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Introducing Traditional Japanese Lacquerware and Japanese Food Culture

This video, titled “URUSHI - IS JAPAN COOL? WASHOKU - 和食 (漆芸),” was released by ANA Global Channel.
It introduces urushi-e (lacquerware), a traditional Japanese craft, along with amazing arrangements of traditional Japanese cuisine.
There are many highly skilled lacquer craftsmen in Japan, and some of them have even been designated as living national treasures (holders of important intangible cultural assets).

Japanese ryotei (Japanese-style restaurants) and ryokan (Japanese-style inns) serve Japanese food on lacquered dishes so that guests can enjoy their meals both visually and with regards to flavor.
As shown at 6:08 in the video, serving Japanese food on beautiful lacquerware not only looks good, but also helps one enjoy the food.

The lacquerware craftswoman featured in the video is a foreign woman who moved to Wajima, famous for its lacquerware, to study the traditional Japanese craft.
You can see her passion for Japanese lacquerware as well as a close look at how she makes them.

The History and Culture of Lacquerware, a Traditional Japanese Craft

Image of Lacquerware
Photo:Lacquerware

The history of traditional Japanese lacquerware dates back 9,000 years, with lacquered vessels excavated from Jomon Period (14,000 BC to 400 BC) ruins.
Lacquer was used to bond and decorate earthenware during the Jomon and Yayoi (ca. 300 B.C. to 250 A.D.) Periods, and since then it has been used for many other purposes, such as vessels and wooden products.
In Japan, there are many areas where lacquer is produced as a specialty product.
Two examples of this include Wajima-nuri (輪島塗) and Tsugaru-nuri (津軽塗).
In Ishikawa Prefecture in particular, there's the Wajima Museum of Lacquer (Urushi) Art that introduces the Japanese culture and production process of Wajima-nuri.

A Closer Look at Japan’s Traditional Lacquerware

Image of Lacquerware
Photo:Lacquerware

There are many different types of lacquerware, such as Rantai Shikki (籃胎漆器, lacquerware that uses woven bamboo baskets as a base), Kanshitsu (乾漆, a dry lacquerware technique introduced from Tang China in the Nara Period), and Kinma (蒟醤, lacquerware carved with a blade).

Lacquerware is decorated using a variety of techniques, such as maki-e (蒔絵, lacquerware using gold or silver powder), raden (螺鈿, mother-of-pearl inlay), chinking (沈金), hyomon (平文), and more.

There are also techniques such as decoration using eggshells, lacquer paintings, Kamakura-bori (鎌倉彫), and engraving.
In recent years, lacquerware techniques have been used not only for vessels but also for tools, such as combs, and stationery, such as ballpoint pens.
From 8:27 in the video, you can see some lacquerware earrings and other accessories.

Summary of Japan’s Traditional Craft - Lacquerware

Image of Lacquerware
Photo:Lacquerware

As shown in the video, there are many beautiful vessels made in Japan that look like works of art.
If you want to experience traditional Japanese lacquerware crafting in person, we recommend checking out a class or school certified by the Society for the Preservation of Traditional Japanese Lacquer (漆芸伝承の会認定).

Lacquerware features a wide range of products, from those produced by famous artists to more affordable pieces.
We recommend purchasing lacquerware from one of the famous lacquerware producing regions of Japan, so that you too can enjoy delicious Japanese cuisine even more!

Written By
Sep. 15, 2020
Japan
坂崎 なお(Nao Sakazaki)
Interested in Japanese culture and traditions! I'll be introducing lovely scenery to you!
These Beautiful Lacquered Vessels Are Works of Art That Enhance the Flavors of Japanese Cuisine. One Woman Shares Her Thoughts on the Traditional Japanese Craft After 30 Years of Fascination
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