• Akita Prefecture Lacquerware Cooperative Image

About Akita Prefecture Lacquerware Cooperative

The exterior of Studio Showroom Shop image The Yuzawa City Kawatsura Lacquerware Traditional Crafthouse (historical museum) lets you watch the process of lacquerware being created and create your own unique lacquerware designs with the aid of professional Kawatsura Lacquerware artisans.
You can also look at beautiful finished pieces.
Reincorporated into the Akita Prefecture Lacquerware Cooperative
Designated a regional traditional craft
Received national commendation as an excellence small business by the National Federation of Small Business Associations
Took the top award at the 23rd National Lacquerware Exhibition, the President Katsuranomiya Award
Acknowledged by the Minister of Economy, Trade, and Industry for its contribution to the promotion of traditional crafts
Acknowledged by head of the Akita Regional Forest Office for its part in expanding the usage of national forest wood
Designated an Akita Prefecture traditional craft
Received the Prime Minister award at the 32nd National Lacquerware Exhibition
Received the Prime Minister award at the 34th National Lacquerware Exhibition
Created medals for the World Games competition

Artifact Information

Artifact NameKawatsura Lacquerware
History Lacquerware production first began in the region in 1193, when Lord Michinori, retainer to Japan's first shogun (Minamoto no Yoritomo) and younger brother to the lord of Inaba castle, built a hall at Koshio Nojiri (modern-day Kawatsura in the Odate Region), and ordered his vassals to lacquer sword scabbards, bows, armor, and other military tools. The lacquerware industry began in earnest in the middle of the 17th century. Remaining records show 26 lacquerware bowl crafthouses in business at the time, primarily in Kawatsura Village.
In 1815, they received the permission of the fiefdom to create vermillion lacquerware and expand their market to other countries. Then in the late Edo Period, as part of the plan to preserve the feudal system, they began creating a wider array of lacquerware including bowls, tables, and food boxes; as well as adding decoration through gold inlays and metallic powders. This expansion gave the industry an even stronger foundation.
New techniques were developed after the Meiji restoration of 1868 and on through 1912. In 1976, Kawatsura Lacquerware was designated a regional traditional craft, and in 1996, it was designated an Akita Prefecture traditional craft. In 1998 and 2000, it took the Prime Minister's Award at the National Lacquerware Exhibition. Pieces produced by Kawatsura Lacquerware are meant for practical, everyday use, and boast a durability appropriate to that purpose. Today, Kawatsura Lacquerware is the region's principal industry.

Manufacturing Method

1. Timber cutting
A piece of timber is selected and sized to minimize waste.
2. Wood cutting
The wood is cut to the general measurements of the piece, avoiding knots and damaged portions in the wood.
3. Boring
Boring The general shape of the interior is cut out with an appropriately-sized lathe.
4. Boiling
The wood is boiled in 100 degree water to purge sap (this guards against wood warping and insects)
The wood is smoke-dried for about a month to further prevent warping
6. Finishing
More shaving is done with a lathe to shape the piece.
7. Undercoat
Natural compounds are painted on, dried, then polished (repeated 5-6 times)
8. Mid-lacquering
A special brush is used to paint on unrefined lacquer sap (the painting and polishing process is repeated many times)
9. Main lacquering
Main lacquering The incredible skill of the artisan allows him to paint the lacquer on without leaving any brushstrokes, so that it can be allowed to dry without polishing.

Adding decorations (metallic powder)
Adding decorations The contours of the pattern are drawn with ink, then portions are painted with lacquer sap, onto which then gold or colored powder are sprinkled.
Adding decorations (gold inlay)
Adding decorate The contours of the pattern are carved out with a narrow engraving tool, and lacquer sap is used as adhesive to fill it with gold, silver or colored powder.

*Weight of items may change based on the cut of wood they're taken from.

The most defining aspects of Kawatsura Lacquerware

One of the most defining aspects of Kawatsura Lacquerware is the attention given to undercoating.
Undercoating is done seven or eight times using a horsehair brush to paint on persimmon juice and unrefined lacquer sap, which strengthens the piece and prevents warping, as well as providing a solid foundation for the beautiful finish to come.
From the original timber to the finished product, Kawatsura lacquerware undergoes almost 30 processes, ensuring its reputation as a durable product that can be used in daily life.
The finishing relies purely on the natural shine of the lacquer.
The incredible skill it takes to let the surface dry smooth without polishing and without showing brushstrokes is the sign of a true lacquerware master.

For cleaning and storage

・For light soiling, wash in 40 degree Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) water.

・To clean oil stains, use diluted neutral dish detergent, then wash with a rag or soft sponge.

・For stuck-on food, fill with hot water and soak for ten minutes. Soil should lift off naturally.

・After washing, wipe quickly with a rag before it dries to avoid leaving droplet stains.

・Do not use nylon brushes, polishing powder, steel wool. Lacquerware is not microwave-safe or dishwasher-safe and should not be placed in automatic dryers.

・Do not soak or expose to boiling liquid for extended amounts of time. Also, avoid direct sunlight.

・Unlike common synthetic paints, lacquer is temperature- and acid-resistant and creates a natural lubricating membrane without the use of chemicals.

*Lacquerware is suitable for hot, cold, vinegary, and oily substances. Repeated usage will just brighten the colors and make the textures more pronounced, so use it as much as you want!

Kawatura sikki Kougeikan

Location & Address

■ 秋田県漆器工業協同組合: Akita Prefecture Lacquerware Cooperative

The exterior of Studio
Postal code
142-1 Odate Nakano Kawatsura-cho Yuzawa Akita
Shop / Gallery
Admission free
The exterior of Studio Showroom
Tryout / Observation
*Required for a reservation in 1 week advance Call at +81 3 6661 6884
Business hours
9:00 - 17:00
Dec.31 - Jan.5