Kiso lacquerware Photo:Shinshu・Nagano Prefecture Tourism Association

Kiso lacquerware Kiso shikki

Solidity such that the more it is used, the softer the glaze becomes
Warmth produced by the beautiful grain of the wood


What is Kiso lacquerware ?

Kiso lacquerware is produced in the old Narakawa Village in Kiso District, which is now Shiojiri City in Nagano Prefecture, and the surroundings. Shiojiri City in Nagano Prefecture, the area where Kiso lacquer ware is produced, is a plateau approximately 900 meters above sea level.
The climate has cool summers and very cold winters, making it ideal as a working environment for the application of lacquer. In addition, an abundance of local materials are available, such as the Japanese cypress and thujopsis, both of which are part of the Kiso Goboku, or “Five Sacred Trees of Kiso”.
Natural lacquers are applied to the wood materials such as cypress, cercidiphyllum and Japanese horse-chestnut. After washing it in hot water, it is wiped with a soft cloth and is then stored in a location that is neither damp nor overly dry, and away from direct sunlight.
The characteristic of Kiso lacquer ware is that it develops a warm glaze the longer it is used and it becomes solid. The characteristic methods are kisoshunkei, kisotsuishu, and nuriwakero-ironuri. Kisoshunkei is a technique that brings out the beauty of the wood by repeatedly working in the unrefined sap of the lacquer tree without applying a first coat. With kisotsuishu, which is also known as kisokawari-nuri, a pattern is applied using a pad containing a large quantity of lacquer after applying a first coat to the wood base. With nuriwakero-ironuri, multiple kinds of colored lacquer are used to paint geometrical patterns in different colors, and the surface is carefully polished after drying the final coat.


Kiso lacquerware - History Photo:Shinshu・Nagano Prefecture Tourism Association

Kiso lacquerware was developed in Shiojiri in Nagano due to its topography and because the production area has been an important location for transportation since long ago.
Kiso lacquer ware began at the start of the 17th Century, and, having developed due to the great patronage of Owari Tokugawa in the Edo Period, it become a popular souvenir for people travelling on the Nakasendo road.
In the early part of the Meiji Period, rust clay that could be used to apply an undercoat was discovered, which made lacquer ware easier to produce. As rust clay includes a large amount of iron, it enabled the production of lacquer ware that is more solid than that of other production areas, and Kiso lacquer ware became well-known nation-wide as a result.
In the post-war period of growth, a large variety of products were produced, including vessels not essential in the lives of common people such as high-quality furnishings used in Japanese and Western-style hotels.

General Production Process

Where to Buy & More Information

Kiso Kurashi No Kogeikan

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