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

Celebrating my 10th year anniversary in Japan in May 2018, the country that I call home now. I lived in crazy Tokyo for 6 years and since 2011 I call the Kii Peninsula (Kumano, Koyasan and Yoshinoyama) my home. I have visited all 47 prefectures of Japan and for the last 4 years I have worked as a guide for foreign visitors. My special 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 also a licensed guide for the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trails and for Koyasan, the Buddhist monastery, in addition to being a practitioner and guide for Shinrin Yoku (Forest Therapy).   In recent years I have taken visitors to walk the Kumano Kodo trails, the Nakasendo trail, the 88 temple pilgrimage trail around Shikoku Island and to Dewa Sanzan, the three sacred mountains in Yamagata Prefecture. If you look for nature and spirituality in your trip to Japan, then Wakayama, Nara and Yamagata Prefectures are ideal places to get started!

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