Naruko Lacquer Ware


At the beginning of the 17th century, the lord of the fief in the area where Naruko is situated, dispatched lacquerers and maki-e craftsmen to Kyoto to develop their skills, in an attempt to raise the popularity of the local product. According to a late 18th century document various household items were being produced and by then the production of lacquer ware was the main employment for the people of Naruko.

For kijiro-nuri, a clear lacquer is used to expose the grain of the wood carcass, while in another technique the natural lacquer is rubbed into the wood a number of times, and the natural coloring of the lacquer is then retained. For ryumon-nuri a highly distinctive technique is used to produce a marbling effect. Besides these, a more traditional technique of polished lacquer is employed to bring out the characteristic limpid beauty of this refined sap. Today, a variety of household items are being made, including trays, coasters, stacking boxes and bowls, all gems of this time honored craft.


The key techniques of Naruko Shikki lacquerware include Kijiro-nuri, where a lacquer of extreme clarity is used to show the beauty of the underlying woodgrain, and Fuki-urushi-shiage, where a colored lacquer is applied to the wood and then wiped off countless times, leaving only the lacquer’s color on the surface of the wood. A unique decoration technique of Naruko Shikki lacquerware is Ryumon-nuri, which produces a pattern which looks as if ink was spilled the product. Another traditional technique is Nuritate, which produces a fresh, moist beauty in the finished product.

How to make

The method of producing Naruko Shikki lacquerware is divided into the four primary stages of making the wooden base, applying the base preparation coating, applying the lacquer and then applying decorations. The wooden base can either be a turned piece made on a wheel, a box such as a multi-tiered food box, or a wooden piece made of thin, bent boards. Next the wooden base is prepared using one of a variety of methods: using a fine clay coating, using a fine rust coating, or preparing the base with persimmon tannin. Black lacquer is then applied to the coated wooden base to prepare it for the final stage of lacquering. The top coat of lacquer is then applied with great diligence to ensure no brush marks or traces of dust stick to the bowl. The finishing coat of lacquer is applied in one of two styles: Hana (flower) lacquering, where the lacquer is allowed to dry as-is on the bowl, or Roiro lacquering, where the lacquer is polished to a smooth finish after it dries. Finally, the lacquered piece is sometimes then decorated with Maki-e gold powder paintings.