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Encounter with Urushi

I was born into the home of an ordinary business person.

My grandfather was a farmer, and my father worked for NTT.

I am often asked “Has your family been Makieshi (gold lacquer experts) for generations?”, but my upbringing had no relationship whatsoever with urushi or art.

My first encounter with urushi was at high school.

I had just entered Kibikogen Gakuen High School, a full-board high school in Okayama Prefecture.

The high school had normal classes, but the courses were divided in a distinctive way, and the framework was such that we were able to choose the fields that we were most interested in

I chose the “Arts & crafts course”.

There were other courses that looked quite interesting, such as ”ceramics” and “architecture”, but I selected the “Arts & crafts course”.

I do not actually remember why I chose the “Arts & crafts course”.

Whereas the ceramics course was very popular, the “Arts & crafts course” had a total of three people, including myself and two girls of the same age.

What I still remember to this day are the vibrant Makie, with colored urushi powder on a black urushi background and the mother of pearl blue light decorated in the course room. There were also many volumes of picture books related to urushi in the library.

I remember my impression of it being pure, simple, and beautiful.

In this way, as a first year high school student my interest drifted towards urushi, and in the second year I chose the “Arts & crafts course” that focused on urushi.

That was where I met my first real teacher in life.

I will save the story of that teacher for another time.

Cultivation and Collection of Urushi

“Do you know how urushi is collected?”

For those who don’t know much about urushi I will start explaining what it is.

Urushi is sap that is harvested from urushi (or lacquer) trees. 

The works of art that are made using this sap are called lacquer ware.

The collecting method of the sap is called lacquer scraping and as its name suggests it is done by scraping the trees. 

Due to the fact that it’s a traditional technique, specialized tools and dexterity will be required.


You scrape the urushi tree trunk like the picture above.