(日本語は後ろにあります)
Japanese traditional urushi lacquerware, historically referred to as “Japan”, is one of the most famous and precious crafts produced in Japan. AttA is currently selling two different types of lacquered obento bako – one is finished in ‘Shunkei-nuri’ and the other one is in ‘Yamanaka-nuri’. Recently we had an exciting opportunity to visit Ishikawa Shippohdo in Kaga-city, ISHIKAWA, to view the process of making ‘Yamanaka lacquerware’.



Producing the urushi lacquerware requires a tremendous amount of time and many skilled craftsmen. Untreated timber is dried before being sent to a kiji-shi (wood craftsman) by a supplier. After kidori, which is the process of cutting the timber into pieces one size larger than the actual product size, the block of wood is carved and dried multiple times, then handed to a nuri-shi (lacquerer) as the cured wood called kiji. This is then followed by making a solid foundation layer using a paste made of clay powder and urushi on the surface of the kiji. The nuri-shi then applies several layers of urushi coat until it brings out an immaculate beauty and durability. After this stage, an extra touch of decoration can be added by the makie-shi (sprinkled picture artist) to enhance the design.

Today it’s a common practice that urushi lacquerware manufactures use the kiji made abroad because of its competitive price, though Ishikawa Shippohdo has managed to procure the kiji produced locally in Sugaya area, which is only a 10 minute drive away.

‘Yamanaka lacquerware’ is renowned and highly respected as the ‘capital of kiji production’. The signature techniques used in their products are unique carving styles utilizing a lathe such as ‘Usu-biki’ or ‘Kashoku-biki’. (Visit this youtube to see the Kashoku-biki technique https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GBK6yN8ZHLM#t=10). These methods were developed in Yamanaka hundreds of years ago and none of the artisans in other areas can replicate them. As other areas don’t have as many active kiji-shi as Yamanaka has, they purchase their kiji from the kiji-shi in Yamanaka. High demand for kiji by manufactures from all over Japan results in non-stop production in Yamanaka and the kiji-shi having to work seven-days a week.
Sugaya is the area where many kiji-shi are based and we had the chance to visit a kiji-shi workshop that has been making the kiji for Ishikawa-Shippohdo.

The timber needs to be dried for one to two years after being cut down. After obtaining the dried timber from the supplier, the kiji-shi caries out kidori and starts carving.


The photograph shows that the kiji-shi is working on the lathe with a block of wood, making it into the shape of a bowl as shown on the right hand side. You can see an uncarved pile of wood behind the lathe, waiting to be carved. The kiji-shi was literally covered with wood shavings.

The kiji-shi manages many planes and small tools and he can finish each bowl in the same size and shape in the blink of an eye. This carving process is not the only task of the kiji-shi. The process of carving consists of three different stages – initial rough carving, mid-carving and final carving – and between each stage of carving, a curing period between 50 to 60 days is prerequisite in order to adjust the amount of water existing inside the kiji. This drying process reduces and balances the moisture level of the wood. This is required to prevent the kiji from warping or cracking, which is caused by the shrinking process. A minimum period of a year and a half is necessary to process the kiji from raw timber to the point that it is ready for urushi coating.
I was invited to look inside the shed that is used for the drying process.


On the 1st floor in the drying shed, there is a stove fixed to the floor to keep the room dry, which is run by burning the wood-shavings discarded from the lathing process.

No wonder there were hundreds of bowls piled up in the corner of the room because rounded shaped products like these bowls are their well-known specialty. This unique stacking style was developed in Yamanaka. In spite of how it looks, it stands very stably and doesn’t collapse even during earthquakes.


On the 2nd floor, there is tons of the kiji, which has nearly finished the drying process.

During this drying process, a sign of wood-worms can be detected and some of the kiji ends up cracking apart. These aren’t good enough to become a commercial product, so have to be disposed of.
I was amazed at the sight of the kiji and truly impressed with the amount of work, as the kiji-shi not only produces the kiji, but also controls stock and manages quality.



A manager of Ishikawa Shippohdo said, “We nuri-shi are extremely fortunate to be able to work closely with so many experienced kiji-shi in our neighborhood. This enables us to meet up and discuss details of design upon launching a new model. Many urushi manufactures in other areas don’t have local kiji-shi and they need to rely on craftsmen based faraway.” His comment truly touched me. Living and working in the local community to create urushi lacquerware has become very rare to witness these days. Yamanaka is one of very few production areas where the traditional ways and spirit have survived and are still valued.

You may not be aware of this but the wood used in urushi lacquerware comes from many different varieties. For example, to enhance the natural beauty, aralia, chestnut and cherry tree have ideal grains, and the solid and dense oak and betulaceous are suitable for products that require durability such as tableware or utensils. If you own urushi lacquerware at home, why not check the type of wood used for those.
(If you are interested in the products, please check this page: http://www.obento-atta.com/product/22)
The story continues: http://www.obento-atta.com/page/7

日本の伝統漆器は、英語でJapanと呼ばれるように日本特産の工芸品として有名です。AttAでは、春慶塗と山中塗のお弁当箱を現在取り扱っていますが、この度石川県加賀市にある石川漆宝堂を訪ね、山中漆器の製作過程を見ることができました。

漆製品が出来上がるには長い年月と多くの人の手がかかります。 原木は乾燥させたのち、材料屋の手を経て、木地師に渡ります。木材は、木地師によって製品より一回り大きめの形に大まかに切り出された(木取り)後、挽、乾燥を繰り返し、木地となって塗師の手に渡ります。塗師は、木地に下地をしっかりと作った後、何回も塗りを重ね、強さと美しさを兼ね備えた漆器に仕上げるのです。更に華やかさを加える場合は、蒔絵師がこの後装飾を施します。

最近ではそのコストの安さから海外生産の木地を利用する漆器産地も少なくないと聞きますが、石川漆宝堂の木地は、車で10分ほど行ったところにある菅谷で作られています。
山中漆器は、「木地の山中」と称されるほど轆轤挽物技術に秀で、薄挽きや加飾挽きなど他産地の追随を許さない優れた技法で仕上げられた木地に特色の一つがあります。現役の木地師も他産地に比べ多く、そのため他有名産地からも注文が集まり、土日もない忙しさだそうです。
菅谷はそんな木地師が仕事場を構える所なのですが、石川漆宝堂で使う木地を作り続けている木地師の仕事風景を見せていただくことが出来ました

木材は伐採後1~2年乾燥されます。木地師は材料屋から材木を購入したのち、まず木取りをし、その後挽いていくわけです。


写真は、轆轤台の後ろに見える荒くかたどった木を、轆轤で削って右手に重ねてあるお椀の形にしていくところです。木地師の方は文字通り鉋屑に埋もれて仕事をしていました。

何本もの鉋・小道具を使い分けながら、同じ寸法のお椀に見る見るうちに仕上げていくのですが、木地師の仕事はこれだけではありません。この挽の作業には荒挽き・中挽き・仕上げ挽きの三工程があるわけですが、それぞれの挽の間には木地を50~60日間養生させ、木に含まれる水分量を調整する乾燥という工程があるのです。この工程により、木地が含む水分量を減らし、乾湿により木地が収縮して歪むことを防ぐ事が出来るようになります。つまり、材木は切り出された後、最短で1年半ほどかかって漸く漆が塗れる状態に仕上がるのですね。
乾燥工程を施す乾燥小屋にも連れて行って頂きました。

こちらが一階の乾燥室のストーブです。轆轤で挽いた際に出る鉋屑を燃やして小屋を乾燥させます。


丸ものを得意とする山中の木地師らしく、お椀が積んでありました。この積み方は山中独特で、地震で揺れても崩れにくいそうです。
二階には、様々な仕上がり段階の木地が沢山乾燥させてありました。


この乾燥の過程で、虫食いを発見したりすることもありますが、中には乾燥途中で割れてしまう木地もあるそうです。 そのような木地は製品にならないので廃棄するとのことでした。これだけの木地をストックして管理し、注文に応じて成形していく木地師のお仕事は大変だと思いました。石川漆宝堂の方が、
「私たちはこんなに近くに優れた技術を持った木地師がいて、本当に幸せな塗師だと思います。新しい製品を考える時も、図面を見て相談しながら進めていくことが出来ます。他の漆器産地には木地職人がいなくて遠方に注文を出さざるを得なくなっているところがあるんですから。」とお話をされていたのがとても印象的でした。

因みに、漆器にはいろいろな種類の木が使われています。素材感を出したい時には、栓、栗、桜がその木目の美しさから良いそうですし、お椀など強度が必要なものには固くて緻密なケヤキや水目が用いられるそうです。お家で使われている木製品が何の木で作られているか調べてみるのも楽しそうですね。 (続く http://www.obento-atta.com/page/7
(商品はこちら→http://www.obento-atta.com/product/22)