Akita’s rich nature provides the people with clean water and timber that are not only beautiful but used to create beautiful crafts. Kawatsure lacquer ware is one of the traditional crafts designated by the nation. It is beautiful, strong, and capable for everyday use.
Lacquer work was first introduced in 1193, in the Kawatsure area by Onedera Michinori, who was the brother of a Samurai. He gave the farmers some side work that they could do during the long, cold, snowy Akita winters, which last for about half of each year. They mostly painted armour and weapons at first, but around the Late Edo period (1780~1867) lacquer was used to cover everyday tableware and decorating techniques were introduced and created the basic style we have now.
Lacquer has been used in many ways throughout Japanese history to cover wood and other materials. Lacquer is heat-resistant, water-resistant, and oil-resistant, which is an excellent way to keep wooden things from the humid Japanese weather. It is not only used because of its resistance to moisture, but it makes the wood strong and shines beautifully. Lacquer is a natural substance that is environmentally friendly, compared to chemical paints.
Different kinds of woods are used depending on the product. Japanese beech or Japanese horse chestnut is mainly used for bowls, and magnolia for boxes. The wood is first cut into appropriate sized blocks and then turned and carved on a lathe. It is then thoroughly dried for the final touch to carve. When a bowl has been turned using a lathe, it is called a Hikidemono. Because wood continues to breathe after it is cut, the craftsman has to consider the grain of the wood and how long it needs to dry. If it is not thought through, the product will be of a poor quality and break easily. A great deal of experience is necessary to understand how the wood works.
Persimmon juice and raw lacquer are painted on to the newly carved wooden product with a horse-hair brush and then polished until it is very smooth. This process is continued over and over again to create a strong lacquer ware capable for everyday use. The final layer is called Hananuri or Nuritate – a technique where the lacquer is applied smoothly, without any brush marks. This is where the master’s skills are shown the most. There are about 30 processes in total and about a year for it to be made. However, when it is finished, it has s beautiful shine that is almost like a mirror.
There are several techniques to decorate lacquer ware. One of these is called, Chinkin. Chinkin is achieved by shallowly planning away lines and dots on the surface of the lacquer ware. Then the patterns are filled with plated gold, or sometimes gold glitter, vermilion or blue lacquer is used. Designs of seasonal flowers and birds are often carved. Normally it is carved outwards, but for Kawatsure Lacquer Ware, it is carved inwards which is unique to the region and is called kebori. Another technique is called Makie which is where a design is drawn with a special lacquer called Hiragaki-urushi, then sprinkled over with gold or silver glitter.
As time passed, Kawatsura Lacquer has evolved from a side work to a traditional craft which has been recognized its importance by the nation. It continues to create the products which they are known for: bowls, plates, boxes, and chopsticks. However, they also make Buddhist alters, furniture, and phone cases to fit the needs for the modern society.
- Experience possible time
- Whole the year
- Time required
- 2 hours
- Regular holiday
- Around New Years
- Experience fee
- Age limit
- Number of car spaces
- Parking Fee
- Available credit card
- Necessary belongings
- Reservation Yes/No
- Reservation method
- Contact with Concierge, Akita