【Introduction to traditional crafts】 ~Tsugaru-nuri (Aomori Prefecture)~

【Introduction to traditional crafts】 ~Tsugaru-nuri (Aomori Prefecture)~





【Production area of Tsugaru-nuri】

Around Hirosaki City, Aomori Prefecture



【What is Tsugaru-nuri?】

Lacquerware produced in the area around Hirosaki City, Aomori Prefecture.

It is said that the name “Tsugaru-nuri” came about when it was exhibited at the 1873 Vienna World Exposition.

In 1975, it was designated as a traditional craft.


A tremendous amount of time and effort is put into it by the hands of craftsmen.

Because the process of lacquering → grinding → polishing is repeated 38 to 48 times, it is also called “baka-nuri”.

It is not uncommon for it to take 3 to 6 months to complete one work.



【Types of Tsugaru-nuri】

We will introduce four typical traditional Tsugaru lacquer techniques that are still used today.





referring source:津軽塗 小林漆器


Kara-nuri is representative of Tsugaru-nuri.

“Tang” does not represent the Chinese dynasty “Tang”.

It is read as “tou” and means “excellent”.


Instead of a regular spatula, a spatula with holes is used to apply the pattern of lacquer spots.

In addition, by layering lacquer that has been colored by adding pigments (colored lacquer), a richly colored pattern is produced.




referring source:津軽塗 小林漆器


This name was given because the round shape of the pattern resembles “Fish Eggs = Nanako”.

First, sow the rapeseed seeds to form a donut-shaped ring.

After that, colored lacquer is applied and the ring pattern is polished to express the characteristic fine pattern.


・ Monsha-nuri


referring source:津軽塗 小林漆器


Monsha-nuri is a technique unique to Tsugaru-nuri.

There are lacquerware designated as traditional crafts all over Japan, but you can only see them at Tsugaru-nuri.


・The pattern is drawn using black lacquer.

・Sprinkle powdered charcoal from rice husks



By going through the above process, a jet black pattern emerges in the matte black background.




referring source:津軽塗 小林漆器


The original ground is Nanako-nuri, on which arabesque and saaya patterns are drawn.

By doing so, it becomes a gorgeous and stately pattern.

This is the newest of the four techniques.

Advanced technology is required, and there are only a few people who carry it out.



【Features of Tsugaru-nuri】

The three main features of Tsugaru-nuri are:



・Highly practical

・Elegant and gorgeous appearance


As mentioned earlier, the process of “lacquering → grinding → polishing” is performed dozens of times.

By repeating this process, the multi-layered colored lacquer patterns emerge beautifully, and the lacquerware becomes thick and durable.



【History of Tsugaru-nuri】

The production of Tsugaru-nuri began about 350 years ago.

Tsugaru Nobumasa (1646-1710) was the fourth lord of the Hirosaki domain.


In 1642, daimyo from all over Japan were ordered to attend Edo.

Thanks to this Sankinkotai, the culture of Kamigata and Edo came to be transmitted to rural areas more than ever before.

Lacquer makers were also invited to the Hirosaki domain, and original lacquerware was created by Genbei Ikeda, the founder of Tsugaru-nuri.


According to “Tsugaru Kenmonki”, which is estimated to have been written around 1758, the technique of “Kara-nuri” had already been born.

At first, Tsugaru-nuri was used to make sheaths for swords, but gradually it began to be used to make furnishings such as letter boxes and food boxes.

After that, Tsugaru-nuri began to be used as gifts to the Imperial Court and the Shogunate, and was protected by the Hirosaki domain, and further development was achieved.


The times have progressed, and the 1873 Vienna World Exposition.

Aomori Prefecture exhibited lacquerware made in the Tsugaru region as “Tsugaru-nuri”.

With this, the name “Tsugaru-nuri” became widely known, and it continues to develop as a craft representing Aomori Prefecture.



【Production process of Tsugaru-nuri】


・Hiba → Used when making woodwork that can be assembled without using gold nails, such as trays and boxes. Aomori Prefecture’s “Prefectural Tree”

・Magnolia → Used when making wooden bowls by shaving them with a potter’s wheel


①Cut wood

Cut the wood and dry it well.

After drying, cut into parts such as “hard wood”, “cracks”, “core”, and “knots”.

Finally,  perform up to scraping.


②Put cloth on

First, make the groundwork.

It is said that the foundation is what determines the strength of lacquerware.

The technique used in the production of Tsugaru-nuri is called “Katashitaji”.


After polishing to prepare the surface of the wood, lacquer is rubbed over the entire wood base for waterproofing.

After that, paste lacquer is applied to the cloth. Then, stick it firmly so that it is wrapped around the bare wood surface.

The purpose of cloth dressing is to prevent cracks in the bare wood.



This is the process of applying lacquer to the entire surface.

Starting with the roughest ground lacquer, the lacquer is gradually changed to finer lacquer.

“Ji-urushi” is made by kneading together “Yamashina ground powder”, “raw lacquer” and “paste lacquer”.


Grounding should be done according to the following procedure.


・Apply ground lacquer evenly with a spatula


・Grinding the surface

・Apply finer rust lacquer and chips, and polish


※Rust lacquer → A product made by mixing “raw lacquer” and “grinding powder (=fine soil)”

※In the process up to this point, the blade is sharpened without adding water.



It is a work to put a speckled pattern on the entire surface of the base with Shikake lacquer using a Shikake spatula.

After applying the pattern, the lacquer is completely dried for about five days.


※Shikake lacquer → A product made by kneading together “Sokurome lacquer (black refined lacquer),” “pigment,” and “egg white.”



Colored lacquer is applied using a brush.

Shikake lacquer is black, so color lacquer such as yellow is used for a contrasting effect, and the pattern is painted so that it stands out beautifully.



For Kara-nuri, vermilion and green lacquer are often used.

By scattering colored lacquer and drawing patterns in a checkerboard pattern, etc., the colors and splendor are produced.

If the craftsmen want to create a subdued color tone, they apply another layer of black lacquer on top.



After applying a thin layer of black lacquer to the entire surface, sprinkle tin powder.

The lacquer applied in this tsuma-nuri process borders the background color and the pattern, making the pattern stand out even more.


⑧Finish coating

In this process, the finishing lacquer is applied thickly with a brush.

If you use red lacquer, it is called “red finish”, and if you use black lacquer, it is called “black finish”.



First of all, it is roughly sanded to remove unevenness on the surface.

After that, in order to dry the polished surface, it is placed in a lacquer bath to dry thoroughly.

After drying, cut out the pattern.

If there are dents, apply lacquer, polish, and apply lacquer again.

Do this work over and over again.


*Lacquer bath → Considering the properties of lacquer, this facility was created to maintain the proper humidity and temperature.



In order not to leave any residue after grinding, it is polished many times with “oil whetstone powder”.

After polishing is complete, wipe to remove oil.


※Oil whetstone powder → A product made by kneading rapeseed oil and polishing powder



It is a process to finish by applying roiro lacquer for polishing.

Repeat the process of grinding and wiping with charcoal coated with roiro lacquer until it has a glossy finish.



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