Kawatsura Lacquer Ware


The beginnings of this craft go back to the Kamakura period (1185-1333), when the younger brother of the lord of the fief who ruled this area, ordered the retainers to take up lacquering pieces of armor and weaponry as a job, using locally tapped lacquer and Japanese beech cut from the mountains in the area. The making of bowls began in earnest in the middle of the Edo period (1600-1868) and by the end of the period work was concentrated on the three districts of Kawatsura in what is now Inakawa-cho, Odate and Minashi and the making of everyday pieces of household goods flourished in what had become a production center.

The carcasses of all the pieces are made of wood on to which natural lacquer is applied. There is no one particular feature that characterizes this ware but, because emphasis is placed on the undercoating to produce a very hard finish, it is extremely robust and is also reasonably priced. A wide variety of products are produced ranging from bowls, plates, trays and stacking boxes up to items of furniture.


Wood serves as the base of all Kawatsura shikki lacquerware products. While there is no single feature that distinguishes Kawatsura shikki lacquerware products at a glance, due to the great care taken in their base coating, they are extremely durable while still having a very reasonable price. Kawatsura shikki lacquerware features a rich assortment of products, from small accessories to furniture.

How to make

Round products such as bowls and pots are made from the wood of horse chestnut and beech trees. Square products such as tiered lunch boxes are made from the wood of trees such as the Japanese magnolia. After the wooden base is made, it is coated with a mixture of persimmon tannin and raw lacquer many times for hardening. Then the advanced technique of hana-nuri lacquering is used for the middle coat of lacquer, and then the piece is allowed to dry. Maki-e gold dust or gold leaf drawings are then applied for decoration.