Lacquer ware is traditionally important craft and even represents Japanese culture, as often being called “Japan”. The history is said to start in the Jomon period, some 9 thousand years ago as colorings for daily and shamanism use. Basic technique of Japanese lacquer ware, however, was established much later, in Nara period (794-1185).
Kyo Lacquer Ware can be considered to begin when the capital city, where the Emperor resides, moved to Kyoto in the late 8th century. Since then, Kyo Lacquer Ware artisans have created sophisticated, sensitive artistic crafts to please celebrities, power holders, and art lovers.
As notable historical event, we can mention Higashiyamamono style, which was developed for tea ceremony utensil in Muromachi period (1336-1573), and influence of Hon-ami Koetsu, multi-talented artist in Edo period (1603-1867) who affected Ogata Korin (the founder of “Rinpa” school). Each time, Kyo Lacquer Ware adopted the characteristics of the time and developed itself, and then also influenced to other artisans and creators outside Kyoto.
The most eye-catching feature of Kyo Lacquer Ware is its thinness. The wood base is especially thinner than ones from other areas’, but it realized toughness by undercoating. The wood base is first covered by linen clothes and starch paste, and then coated by special mixed lacquer with “Yamashina Jinoko” ashes and “Yamashina Tonoko” polishing powder. The coating by such special mixed lacquer is repeated many times so that the basement becomes harder while keeping the thinness.
The stance of this traditional art has not changed, and artisans are still trying to create something more beautiful and sophisticated while reserving the traditional methods. In addition to high grade kitchen staffs, small goods and interior goods are currently produced.
Kyo Lacquer Ware was designated as Traditional Craft by METI (Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry) in 1976.