lacquer. Patterns are incised on this using a special carving knife or a Japanese sword and finally, the carved lines are filled with colored urushi. It is a traditional craft that has beautifully engraved lines.
In 1953, Hitoshi Ota was apprenticed to Joshin Isoi, known as the 'father' of Sanuki-urushi-chuko. Later, Hitoshi Ota developed his original style 'nunomebori-kinma' using 'rantai' (peeled bamboo or woven vines) as a base material.
He also used a wide variety of knives to make patterns. Ota, who has a sense of contemporary design, still creates colorful and beautiful pieces that are highly rated.
Hoseki Okuyama was born in 1935, in Shinjyo, Yamagata Prefecture.
Hoseki's family was famous for the craft of 'tankin'. In 1995, he was designated as a Living National Treasure for his tankin skills. Tankin is a metalcraft technique that involves hammering heated metal and molding it over a plate called an 'ate-kin'.
Hoseki has lived his life fully. He came to Tokyo when he was only 15 and became apprenticed to Soho Kasahara, a silver craftsman. Later, when he was 27, Hoseki became independent and established his own studio. In the years that followed, he was a working craftsman.
During the oil-shock of 1975, he received fewer orders, yet he chose to concentrate even more on his work. Over time, his skills were recognised and in 1984 he finally won a prize from the Director-General of the Agency for Cultural Affairs at the traditional Japanese handicrafts exhibition.
Sometimes it takes several months to make a piece that Hoseki is personally satisfied with.
Odawara lacquerware is a traditional craft from the Odawara district in Kanagawa prefecture.
Odawara lacquerware was first made in the mid-Muromachi period by painting on wood found in abundance on the nearby Hakone mountain range. Later, Hōjō Ujiyasu invited a craftsman to introduce the coloring technique. As a result, its technique was acknowledged and Odawara lacquerware started to develop.
In the mid-Edo period, Odawara lacquerware became available in the markets of the capital Edo, and its technique became established in cities and post stations near the main Hakone stations on the Tokaido Road.
Odawara lacquerware uses the natural feel of wood such as zelkova combined with lacquering techniques known as 'suriurushi' and 'kijironuri'.
The main Odawara lacquerware products are bowls, pots, plates and trays. In 1984, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry designated Odawara lacquerware as a traditional cultural asset.