Japanese lacquer or urushi is the purified sap of the Asian lacquer tree, which has been used for thousands of years in Japan to coat objects from crockery to furniture and buildings. When dry, lacquer is both heat and water resistant, providing protection and strength to underlying materials, very often wood, but also bamboo, paper and leather. Lacquerware itself can be referred to as urushi as well as shikki (literally “urushi vessel”). Pure urushi is transparent, while the black and red lacquers most associated with shikki are achieved with the addition of mineral pigments.
Yamanaka shikki 山中漆器
Produced in the Yamanaka Onsen hot spring district of Kaga city, Ishikawa prefecture, Yamanaka lacquerware dates back to around 1580, with the arrival of a group of woodworkers from nearby Echizen, who specialised in the art of hikimono-kiji – turning wood on a lathe. The goods they produced were sold as souvenirs to onsen tourists, and the area became known for its fine lacquerware. Yamanaka shikki is characterised by round utensils with transparent lacquers that highlight the natural beauty of the wood grain.