A Journey Through Japan's Regional Lacquerware Traditions

The traditional craft of lacquerware has been designated in 23 locations nationwide as of now. The term 'traditional craft item' refers to crafts that meet all five designated criteria and have been designated by the Minister of Economy, Trade, and Industry with the Act on the Promotion of Traditional Craft Industries.

Here are 5 designated criteria

  • Primarily used for daily life purposes.
  • The major part of the manufacturing process is handicrafts.
  • Produced using traditional techniques or methods.
  • Items produced primarily using traditional materials.
  • A considerable number of individuals in certain regions are engaged in its production or manufacturing.

Japan: where making lacquerware is like second nature!

At its core, lacquer is the sap extracted from lacquer trees. It can be used directly or refined for various purposes. Although deeply ingrained in Japanese culture, the lacquer tree originally came from China, making it a non-native species that has produced a cherished treasure in Japan.

The main component of the sap, urushiol, oxidizes and solidifies, exhibiting excellent properties resistant to acid, alkali, and alcohol. It boasts high durability, water resistance, heat insulation, and anti-corrosion properties. It's said that even now, there are no synthetic paints that surpass lacquer in quality.


To create lacquerware, it's essential to have access to high-quality wood from nearby areas and high humidity (around 80% humidity is ideal for lacquerware production). Therefore, many lacquerware production areas are surrounded by mountains and have high humidity, such as valleys. Japan is known for its abundant mountains and humid climate, making it inherently suitable for lacquerware production.

Coesistance =Communication !?

It is like Itadakimasu, an expression showing appreciation for the food received.“Itadakimasu” can be translated into “I humbly receive". The process of lacquer scraping is akin to conversing with the wood. In June, at first, there is a greeting called "Me-date(目立て)" where only small scratches are made without collecting lacquer. It is said that this is a greeting to let the wood know that lacquer scraping will begin from now on without surprising it. After making two more small scratches, lacquer scraping begins. If you greedily try to take too much at once and end up making a big scar from the beginning, the lacquered tree will not last long and will soon weaken or wither.

The capital of Lacquer, Iwate prefecture. 

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the production of lacquer in Japan in 2020 was approximately 2 tons. Of this, about 1.5 tons is accounted for by "Joubouji lacquer". Joubouji is located in the northern part of Iwate Prefecture in the Tohoku region, and its history is said to have begun when monks dispatched to Tendai temples brought lacquer technology to make everyday utensils. 


 Japanese traditional household item 'lacquerware', which has been beloved for a long time. In Ishikawa Prefecture, known for its thriving lacquerware production, there are three types of lacquerware. 'Wajima lacquerware', known for its lacquering technique. 'Kanazawa lacquerware', adorned with glamorous maki-e. And 'Yamanaka lacquerware', boasting the beauty of its wooden grain.

(Senmaida rice field is located in Wajima city, Ishikawa Prefecture)

 Echizen City in Fukui Prefecture is not only Crab lover's heaven but also lacquerware!!

From November 6th to March 20th every year, fishing is conducted, and the snow crab landed at the fishing port in Fukui Prefecture is called Echizen crab. Echizen crab is also known as the king of winter delicacies.

"Echizen lacquerware" is the top producer in Japan, holding 80% of the nationwide share in the production of "commercial lacquerware" used in ryokans (Japanese inns) and restaurants. Echizen was historically abundant with artisans known as "Urushi-kaki" who harvested lacquer. They would meticulously apply layers of high-quality lacquer collected by themselves onto the utensils they used daily, crafting lacquerware for everyday life. Renowned for its high quality and durability, the artisans' dedication to creating "lacquerware for daily living" persists to this day.

How was exploring the unique characteristics of lacquerware from different regions? Next our blog, I would like to share innovative techniques and styles that have emerged over time.