Johoji occupies 60% share of domestically produced Japanese lacquer. Placed in Ninohe city in the northern Iwate prefecture, the area is surrounded by plenty of Japanese sumac trees. The name, Johoji, came from the family who ruled this area in the medieval period.
It seems to be natural for people who reside in this area to use lacquer, but actually, the beginning was brought by a monk named Gyoki in Nara period (710-784）who opened Tendai temple there. Johoji Lacquer Ware was first the daily plates and bowls for the monks, and later residents around Tendai temple started to use such lacquer wares.
In Edo period (1603-1867), Johoji Lacquer Ware became an important industry for Nambu domain. Called as Oyamagoki, Johoji Lacquer Ware established its production base as a traditional craft. And bringing the wares and the lacquers out to other domains was banned to keep the industry lucrative.
Since the lacquer is very high quality, Johoji Lacquer Ware does not require decoration. Simple black or red bowls are its mark, but the secret of the beauty is in the lacquering technique and preparation of lacquer.
First, the wooden base is soaked with unrefined sap of sumac trees, called Kiurushi, and coated to smoothen the surface. Then the surface is covered by a mixture of Kiurushi and Tonoko, polishing powder, to harden the base. The surface is polished after drying, and coated again by finishing lacquer. The finishing with Hananuri style means the coating and drying is the last step, and Roironuri style means adding polishing step after drying.
Also, Tameiro style, which means finishing with clear lacquer on a red (Bengala) lacquer, is often used. Tameiro style can make the lacquer ware become more shiny as you use the ware longer.
Plane bowls and lipped bowls are still the main stream of Johoji Lacquer Ware now, and it was designated as Traditional Craft by METI (Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry) in 1985.