Hidehira Lacquer Ware

This lacquer craft really began when Ohshu Fujiwara wielded power over Hiraizumi in Iwate Prefecture toward the end of the Heian period (794-1185). It was he who lent this support to the building of the temple, Chusonji with its famous Konjikido and many fine pieces of Buddhist art in general.
Although Fujiwara's influence subsequently declined, by the end of the Edo period (1600-1868 ) the production of lacquer ware was in full flight in the village of Koromogawa near Hiraizumi and continues to this day.

The robust nature of this ware comes from its priming undercoat of local material. The decorative motifs are based on a very old bowl and therefore bear a distinctive Genji cloud motif and another called the yusoku hishimonyo, which is a diamond motif. Although the gold leaf decorations produce an initial response, on closer inspection the final top coat of black and vermilion lacquer and decorations, play their part in modifying the tone of the work and allow the true beauty of the lacquer to shine through. Bowls and trays are the mainstay of production, which is supplemented by the making of candy bowls, stacking boxes or jubako, tea items and flower vases.


Hidehira nuri uses hon-kataji, which said to be the strongest of lacquer base coatings. Based on traditional decorations long passed down in the region, the primary patterns of Hidehira lacquering are the “Genji gumo” cloud motif, and “Yusoku hishi monyo”, which is a combination of many diamond shapes. At first glance, Hidehira lacquered pieces may appear very gorgeous due to the gold leaf used in their designs. If the piece is taken in the hand and examined closely, though, it can be seen that the very top coat of black or red lacquer and decorations have a finish that suppresses any excess brilliance, which allows the natural glossy beauty of the lacquer to be fully enjoyed.

How to make

First, the raw wood, taken from trees such as Japanese zelkova and horse chestnut tree, is prepared according to the product’s intended use. Once the wood is prepared, it is then hardened with raw lacquer. Any weak points are covered with a cloth, and then a mixture of raw lacquer and powder is applied to strengthen the area. The surface is then polished with a polishing stone numerous times to ensure it is entirely smooth. The piece is then coated with a mixture of polishing powder mixed with water and raw lacquer to prepare for the next stage. The surface is then polished and hardened again with a grindstone. Next, the piece is coated with black lacquer and then polished countless times, and then finally coated with a top coat of black or red lacquer. The cloud designs are then drawn, and gold leaf applied to the surface. Finally, the finishing designs are drawn outside the clouds, and the product is then complete.