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"Kyo-Shikki" and "Zohiki Natsume" - Traditional Japanese Craft Culture

This video, titled "Zohiki Natsume Lacquering" (象彦なつめ塗り) was uploaded by Masao Kudo.
It introduces how "Natsume" (棗), traditional Japanese lacquerware containers used during Japanese tea ceremony, are made.
The video was taken at the Kyo-Shikki store "Zohiko" in Kyoto which has been in business for more than 350 years.

As you watch the master craftsman at work throughout the video, you can learn more about the technical skills that have been passed down over the years that are so critical to preserving Japanese culture and traditional crafts.
"natsume" are lidded containers used to store matcha tea used during traditional Japanese tea ceremony.
In order to preserve the high quality of the tea, the natsume must be made in a way that leaves no gap between the main body of the container and the lid.
Japanese lacquerware can be decorated using techniques such as Maki-e (蒔絵), however, the natsume you see in this video is simply covered in a coating of black lacquer, a simple yet beautiful finish that really shows off the skill of the craftsman.

How are Zohiko's Natsume Made?

In this video, third generation lacquer craftsman of Zohiko, Keiko Nishimura (西村圭功), demonstrates the traditional craft of lacquering natsume.
The video begins with the craftsman coating a container made of ultra thin Japanese zelkova (欅, keyaki) with a base coat of "Kiurushi" (生漆), which is the unrefined sap of the lacquer tree.
This can be seen at 0:55 in the video.

The brim of the container is covered with washi tape in a process called "Kamihari" (紙張り) which strengthens the edge.
Sand, water and lacquer from Japan's Kyoto region are then mixed together and applied to the container in a step called "Jizuke" (地付け).
The craftsman then moves on to perform "Kukuri" (ククリ), a technique characteristic of Zohiko's Natsume.
"Kukuri" is a process which involves combining powdered sharpening stone and lacquer, referred to as "Sabi," and then applying the mixture to the corners of the container and lid.
The edges are then polished to produce a smooth finish and ensure that the lid and body of the container fit together perfectly.
This is shown at 2:20 in the video.

The lacquer is strained through a filter to ensure it contains no impurities before moving on to the "Nakanuri" (中塗り), Nakanuritogi" (中塗り研ぎ) and "Uwanuri" (上塗り) steps.
The natsume are then placed in a "Furo" (a space with a high level of humidity) to dry, after which the Zohiko Natsume is complete.
You'll be amazed at the number of steps and high level of skill involved in making these simple-looking, black lacquer coated natsume tea containers.

Preserving Japanese Culture Through Kyo-Shikki Lacquerware

Zohiko, which has inherited the culture of Kyo-Shikki lacquerware, offers a wide variety of products, from "Suzuribako" (硯箱) and "Temotobako" (手許箱, small storage boxes) that are more like works of art than traditional crafts, to "Jubako" (重箱) and "Zoni-wan" (雑煮椀) bowls used for New Year's, "Marubon" (丸盆) and "Yohobon" (四方盆) that are essential to Japan's hospitality culture and daily life, and trays and plates with modern designs that can be used for everyday purposes.

There are also many luxury items decorated with gold and silver available for purchase as well.
Gold or silver powder is sprinkled on top of a lacquer design before it completely dries, a technique called "Maki-e," which gives the lacquerware a beautiful finish.

Summary of Zohiko Natsume

Lacquerware is a traditional Japanese craft and if properly stored and maintaned, items can last for generations.
Zohiki's natsume are a great example of Japan's "Kyo-Shikki" lacquerware culture and demonstrates the amazing talent of lacquerware craftsmen.
We highly recommend experiencing the beauty of Kyoto's lacquerware first hand!

【Official Website】Kyo-Shikki Zohiko - Zohiko Lacquerware Art –
https://www.zohiko.co.jp/global/en/

Written By
Sep. 15, 2020
Japan
ひろ(HIRO)
I'm a writer who likes to eat good food wherever I go
Kyo-Shikki - Traditional Japanese Lacquerware From Kyoto. Check Out the Awesome Techniques Used to Create the Simple Yet Elegant, Deep Black Craft!
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