Takaoka Lacquerware

Traditional craft meets sophistication

By Alena Eckelmann    - 3 min read

Japanese lacquerware, or Shikki, has gained popularity around the world.

There are several famous centers of lacquerware production throughout the whole of Japan (except for Hokkaido). Takaoka ranks amongst the top together with Wajima Lacquerware (Ishikawa Prefecture) and Kishu Lacquerware (Wakayama Prefecture).

The sap is harvested from the Urushi tree, giving the lacquer its name, “Urushi”. Shikki is also often referred to as “nurimono”, or painted things.

Typically lacquer is applied to a wooden core in several layers of coating. There are a number of techniques of application and decoration.

Takaoka Shikki has a tradition of 400 years. Like Takaoka metal ware, the beginnings of lacquerware production in this area reach back to Japan’s feudal period. The Lord of Takaoka Castle, a member of the Kaga Clan, invited craftsmen to set up here in the hope to improve the prosperity of his fiefdom.

In the 18th century Takaoka craftsmen picked up methods of over-glazing on red or on black lacquerware. This technique was used for the production of trays and food boxes, like bento boxes. Products nowadays also include frames of mirrors, clocks and paintings.

Over the centuries craftsmen here have specialized in three types of lacquerware:

  • Raden: lacquerware with shell and ivory inlays

  • Chokoku: lacquerware on wood carving and with engravings

  • Kashoku: lacquerware with painting patterns

What Takaoka Shikki is most famous for is its Yusuke Nuri lacquerware. It was developed 150 years ago by local product artist Ishii Yusuke. Yusuke Nuri is now the generic name for “three techniques of Takaoka lacquerware”. Yusuke combined all three types of Shikki in one lacquerware product. It takes 35 steps to produce a Yusuke Nuri item. Applying one step after another can take two to three months.

The Takaoka Regional Industrial Promotion Center (Takaoka Chiiki Jiba Sangyo Center), located near Shin-Takaoka Station, exhibits a great variety of Takaoka lacquerware items.

Out of the 37 production sites of lacquerware in Japan Takaoka ranks no 8 in terms of output volume.

While you can purchase Takaoka Shikki on Rakuten Global Market, an online shopping site, seeing the beautiful items right in front of you makes you really appreciate the high level of craftsmanship and sophistication of Takaoka lacquerware.

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Alena Eckelmann

Alena Eckelmann @alena.eckelmann

Born East of the Wall and South of Berlin, I am celebrating my 15th year anniversary in Japan in May 2020, the country that I call home now. I lived in crazy Tokyo for 6 years and since 2011 I call the beautiful Kii Peninsula (Kumano, Koyasan and Yoshinoyama) my home.I have been a JapanTravel Partner since the conception of the platform in 2011! In Tokyo I worked in market research at AIP Corporation and in business education at JMEC. For the last 10 years I have been a guide for foreign visitors at Venture Japan, on top of being a Freelance Writer and a Business Researcher.  Apart from work, I trained at the Yoshinkan Aikido Dojo and at the Oedo Sukeroku Taiko Dojo for several years each, and I ran the 1st Tokyo Marathon and enjoyed cycling around Tokyo. During the last 10 years I am working with local authorities to improve their hospitality to foreign visitors and I have participated in many monitors as a media representative.  My current interest is in Japanese nature and spirituality. I love spending time in the forest and mountains, and I love visiting temples and shrines.   I am a licensed guide for the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trails  and for Koyasan, the Buddhist monastery, in addition to being a practitioner and licensed guide for Forest Therapy (Shinrin Therapy).  As a guide for walking tours, I have taken visitors to walk the Kumano Kodo trails, the Nakasendo trail and the Shikoku 88 temple pilgrimage trail.  Being grounded during this COVID-19 crisis, I enjoy gardening, baking bread in my new Japanese bread-maker and going for walks around 'my' village.  Take care, keep well, stay safe! 

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Kim 2 years ago
I love the lacquerware boxes - like you said, they're perfect for all manner of treasures!