In Nagano prefecture, there are plenty of Japanese cypresses, katsura trees, and Japanese horse chestnuts.
Kiso Lacquer Ware was developed utilizing such woods, but the beginning was to produce round boxes, turneries, and combs and they are sold to tourists who were passing through Nakasendo highway.
Such goods were delivered to Edo (Currently Tokyo) and became popular, then in the middle of Edo era (1603-1867), the lacquer wares thrived with courteously supported by Tokugawa shogunate.
As the main target has been ordinary citizens since the beginning, Kiso Lacquer Ware has been thought to be for ordinal lives, even though the support from the shognate, and the style is not changed now.However, the artisans did, and does put their skills into the development of the craft sincerely.
In the early Meiji period (1868-1912), certain type of soil called Sabi Tsuchi (rusty soil) which include a large amount of iron was discovered. The soil has good quality to be mixed with Japanese lacquer, and can be used for fine base paste to make lacquer wares tougher.
Also, there are some techniques to make the lacquer wares look different than others, such as; Shunkei lacquer coating, rub lacquer into wood so that the beautiful grain stands out, Tsuishu (piled lacquer), express dapples on the surface by piling up lacquer coating on Sabi Tsuchi hard base and polish the surface, Nuriwake Roironuri (painting according to moire), using multiple colors of lacquer and painting the surface with them along with the moire, then coat the surface again for extra shine.
Describing in words is easy, but the time and effort consumed to produce them is unimaginable.
Kiso Lacquer Ware was designated as Traditional Craft by METI (Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry) in 1975.