ABOUT Naruko lacquer ware
The traditional lacquer ware produced in Naruko, a prominent hot-spring village
The production of Naruko lacquer ware first began in the Kanei era (1624~1643) of the Edo period. Toshichika Date, the lord of Iwadeyama castle, sent a lacquerer and a gold lacquer master to Kyoto. These two craftsmen journeyed to Kyoto with a specific purpose; to learn how to make lacquer ware and to bring this technology back to Naruko, where it was to be produced and promoted.
Located in the Iwadeyama area, one of Naruko’s attractions are the wonderful hot-springs. During the end of Edo period, hot-spring therapy became popular among the people of Japan, bringing many visitors from far and near to Naruko. The popularity of the Naruko hot springs helped to promote Naruko lacquer ware and secure its market of customers.
The Meiji period brought a significant change in the process of crafting Naruko lacquer ware. The pedal lathe was introduced, and displaced the need for the two-person lathe. Soon productivity increased and the variety of lacquer ware also increased. By the end of the Meiji period, the production of Naruko lacquer ware reached its peak.
Goichi Sawaguchi, a Naruko native, a graduate from the Tokyo School of Fine Arts (aka.Tokyo University of the Arts) and a researcher of Urushi lacquer ware products, created “Ryumon-nuri” in 1951. This beautiful marble patterned lacquer ware became a substantial contribution in the Naruko lacquer business. Naruko lacquer ware is known for being crafted with traditional techniques such as “Kijiro-nuri.” Kijiro-nuri is known for its amber color translucency which increases the more it is used. “Fuki-Urushi” is another traditional technique which takes advantage of the beautiful, natural grain of wood.
Naruko Lacquer crafting techniques have been passed from generation to generation for centuries. In 1991 Naruko Lacquer ware was recognized and designated as a National traditional craft art.
Today many manufacturers produce cheap plastic imitations of lacquer ware products. Despite this modern invasion, the craftsmen of Naruko make new products while cherishing their tradition and produce robust lacquer ware for all to admire.