There are many types of Japanese lacquer wares with beautiful scattered or inlayed gold and silver decorations. Odawara Lacquerware is unlike them, but surely possess its own beauty.
Odawara is placed in southern Kanagawa prefecture, just next to Hakone and the foot of the Hakone Mountain. Since Muromachi era (1336-1573), craftsmen utilized good quality woods from the Hakone Mountain to make wooden bases for lacquer wares.
Odawara Lacquerware is said to begin when Hojo Ujiyasu, the third generation of the Hojo family, brought lacquerer in to develop the industry. “Irourushi”, the technique to cover the wooden bases with black and/or red lacquer, was then started, too.
During Edo era (1603-1867), Odawara Lacquerware artisans started to adapt their skills into decorating armors. For the geographical position, along the Tokaido pathway and relatively near Edo (Current Tokyo), such armors and lacquered kitchen goods were well sold to samurais and citizens in Edo (currently Tokyo).
The eye drawing feature of Odawara Lacquerware is its planeness and high quality of the wooden bases cut out mainly from Keyaki, a Japanese zelkova, which add extra hardness and distortion-less characteristics.
The wood is cut and carved on a wheel by a plane. After the forming is completed, the surface is polished by a scouring rush. Usually, clear, transparent lacquer is used for the base lacquering and for Irourusi, then covered by black or red lacquer for finishing.
Another technique, called “Suriurushi (aka. Fukiurushi)”, artisans make use of the wood grain by rubbing unrefined sap of the lacquer tree into the wooden base many times. The other technique, “Kijiurushi”, is finished by covering the base-coated wooden base with clear lacquer.
Since the decoration is simple, the shine which grows as you use it is the paramount pleasure. Odawara Lacquerware was designated as Traditional Craft by METI (Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry) in 1984.