Tsugaru area is northwestern part of Aomori prefecture. Lacquer wares produced in this area is called Tsugaru Lacquerware, and it is the only, and uncommon traditional art in Aomori prefecture.
Production of lacquer ware in Tsugaru area is said to date back to the beginning of Edo era (1603-1867). Ikeda Genbei II, who was invited from Wakasa domain by the 4th lord of Hirosaki domain (current Tsugaru area), is known as the founder. He learned lacquer ware production in Edo (Current Tokyo) being a pupil of Oume Tarozaemon. Later, when he resided in Tsugaru, he started to create his own style and established Tsugaru Lacquerware.
The basic technique used for Tsugaru Lacquerware is called Togidasi Kawarinuri, piling up Japanese lacquer many times and express strange patterns by polishing the surface. Thus, the production is divided into about 50 steps.
Over this basic technique, Tsugaru Lacquerware has its own four decoration methods; Kara Nuri, which means “excellent lacquer ware”, has unique patterns like blurring. This pattern is realized by polishing the surface with whetstone or charcoal after drawing checks by colored lacquer. After polished and strange pattern appears, the surface is again lacquered for extra shine.
Nanako Nuri has a lot of small dots. To create these dots, firstly rapeseeds are scattered on the surface before the lacquer dried, and then taking out the rapeseed so that only bumpy dots remain. By covering the surface by colored lacquer and polishing the surface, the bump of dots becomes beautiful patterns.
Monsha Nuri is very rare technique which use charcoal. After the basement was done, the patterns are drawn on the surface by hand in black lacquer. Then charcoal made of chaff is scattered. After polishing, the basic tone become matte black and the patterns remain pure black.
Nishiki Nuri is based on Nanako Nuri, which draw elegant patterns on Nanako nuri. Mainly, arabesque pattern and Saya Gata (fret pattern) are used. Not so many artisans can create this kind nowadays.
As the material, curved piece of cypress covered by clothes is used. The surface is covered by Japanese lacquer more than 40 times, decorated and polished. Skilled artisans succeed the original method generation to generation.
Tsugaru Lacquerware was designated as Traditional Craft by METI (Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry) in 1975.