Wakasa area is in Obama city, southern Fukui prefecture, a seaside town with a beautiful bay. In addition to plentiful raw materials available in this area, the sea influenced the development of Wakasa Lacquer Ware.
The traditional art was first created by Matsuura Sanjuro, a lacquerer who worked for the domain leader Sakai Tadakatsu when a marchant Kumiya Rokurozaemon presented a beautiful imported lacquered tray to Tadakatsu. Sanjuro, as a skilled artisan, studied the imported tray and created a new style of design inspired by the bottom of the sea of the Wakasa bay. It was around 1600, and was the beginning of Wakasa Lacquer Ware.
The pattern and method Sanjuro created is called Kikujin Nuri. Later, his pupil created Isokusa Nuri inspired by the sea shells and landscape of bottom of the Wakasa bay. Tadakatsu, the domain leader, so impressed by them that he encouraged and supported the production as a main industry of Obama domain. He even treated Wakasa Lacquer Ware as the hidden treasure of Obama domain and banned artisans’ hemorrhage.
Now, a various type of kitchen goods are produced in this area such as tray, stacked boxes, and chopsticks. Chopstick production especially takes 80% share of lacquered chopstick production in Japan. A set of Wakasa Lacquered Chopstick was presented to the president Obama of the United States and other celebrities.
When lacquering, mainly clouded technique is used. The surface is covered by good quality Japanese lacquer with several layers, then adornment such as sea shells, eggshells, gold and silver known as Raden, makie, and Chinkin are put on. Again Japanese lacquer is added some more layers. After the surface is completely dried, artisans shave the surface by stones to make the decoration appeared and polish it by charcoal to make it shine.
As a result is not only beautiful appearance but also resilience against heat and humidity. To achieve a certain unity, Wakasa Lacquer Ware production steps are done by one same artisan.
Wakasa Lacquer Ware was designated as Traditional Craft by METI (Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry) in 1978.