Japanese crafts: Tsugaru lacquerware
Tsugaru lacquerware is a traditional Japanese craft that originated about 300 years ago in the Tsugaru area of Aomori Prefecture. Tsugaru Nuri features unique colors and patterns.
Through careful layering of lacquer paint, Tsugaru craftsmen are able to create durable and practical pieces adorned with beautiful designs. The process includes coating the base with varnish, drying and polishing. The lacquer is applied again and again to the aomori hiba (cypress) wood and polished each time with a whetstone. The varnish dries for a long time after application, and this stage of work takes about one and a half to two months. And this is just a simplified version – the real procedure takes 48 steps! The more layers of varnish, the more massive and durable the product becomes.
The origin of the Tsugaru lacquer craft dates back to the middle of the Edo period during the reign of Tsugaru Nobumasa (1646-1710). The Tsugaru, who had land in northern Japan, were wealthy and powerful daimyo (lords) known as patrons of the arts. The Tsugaru continue to be one of Japan’s leading families; they intermarried in the eighteenth century with the imperial house through the marriage of Tsugaru Hanako and Prince Hitachi, the Emperor’s younger brother.
During the Meiji Restoration, the feudal system in Japan was abolished, and the newly established Aomori Prefecture supported the creation of an association for the preservation of their art. Tsugaru ware even received an award at the World Exhibition in Vienna in 1873.
In 1975, Tsugaru lacquerware, Aizu lacquerware, and Wajima lacquerware were recognized as traditional Japanese crafts. This was the impetus for the revival of small-scale, inefficient, but traditional industries.
One of the most popular techniques for decorating Tsugaru lacquerware, the karanuri technique produces raindrop-like patterns. This technique already existed before 1715 and was modeled after goods imported from China. Initially, imports from China were called caramono, which means luxury goods, hence the name.