【About Japan’s Traditional crafts】~ Kishu Lacquerware ~

【About Japan’s Traditional crafts】~ Kishu Lacquerware ~

【About Japan’s Traditional crafts】~ Kishu Lacquerware ~





Kishu Lacquerware was originally produced primarily in the northwest part of Kainan City in Wakayama Prefecture, an area called the Kuroe District.

It is one of Japan’s Three Great Lacquerware Producing Areas alongside Fukushima Prefecture (Aizu-nuri), and Ishikawa Prefecture (Yamanaka-nuri and Wajima-nuri). Kishu Lacquerware is thought to have begun with the creation of Shibuji bowls made by the Kishu woodworkers of the Muromachi Period (1392-1491).

It is also said that the tables, bowls, trays, and cabinets created by the monks for the Negoro-ji Temple in modern day Naga District’s Iwade town, also played a role in the origin of Kishu Lacquerware.

In 1978, the then-Ministry of International Trade and Industry designated Kishu Lacquerware a Traditional Craft, which helped contribute to Wakayama Prefecture’s continued prosperity as a creator of artisanal works in keeping with the long-standing traditions of Japan.




This technique is used to create vessels that can safely hold extremely hot contents by baking the wood at high temperatures. Baking the wood creates extremely fine cracks within it, which can then be filled with sap to prevent future cracking.

After the wood is baked, the carbonized portion is removed.

Two different, beautiful colors of the wood grains, representing the contrast of summer and winter, are used in the finished product. The wood is sanded and then finished. The sap soaks deeply into the wood grain, creating a gradation between summer and winter line patterns. Repeated application of sap increases the depth of color and the smoothness of the surface.

*Winter grain (Deep portion) / Summer grain (Bright portion)




Polished to a high shine with a beautiful sienna color, these works only grow finer and more dazzling as the years go by.

No two have the exact same pattern. Each is a unique work of art!

*Zuiun-nuri is a unique technique passed on only to Master Tanioka.




It is believed that this style of lacquerware was first used in making the utensils used daily by the monks of Kishu’s Negoro-ji Temple.

The cypress wood is scooped out, then fine-quality all-natural lacquer is layered on and polished down in patterns over and over again, carefully, one layer at a time.

Many products of this type use vermillion lacquer painted on top of black, which causes black speckles to appear amidst the vermillion as the years go by.

This slow change over the years makes for interesting, unique works of art.




This method involves painting on black lacquer before polishing it with charcoal, which results in a very smooth surface with a deep, lustrous color. Once the black lacquer is painted on, it is polished and painted again and again, over and over. Unlike in most forms of lacquering, there are no visible brushstrokes in the final product, which prevents dust and dirt from adhering to the surface. In addition, the undercoat has been hardened with lacquer sap, which makes it durable against humidity. The smoothness and luster of this pure black paint creates an elegant beauty that other paints cannot hope to match.



Production Process

  1. Collecting and creating lacquer

The bark of the lacquer tree is pierced, and the lacquer sap that flows out is collected.

*Each tree is sapped twenty times or more.

The collected sap is processed and purified.

  1. Wood processing

Selected pieces of lumber, cut into the proper proportions, are left out until the surface is completely dry and no longer changes.

*Saws and planes are used to shape the wood


  1. Base processing

After being processed, the base wood’s shape is adjusted in minor ways.

  1. Topcoating process

Undercoating is finished, followed by midcoating and topcoating, allowing for a more beautiful and resilient final product.


  1. Decorating process

The painted product is further decorated by hand with delicate application of lacquer and gold leaf to make it even more beautiful.


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