The Art of Japanese Lacquerware: Ancient Techniques Crafting Timeless Masterpieces

For thousands of years, lacquerware has persevered as one of Japan’s foremost traditional crafts. With a profound history, intricate production process, and profusion of regional traditions, it’s impossible to define Japanese lacquerware in simple terms. In this edition of our deep-dive “Culture of Japan” series, we ventured out to Murakami, Niigata Prefecture, to discover more about this enigmatic art directly from a traditional Japanese lacquerware craftsman. Read on to learn more about the history, characteristics, craftsmanship, and future of Japanese lacquerware, and find out where to buy and how to properly look after your own!

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What Is Japanese Lacquerware?

Put simply, lacquerware refers to anything made by painting lacquer (called “urushi” in Japanese) onto a vessel, often carved from wood. Lacquer is a natural varnish from tree resin that can be colored and layered using different techniques to yield all sorts of finishes. Lacquerware is collectively known as “shikki” in Japanese, and can take the form of anything from everyday utensils to lavish pieces of art.

Lacquerware is a uniquely East Asian craft with deep roots in Japan. It is commonly seen as tableware like bowls, plates, chopsticks, cups, coasters, and cutlery, along with containers like traditional “jubako,” decorative plates and other ornaments, hand mirrors, tea utensils, vases, combs, trays, and more. Lacquerware is also used in the painting of temples and shrines, and once coated samurai armor and weapons to give them a dynamic, powerful appearance.

Japanese lacquerware has also gained recent popularity as fashion accessories, breathing new life into the craft as trendy earrings, bracelets, and necklaces. There are also plenty of innovative reinterpretations of the craft, like sleek, stylish tableware to complement contemporary kitchens, and more.

Japanese lacquerware typically comes in shades of red, an auspicious color in Japan, but is also common in black, and can be made into virtually any color by mixing it with pigments. It is also frequently combined with other artforms, such as wood carving, “raden” seashell inlaying, and “maki-e,” which is the art of applying metal powder to lacquer-drawn patterns.

How Is Japanese Lacquerware Made?

Lacquer is a natural paint made of sap from the Japanese lacquer tree, which grows naturally across Japan and many other parts of East Asia. The surface of the trunk or branches is cut to release sap, called “kiurushi,” which has a milky color and yellowish tinge. This sap is collected drip by drip by lacquer tappers between June and October, with around 200 ml able to be taken from a single tree. A tapper can generally handle between 400-500 trees a year, allowing them to gather up to 75 kg in total, making it a scarce and precious commodity.

The volume and quality of lacquer is also influenced by a tree’s age, surrounding environment, and the season and climate, so a tapper must possess a deep understanding of the area. If raw lacquer gets on the skin, it can also cause itchiness and inflammation, so tappers need to be careful not to touch it directly.

After the raw lacquer is collected, it is processed by reducing the moisture content, concentrating it, and evening out the consistency and quality. It can then be applied as is, acting as a transparent varnish, but is more commonly mixed with pigments to create colors like the standard vermillion, which comes from cinnabar, or black, which is made by adding iron powder and oxidizing the lacquer. Even within a single color, there are a wide variety of shades to enjoy, running from the solemn and subdued to the bright and poppy, along with glossy or matte finishes.

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Where Is Japanese Lacquerware Made?

There are over 30 lacquerware production areas across Japan, each with their own proud history and characteristics. The majority of Japanese lacquerware is made in Ishikawa Prefecture and Fukui Prefecture, which both have ancient heritages of traditional craftsmanship.

Ishikawa Prefecture

Ishikawa Prefecture, located on the Sea of Japan coast in the central Chubu region, boasts a long and prestigious history of Japanese lacquerware production. There are three main regional styles within the prefecture: Wajima Lacquerware, from the Wajima area at the top of the Noto Peninsula; Kanazawa Lacquerware from the capital city of Kanazawa; and Yamanaka Lacquerware from Yamanaka Onsen in Kaga.

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Fukui Prefecture

Fukui Prefecture sits on the southeast border of Ishikawa Prefecture, and has a Japanese lacquerware heritage stretching back as far as the late Kofun period (300-538). There are two main forms of lacquerware in the region: Echizen Lacquerware, hailing from Sabae, which has long been a hub of craftsmanship and lacquering; and Wakasa Lacquerware, produced in and around a city on Wakasa Bay called Obama, whose wares have a unique appearance inspired by patterns on the seafloor.

Fukushima Prefecture

Fukushima’s main form of lacquerware is called Aizu Lacquerware, which is concentrated in the inland region of Aizu. It is known for its solid, robust lacquering and use of maki-e to draw auspicious symbols. It often comes in limited yet distinctive colors, and usually has very fine and shallow carvings. Its history can be traced back to its promotion by the ruling daimyo starting from the 1590s.

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Aomori Prefecture

Aomori Prefecture’s Tsugaru Lacquerware is made in and around Hirosaki. Its name comes from the Tsugaru clan, who once ruled over the region. It can be instantly recognized by its dynamic speckled patterns, which are formed by the continuous layering and grinding of lacquer on pieces of local cypress wood.

Wakayama Prefecture

Wakayama Prefecture’s Kishu Lacquerware hails from the Kuroe area northwest of Kainan. It boasts a simple yet sturdy build favored for everyday-use items. It also stands out for the patterns that appear from the black undercoat emerging through the red overcoat, achieved through a local painting style called “Negoro-nuri.”

Other Japanese Lacquerware Producing Regions

There are many other lacquerware producing regions across Japan that are equally worth checking out, like Kamakura (Kanagawa Prefecture), Shiojiri (Nagano Prefecture), Kawatsura (Akita Prefecture), Takayama (Gifu Prefecture), Kyoto, and Murakami (Niigata Prefecture), the latter of which we’ll be featuring in this article.

As for the lacquer itself, the overwhelming majority now used in Japan is imported from overseas, but there are still some domestic producers. Lacquer tapping was once a flourishing industry across several regions of Japan, but is these days practically synonymous with Joboji in Iwate Prefecture, an area that is responsible for around 75% of Japanese lacquer production, owing to local initiatives that began in the 1970s.

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The History of Japanese Lacquerware

Like many ancient crafts, the exact history and origins of lacquerware in general is unclear. Lacquer-covered items have been discovered in China that came from as early as the Neolithic period (10,000-8,000 B.C.), while archaeologists working at the Kakinoshima Site in Hakodate, Hokkaido, have unearthed remnants of lacquerware used in Japan around 9,000 years ago.

Lacquer trees are thought to have come to Japan sometime during the prehistoric Jomon period (between 16,000-2,900 years ago), and part of what is believed to be the world’s oldest lacquer tree was unearthed in Wakasa, Fukui, dating back 12,600 years. Numerous pieces of earthenware, wooden crafts, combs, and earrings coated with lacquer have also been found from around 7,000-5,500 years ago, showing that the practice of lacquering has long been an integral part of Japanese culture.

More complex, sophisticated techniques like maki-e were conceived during Japan’s Heian period (794-1185), which is when a culture of nobility emerged and artistic, fanciful items were in high demand. However, the sheer amount of labor involved and limited resources made such lacquerware a luxury limited to those with wealth.

Developments over the following centuries eased the laborsome manufacturing process, and more affordable pieces of Japanese lacquerware gradually permeated through the classes of samurai, monks, and city workers to eventually end up in the hands of farmers by the 16th century, entrenching itself as a staple of Japanese society.

As Japan entered the relative stability of the Edo period from the 1600s, craftsmanship of all kinds flourished, and the range of lacquerware items on the market grew exponentially. Many local lords likewise promoted the craft to encourage new industries in their domain, and several production regions that still thrive today were founded under the patronage of these former rulers.

Even in the modern era, most of the lacquerware techniques that developed during the Edo period are still practiced by traditional craftspeople, although some workshops will aid the process with machinery, and cheaper items are often mass-produced. However, despite modernization, lacquerware remains one of Japan’s definitive traditional crafts, and there is no shortage of galleries and stores to discover authentic handmade pieces, as well as open workshops to witness the fascinating manufacturing process up close.

Murakami Kibori Tsuishu - A Little-Known Style of Fashionable Japanese Lacquerware

To find out more about Japanese lacquerware at one of the country’s many production regions, we journeyed out to the small city of Murakami in the rice paddy-covered countryside of northern Niigata Prefecture. Murakami, a former castle town famous for its salmon cuisine and beachfront hot springs, is home to one of Japan’s lesser-known schools of Japanese lacquerware named “Murakami Kibori Tsuishu,” meaning “Murakami Wood-Carved Lacquerware.”

We had heard from collectors in the know that Murakami Kibori Tsuishu lacquerware was a perfect example of the time-honored craftsmanship, expressive design, and radiant colors that embody the artform, making it the ideal candidate for our foray into the craft. Strolling down the city’s main street, our anticipation surged as we passed by several workshops and stores selling lacquerware straight from the hands of local craftspeople, each with their own noticeable spin.

Our destination was the Murakami Kibori Tsuishu Hall, which is a gallery/workshop that provides visitors with an in-depth rundown of the artform. The facility hosts a sizable collection of Murakami Kibori Tsuishu lacquerware sourced from several local workshops, both on display and available for purchase, as well as exhibitions detailing the history and characteristics of the craft, plus wood-carving workshops open to the public upon reservation.

Here, we met up with lacquer painter Yutaka Sugawara. Sugawara has been painting Japanese lacquerware in Murakami for almost 50 years, and is considered one of the leading experts in the region. He is officially recognized as a Traditional Craftsperson of Japan, a rank granted only to those with exceptional skill, who make up just 10% of traditional craftspeople in the country. While creating his own lacquerware, he works passionately to keep the craft alive by promoting it through this association.

Sugawara spoke with a quiet modesty and affable demeanor often typical of Japanese craftspeople. Taking a seat in his workspace, the scattered tools, splatterings of paint, and lacquerware at various stages of completion were all evidence that we were now deep in a real production center, and the insight into the craft we were seeking lay out all around us.

Since we knew little about the art, Sugawara began with an overview of what makes Murakami Kibori Tsuishu special. “Our lacquerware is not famous, but it is very unique for a number of reasons. First of all, it’s 100% handmade with no assistance from machinery, and uses all-natural materials, including genuine natural lacquer and wood. The techniques we use are also practically unchanged since the beginning of the craft, so it’s a great option for those wanting [to experience] true [fully hands-on] craftsmanship,” Sugawara explained excitedly.

He continued: “Carving is also a big part of what makes lacquerware from Murakami special. While some other regions carve their lacquerware, many apply the lacquer first, then carve in the design. In Murakami, our pieces are carved first, then the lacquer is painted on after, giving it a very unique look that is both intricate and bold. Plus, being all handmade, no two are ever the same.”

While chatting, Sugawara took out several pieces of finished Murakami lacquerware and drew our attention to the soft matte finish. Even novices like us could instantly recognize its striking contrast to the glossy sheen of most lacquerware, emanating a chic, balanced poise that would blend seamlessly with all manner of fashions and decor.

Sugawara elaborated, “An important step in the Murakami Kibori Tsuishu process is ‘tsuya-keshi,’ which is when we grind the surface to remove the luster, giving it a unique matte finish. Over time, as you use your piece of lacquerware, it will gradually gain a sheen of its own, slowly evolving into your own special item.”

The History of Murakami Kibori Tsuishu Lacquerware

The gallery at Murakami Kibori Tsuishu Hall has posters exploring the history and characteristics of Murakami lacquerware. But, being a fairly off-the-beaten path destination, multilingual translations are few and far between. There are English pamphlets available for a brief overview of the craft, but we think a deeper understanding is necessary to fully appreciate its appeal, which is why, with help from Sugawara and Murakami Kibori Tsuishu Hall, we created an outline of its history to read up on before visiting.

The origin of Murakami Kibori Tsuishu can be found all the way back in the Heian period (794-1185), long before the art of lacquerware itself was introduced to the area. During this time, lacquer trees grew in abundance in and around Murakami, and the region flourished as a producer of raw lacquer. At its peak, Murakami was said to have once made the most lacquer in Japan, often exporting its bounties to more eminent lacquerware regions like Kyoto and Wajima.

With such a solid foundation, it’s only natural that the crafting of lacquerware itself likewise took off in Murakami. The craft’s roots can be traced back to the visiting of lacquer artists from Kyoto during the 1400s to help construct temples, who taught the locals how to carve and paint with lacquer. The interest of samurai families and official promotion by the ruling lord saw the craft spread and take on a life of its own over the 1600-1700s, eventually reaching common townsfolk to become a staple craft in the region.

Retainers of the Murakami Domain further picked up new woodcarving and lacquering techniques while staying in the capital city of Edo (modern-day Tokyo). Later on, Shusai Ariiso (1809-1879), a master craftsman from Murakami, added designs and techniques influenced by Chinese lacquerware and Kamakura-bori (another form of carved lacquerware from Kamakura), which brought the craft to its final appearance that continues to be made today.

The technique of “tsuishu” itself, which refers to the art of carving patterns into layered lacquer, is said to have come from Tang dynasty China (618-907), and reached Japan sometime during the end of the Heian period (794-1185) and beginning of the Kamakura period (1192-1333). However, as carving off the lacquer was seen to be wasteful, many Japanese artisans like those in Kamakura and Murakami reversed the technique by first carving the wood and then applying the lacquer, which also yielded a more vibrant and intricate design in the process.

Murakami’s Urushiyama Shrine, which is said to have been established under the Yamato Imperial Court around 1,100 years ago, is one of Japan’s few shrines dedicated to lacquer. It still remains in the mountains of Murakami today, standing as a testament to the city’s time-honored lacquering legacy.

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How Is Murakami Kibori Tsuishu Lacquerware Made?

When we met up with Sugawara, we expected to be shown the entire Murakami Kibori Tsuishu lacquer process from start to finish. However, as Sugawara made clear to us, the crafting of Murakami Kibori Tsuishu lacquerware is already well underway before lacquer painters like him get their hands on it. In fact, it takes the honed skills of three different craftspeople to make a single item!

To start off, Sugawara guided us upstairs to the second-floor workshop, where we were greeted by two young woodcarvers chiseling away at a small plate and pair of chopsticks. As we watched them diligently carve out their designs, Sugawara began his lecture by stressing the importance of wood as the foundation that dictates the overall quality of lacquerware.

“In Murakami, high-quality pieces of natural wood, often magnolia, Japanese horse chestnut, or Japanese Judas, are carefully selected and made into plates, bowls, ornaments, and such, by woodturners. These are like the canvases that woodcarvers and lacquer painters like us will create on, making it a crucial step that cannot be overlooked.”

These completed wooden vessels are then passed over to woodcarvers like the two apprentices, who will design and sculpt three-dimensional motifs of flowers, animals, scenery, traditional patterns, or whatever else takes their fancy, into the surface of the wood. Woodcarvers in Murakami use a double-bladed chisel called an “urajiro,” which is unique to the region, along with a number of other tools allowing them to carve with incredible depth, precision, and intricacy.

We stood and observed as the woodcarvers slowly but steadily cut out the design they had sketched over the wood. It appeared to us as incredible fiddly work that demanded intense concentration and a well-trained, steady hand. While still just young apprentices, they worked earnestly in a focused silence, and appeared to have already nurtured the hardworking yet humble temperament of a traditional Japanese craftsperson.

While mesmerized by the hypnotic motions of the woodcarvers, we peeled ourselves away as Sugawara beckoned us into the adjacent lacquer painting studio, which is where he and the workshop’s sole apprentice lacquer painter do their work. Unfortunately, there was no scheduled painting on the day, so we were unable to see them in action, but Sugawara instead proudly gave us a tour of his tools and paints, and showed us a batch of drying lacquerware.

Continuing his talk, he outlined his part of the process. “After completing the base design, the woodcarvers next door will pass their works over to us to be lacquered. We’ll start by smoothing out and strengthening the surface of the wood with a whetstone and sandpaper to prepare it. Then, once it’s smoothed to our satisfaction, we’ll begin applying the individual coatings of lacquer while carefully drying it in between.”

The lacquer used in Murakami is firmer than most, which prevents it from running down into the grooves of the carvings, and requires great finesse to properly handle. The polishing, painting, and drying is repeated several times with different techniques, materials, and tools, including brushes made with human hair, all building up to give it the final fullness we see in the display cases.

After the overcoat has dried, Sugawara grinds and buffs each piece into its trademark matte finish. They are then returned to the woodcarver to engrave the finer, subtler touches, before being given one more top coating of lacquer. After this, it’s ready to be inspected and put out onto the market.

Combined together, a single piece of Murakami Kibori Tsuishu lacquerware requires around 26 different processes shared between the woodturner, woodcarver, and lacquer painter. With such complexity, even a simple bowl or plate can take a month to complete, while those with larger or more elaborate designs can demand up to a year or more.

When asked what the most difficult part of the process was, Sugawara responded: “Drying the lacquerware, without a doubt. The overcoat needs to be dried with great care, or else the entire work is ruined. The time and conditions needed to dry can change a lot depending on the season, so lots of planning needs to be put into it, and the perfect temperature and humidity levels must always be maintained. If the piece dries too quickly, the color can darken, and shrinkage may occur.”

“But, I would also say handling the overcoat is the most rewarding part, as it requires the most skill. Each layer of lacquer is incredibly thin, so lots of work needs to be done to stop the layers underneath from showing through while keeping it looking full overall,” he added with enthusiasm.

In addition to the classic vermillion, we could see numerous pieces of black “tsuikoku” lacquerware on display, alongside a jumble of colorful items. The brilliant multicolored incense containers (pictured above) caught our eye, which are fashioned by building up layer upon layer of differently colored lacquer coatings in a painstaking process that can take over a year.

Finishing our tour, we were left astonished at how a single school of craftsmanship could produce such a wide miscellany of products. From decorative plates imbued with traditional Japanese elegance to earrings and necklaces that wouldn’t be out of place in one of Tokyo’s hippest fashion hubs, it’s clear that the local craftspeople have put a great deal of thought into their lineups. Plus, while expensive luxury pieces were plentiful, there were also lots of affordable chopsticks, spoons, bowls, and more, making for authentic and meaningful mementos of Japan.

Lacquerware in Modern Japan

Despite its timeless charm, we were saddened to learn from Sugawara that the Japanese lacquerware industry has been in steady decline over recent decades. Postwar mass-production, alternative materials like plastic, lifestyle changes, and overseas imports have seen the rise of countless substitutes to Japanese lacquerware that offer a price and availability that traditional craftspeople cannot compete with. Compounding the issue is a lack of young trainees taking up Japanese lacquerware traditions, which is a result of both Japan’s declining population and modern shifts in work culture.

Nowadays, most lacquer used in Japan is imported from China, and just 2-3% is produced domestically. This is due to the availability of substitutes like synthetic lacquer, as well as cheaper prices from manufacturing outside Japan. Lacquer trees and tappers are in similarly short supply, and the time-consuming and strenuous task of collecting natural lacquer means that those seeking it often come up short handed. Even if natural, the quality of lacquer produced overseas is also different from that of Japan, making it next to impossible to accurately recreate the local styles that have emerged over the centuries.

Sugawara has seen these same trends in Murakami first hand. “While there are two woodturners in Murakami, there is a lack of young successors taking up the craft. At the moment, we have just two trainees learning woodcarving, and one trainee lacquer painter. When we founded our business cooperative [in the 1950s], there were around 30-40 lacquerware workshops, but there are now just around 10,” he told us with a tinge of regret in his usual upbeat voice.

“Murakami once had many lacquer trees and tappers, but there is now only a single tapper, which makes it hard for us to get genuine lacquer to work with. But afforestation efforts are underway to try and change this.”

To help protect the dwindling domestic lacquer industry, Japan’s Agency for Cultural Affairs has made it a rule that the repair and maintenance of all National Treasures and Important Cultural Properties must be done with genuine Japanese lacquer. However, while this has spawned new demand, the industry at its current state is struggling to keep up, and many worry that it may be too little, too late.

Murakami craftspeople like Sugawara are likewise experimenting with fresh ideas to keep their trade relevant in the modern era, such as making jewelry tailored to the fashion sensibilities of young people, while also teaming up with popular brands to design new products. This includes a collaboration with a company in Japan’s metalworking mecca of Tsubame-Sanjo to make stylish and functional metal spoons with Murakami lacquerware handles. While it was too early to provide details, Sugawara mentioned that several other exciting new works are also in the pipeline, leaving us with a sense of hope for what the future may yet hold.

The Benefits of Using Lacquerware in Your Everyday Life

Sugawara loves using lacquerware in his everyday life. Many of his go-to utensils are from the craft, like his chopsticks, soup bowls, and coasters, and he promotes it enthusiastically to customers as a superior tableware solution.

“One of the best things about lacquerware is that it won’t break easily, unlike glass or porcelain. A lacquerware bowl, for example, will remain in good condition for 15-20 years even if used daily. And afterwards, when the paint starts to peel or cracks form, it can be easily repaired by a lacquer painter. If you take the time to look after it like this, it should last a lifetime.”

Being normally made of natural wood, lacquerware is also light and easy to hold, and boasts excellent thermal insulation properties, which is why they are the standard for soup bowls in Japan. Lacquer also protects the wood with a durable, water-resistant shield that can handle acid, salt, and alcohol from foods without deteriorating. Plus, unlike plastic, real lacquer contains no artificial chemicals, and is said to have natural antibacterial properties, which explains its use since ancient times as food containers, like those holding “osechi ryori” and “kabayaki eel,” which are often stored without refrigeration.

Furthermore, traditional Japanese lacquerware like Murakami Kibori Tsuishu uses all-natural materials, easing its burden on the planet. Its durability and repairability is likewise a refreshing alternative to the disposable nature of modern tableware, making it a sublime choice for those passionate about the environment.

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How to Look After Your Japanese Lacquerware

In Sugawara's experience, visitors can be hesitant to buy lacquerware based on the assumption that it’s difficult to maintain. This, however, is a misconception!

As mentioned, lacquerware is tough and durable, and is not easily damaged. It can be cleaned with just regular hand washing (with detergent) and thorough drying after use. The biggest risk to your lacquerware comes from it being left wet, as water droplets can leave marks on the surface. Wipe your lacquerware with a teatowel, and leave it out to fully dry before putting it away. If you want your lacquerware to last for generations, then taking it to a lacquer painter for a recoat once or twice over its lifetime will prolong its lifespan greatly, but this isn’t a necessity.

One major disadvantage with lacquerware is that it cannot be put in a dishwasher or microwave, making it somewhat incompatible with our “on the go” contemporary lifestyles. Instead, we suggest supplementing your tableware collection with glass or ceramics to use when in a rush, and saving your lacquerware for occasions when you have the time to properly appreciate it!

Where to Buy and Enjoy Japanese Lacquerware

In producing regions like Murakami, many lacquerware workshops will run their own stores selling wares direct to the public. Visiting these workshops will allow you to gauge the level of craftsmanship with your own eyes, and grant you a wide selection to find a piece that suits your tastes.

But what about those without the time to travel to regional Japan? Thankfully, Sugawara assured us that Japanese department stores in big cities like Tokyo can be trusted to stock high-quality, authentic lacquerware, and are a safe bet for those on short trips. Murakami Kibori Tsuishu lacquerware itself is available at the Japan Traditional Crafts Aoyama Square, so you can check it out without visiting Murakami, although we highly recommend doing so!

Japanese lacquerware brands are also available online, and one place that we recommend is our partner's site BECOS, which sells a collection of lacquerware products from makers across Japan. Second-hand lacquerware also frequently pops up at flea markets across Japan, attracting collectors from far and wide seeking bargains on potential antique treasures.

How to Choose a Quality Piece of Japanese Lacquerware

According to Sugawara, leading lacquerware regions in Japan will often take a more industrial approach to production, and will sell both hand-crafted and mass-produced versions of the craft, which is how they can get their prices so low.

When we asked Sugawara if there is any sure-fire method to tell the difference, he explained how, as a lacquer painter, he focuses on the rims and bottoms of wares to inspect the quality of the coating. This is because machines will often be slightly rougher and may skimp on applying lacquer to the parts, so a neat, even coating shows that a piece was likely handmade by someone with a trained eye. Saying this, we doubt that amateurs like ourselves would notice such subtle details, so we still think it’s best to drop into a real workshop to confirm the degree of craftsmanship for yourself!

Furthermore, the difference between real wood and plastic can be easily distinguished. When flicked with the finger, natural wood produces a light sound, while plastic and processed wood sounds somewhat hard. If you’ve already purchased a piece, but want to check its authenticity, place it in a container filled with water and submerge it - real wood should float up, while plastic or processed wood will generally stay at the bottom.

You can also try pouring a hot liquid into the vessel, and see if you can hold it. Natural wood is insulated, so it shouldn’t be burning your hands. However, alternatives to natural wood are becoming more like the real thing, so we again feel that it's safest to buy from a trusted workshop or department store, rather than testing it yourself.

Of course, perhaps the biggest determinant of craftsmanship is price. If genuine hand-crafted lacquerware is what you desire, then you’ll need to fork out a fairly high sum to guarantee you’re getting the real thing. However, depending on the size of the product and level of effort and detail, cheaper versions of real lacquerware are also obtainable, and often come in the form of simple but well-made chopsticks or cutlery.

Uncover the Allure of Japanese Lacquerware

While lacquerware can be found all throughout Japan, our trip to Murakami showed us the value of visiting one of the country’s production regions to see not only the craft, but the locals who make it as well as the locality it is made in up close, all of which form the core of its charm. Whether you follow our footsteps to Murakami, or find a workshop of your own in another area, the pure craftsmanship displayed through Japanese lacquerware is sure to inspire.

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The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.

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About the author

Steve Csorgo
From Melbourne, Australia, Steve currently lives in Niigata City. His passions include discovering local sake and traveling as much of Japan as possible.
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