Robust and elegant Wajima lacquerware


Wajima-nuri is characterized by a solid groundwork process, which is then sublimated into an elegant finish through careful and advanced techniques.
Wajima-nuri is a lacquerware production area designated as an important intangible cultural property, and there are 124 manufacturing processes.


Chubei’s craftsmanship


Wooden bowl base




The shape of the bowl is roughly carved out of the sliced wood using a machete.
The wood is then smoke-dried to prevent deformation and cracking due to moisture, and left to dry naturally for about a year.

The wood used for Wajima-nuri is not intended to show the grain of the wood, so it is dried thoroughly.

After drying, they are manually cut into the actual shape of the bowl using a plane and a potter's wheel.
Bowls with thin mouth parts must be finished so thin that light can see through them, and there must be no variation in the size or shape of the product.
The wood for bowls is called Wan-Kiji, and there are also Sashimono-Kiji (stacked boxes, inkstone boxes, dishes, square trays, etc.), Magemono-Kiji (round trays, lunch boxes, etc.), and Hou-Kiji (legs for tables and flower stands, mouths for choshi (sake decanter), spoons, etc.). This is a process that requires a high level of skill.
At Chubei, it is also possible to order from the shape of the item.





The robustness and elegance of Wajima-nuri lies in its distinctive base preparation, which is not found in other lacquerware.
The seams, cracks, and other parts of the wood that might be damaged are scraped off little by little, and then flattened by filling them with "kokusoulushi," a mixture of raw lacquer, zelkova powder, and a small amount of rice glue.
After letting the reinforcing material dry well, polish the reinforced surface again with a plane to make it smooth.

After that, undercoat lacquer is applied to the wood to reduce the water absorption of the wood, and after drying, the edges are polished with shark skin and the whole surface is polished with sandpaper.
After drying, the edges are polished with shark skin, and the whole surface is polished with sandpaper. Then, the process called "Nuno-kise" is performed, in which linen is pasted on the rim and bottom of the bowl, which are easily damaged, using a mixture of raw lacquer and rice glue.
After attaching the linen, it is rubbed and pressed down with a spatula, and furthermore, it is carefully pressed down with water on the fingertips to make it stick nicely.
After the cloth has dried thoroughly, the thickened areas where the cloth overlaps are carefully scraped and flattened again.
The border between the cloth and wood is then filled and smoothed with "somi urushi", a mixture of raw lacquer, somi powder (wood powder dry roasted in a pot) and a small amount of rice seaweed.



Now it was time to apply the base coat.
The base lacquer is made by baking local diatomaceous earth "jinoko" into a powdered form and mixing it with raw lacquer.
This is then applied with a spatula.
The edge of the lacquer is coated with raw lacquer using a hinoki bark spatula for reinforcement.
After the base lacquer dries, polish it with a whetstone. After repeating this process three times, the base is polished with a whetstone while dipping it in water to complete the base.

This unique material and process is what gives Wajima-nuri its unparalleled robustness.


Intermediate coat


The entire surface is coated with lacquer for the middle coat, which is more refined than the base lacquer.
The lacquerware is then dried in a cedar storage room (Nushi-Buro) where the humidity and temperature are kept constant.


After the lacquer for the middle coat dries, large debris is lightly scraped off the lacquered surface.
A spatula is used to apply Sabi-Urushi, which is a mixture of raw Urushi and water-kneaded polishing powder, to the defective areas.
After that, he polishes the entire surface with tung tree charcoal (Suruga-sumi) and water until it becomes smooth, and then applies another coat of lacquer for the middle coating, dries, and polishes again.
By applying the lacquer twice, the lacquerware becomes more durable.
If finger grease gets on the surface, it will affect the finish of the next coat, so the work is done with great care.


Finishing coat

上塗りは最も美しい仕上がりを追及されるため、最上質の漆を使い、塗師 忠平自らが作業します。

In order to achieve the most beautiful finish, the top coat is applied by Chubei himself, using the highest quality lacquer.
The lacquering is done in a special room for lacquering to avoid dust and dirt, and the lacquer is applied evenly with a moderate thickness.
After the lacquer has been carefully applied, the lacquer is checked for dust and placed in a rotating bath to dry it slowly while maintaining the humidity so that the lacquer does not flow and become uneven in thickness before it dries.


Gold decoration


After the Wajima-nuri is completed in this way, gold decoration called maki-e (Gold lacquer) or chinkin (Gold-inlay) is applied depending on the design.