Murakami Carved and Lacquered Ware


The Murakami area of Niigata Prefecture has been well known since the Heian period (794-1185) as a natural lacquer producing area. Using this refined sap, Murakami Kibori Tsuishu dates back to the beginning of the 15th century.
In China there was a multi-layered and carved lacquer ware which was copied by lacquerers in Kyoto. They achieved the same effect by carving a wooden core and then coating it with natural lacquer. It was this technique that was adopted in Murakami when a temple was built in the area. One of the specialist carpenters engaged in the construction mastered the required techniques and during the Edo period (1600-1868), the making of this distinctive craft was first taken up by lower ranking samurai, and then by local individuals.

What is particularly special about this craft is the manner in which the fine detailed carving is enhanced by the application of lacquer. There are six distinct variants, differing either in color or technique but perhaps the most representative one is characterized by its mat vermilion natural lacquer and composed air.


Murakami kibori tsuishu is unique for their intricate engravings, and a lacquering method that further enhances the beauty of the carvings. There are six primary techniques of Murakami kibori tsuishu, including Tsuishu (layered red lacquering), Tsuikoku (layered black lacquering), and Shudamari-nuri (thick red lacquering). The representative technique of Tsuishu is layered red lacquering, which produces a subdued, matte finish by suppressing the natural gloss of the lacquer.

How to make

First, a wood carving craftsman carves the shape from natural magnolia or horse-chestnut wood. Next, an engraving craftsman draws a sketch of the final design directly on the wood, and then carves out the design. Finally, a lacquering craftsman lacquers the wood using only pure, natural lacquer. The lacquering stage contains 18 to 20 individual steps, and before the piece is finished, the engraving craftsman will further engrave the piece with delicate, hairline designs.