Japanese Lacquer Ware

Japanese Craft using Lacquer

Real Japanese lacquer is an organic substance made from the sap of the urushi tree (Rhus verniciflua). The sap is collected by scratching the tree and it then is refined and aged. In Japanese the lacquer itself is called urushi and lacquer ware is called shikki (lacquer ware) or nurimono (painted things). Hardened lacquer forms a highly protective coating that repels water and prevents rotting in addition to resisting the action of acid and alkali, salt and alcohol.

Lacquer has to be applied on something – a core – and more than one coating is necessary if the object is to last at all. Wood is the most common material for cores, but basketry, leather, and paper are also traditional. Recently ceramics, glass, metal and even plastic get coating with urushi.

There are different methods on how to apply and decorate lacquer. With the gold decoration known as Makie, a final coat of high-gloss, transparent lacquer is often applied last.


Wajima Lacquer / Wajima Nuri / 輪島塗

Wajima Lacquer is one of the most ancient lacquer crafts of Japan produced in the city of Wajima in Ishikawa prefecture. Lacquer of highest quality is applied to a core in a process of 8 coatings giving it a high durability. Wajima Lacquer since centuries is also famous for its Chinkin style colored and metallic decoration called Makie.


Aizu Lacquer / Aizu Nuri / 会津塗

Aizu Lacquer is well known for the application of colored lacquer as well as metallic decorations (mainly gold) knows as Makie. It also developed a special technique called hananuri of coating with lacquer, drying and finished without polishing.


Kiso Lacquer / Kiso Shikki / 木曽漆器

Kiso Lacquer originates from the village of Narakawa in the Nagano prefecture. It is made using a special local clay that made it possible to produce a simple and beautiful lacquer ware with a strength traditional lacquer could not achieve. It is a nice and durable lacquer ware suitable for objects of everyday use.


Hida Shunkei Lacquer / Hida Shunkei / 飛騨春慶

Hida Shunkei Lacquer became famous for providing utensils of timeless beauty and simplicity for the tea ceremony. The wood is colored with one or two different stains and a transparent lacquer is applied to emphasize the beautiful natural gain of the wood. Being one of the simpler lacquering techniques, Hida Lacquer ware is not so expensive to produce making it more affordable.


Kishu Lacquer / Kishu Shikki / 紀州漆器

Kishu Lacquer originates from Kishu area in the Wakayama prefecture and is an everyday lacquer ware with long term durability at reasonable price. It is well known for its objects of red lacquer with the black marks. Various pieces of tableware, boxes and trays are made to suit modern everyday life.


Murakami Carved Lacquer / Kurakami Kibori Tsuishu / 村上木彫堆朱

After wood is shaped by a specialist woodworker, a carver employes small knives to depict traditional landscapes, flower-and-bird arrangements, or contemporary scenes. The lacquerer then takes over. Numerous layers of lacquer are applied, allowed to dry, and polished, prior to the final polishing of the top coat with a special oily clay.


Kamakura Lacquer / Kamakura Bori / 鎌倉彫

Kamakura Lacquer is highly developed type of wood carving, which is enhanced by a coating of lacquer. It is most commonly applied to produce small items such as trays, plates, coasters, hand mirrors or boxes. Several kinds of wood are used and the lacquer emphasizes the natural beauty of each wood type.


Yamanaka Lacquer / Yamanaka Shikki / 山中漆器

Most Yamanaka Lacquer are turned goods using various combinations of colored lacquers and undercoats to accentuate the patterns of the turning. Lacquering techniques that enhance the wood’s grain are applied. The result is a beautiful simple lacquer ware with a natural feeling that enhances the natural beauty of the wood.


Kagawa Lacquer / Kagawa Shikki / 香川漆器

Kagawa lacquer are made using cores of bamboo basketry on which lacquer of various colors are applied. Gold sometimes is used to emphasize the patterns. A variety of goods are produced in this fashion, including low tables, shelving, trays and various containers for food and flowers. This lacquer ware is typical for Takamatsu city on Shikoku island.


Tsugaru Lacquer / Tsugaru Nuri / 津軽塗

Layers of lacquer that create polychrome patterns are the signature of lacquer ware from the Tsugaru district in Hirosaki city in the Aomori prefecture. Several layers of different-colored lacquer are applied to a the surface of the wood using  a perforated spatula or sprinkling techniques creating different patterns and textures.


Odawara Lacquer / Odawara Shikki / 小田原漆器

The special features of Odawara Lacquer ware are the craftsmanship of the turnery and the way in which the lacquer brings out the natural beauty of the wood’s grain. Located at the entrance of Hakone, there is abundant supply of wood and different types of wood are used to apply transparent as well as colored lacquer.


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