Aizu-nuri | Magnificent Lacquer featuring gorgeous paintings


Aizu-nuri, Gorgeous, beautiful Japanese traditional craft

Introducing the traditional crafts of each prefecture in Japan, this time Fukushima Prefecture. When you hear the word “Fukushima” from overseas, you may inevitably get a negative image of tsunami, but it is essentially a wonderful region with a good balance of nature and cities. It is relatively close to Tokyo, and with famous warlords in the past, it is no exaggeration to say that this prefecture has the most developed industry and commerce in the Tohoku region. Let’s take a look at traditional crafts, Aizu-nuri

As the name suggests, Aizu lacquerware is a lacquer craft originating from the Aizu region of Fukushima Prefecture. Aizu lacquerware has developed over many years as a unique culture, and continues to attract many people today with its diverse techniques and beautiful patterns.

How is Aizu lacquerware made and what are the characteristics of Aizu lacquerware compared to lacquerware made in other regions? Here, we would like to explain the charm of Aizu lacquerware while also discussing its history.

Source: Daiichiinsatsu Co.,Ltd.


The origin of Aizu-nuri

Aizu-nuri (lacquer) is made in the Aizu region of Fukushima Prefecture. In the manufacturing process, it is classified into two categories: round items such as bowls, and plate items such as trays and bunkos. The pattern combining pine, bamboo, plum, and arrowheads is called “Aizu-e.

Aizu lacquerware is characterized by its auspicious designs and the beauty of its various decorations. You can see this type of beauty in Hidehira-nuri. In addition, the grooves are carved more finely and shallowly than on lacquerware from other regions, giving the decorations a softer look.

The Turning Point for Ainu-nuri

In the Edo period, black, vermilion, and blue light (green) colors were mostly used, but in modern times, reddish-brown urushi and orange-red araishu were also used, and the color schemes devised from a limited number of colors are also a highlight.

The top coat is applied with techniques such as “tetsubi-nuri” (rusty iron lacquer), which has an austere cast metal look, and “kinmushiki-nuri” (gold lacquer with rice husks), which creates patterns with rice husks. Other techniques include “Kijiro-nuri,” which brings out the beauty of the wood grain, and “Hana-nuri,” which adds oil to bring out the luster, each requiring a high level of skill.

Keshifunmakie” is a representative technique of Aizu lacquerware. It is done by sprinkling the finest gold powder on the surface of the lacquer with a cotton ball, after drawing with a brush that has been dipped in plenty of lacquer and watching it dry.

Note: The most famous lacquerware in Japan is → Wajima-Nuri

Aizu nuri manufacturing
Source: Fukunishi Sobei Shoten Co.

Aizu-nuri manufacturing methods

The history of Aizu lacquerware as an industry dates back to 1590, when Ujisato Gamo entered Aizu. Ujisato invited a woodworker and a lacquer craftsman from Hino, Omi, to teach them the latest techniques, which led to the great development of Aizu-nuri. As a result, Aizu Lacquerware became a major production center that handled the entire process from the cultivation of lacquer wood to decoration, thanks to its proximity to Edo (Tokyo). During the Edo period, successive feudal lords protected and encouraged Kaitsu-nuri, and technical innovations were made, so that by the end of the Edo period, Kaitsu-nuri was exported to foreign countries.

The Boshin War at the end of the Edo period (1603-1867) devastated the region, but the subsequent reconstruction restored it as one of Japan’s leading lacquerware production centers in the mid-Meiji period (1868-1912).

Manufacturing processes

1. Rough grinding

Aizu lacquerware is divided into round items such as bowls and trays and plate items such as stacked boxes. The materials used for round items are tochi and zelkova, while the wood for ita-mono is boron and zelkova. After being roughly cut and shaved, the wood is allowed to dry naturally for several years to prevent warping.

2. Making the Wooden Substrate

Craftsmen who make round objects by rokuro-hiki are called kijiji-shi (wood craftsmen). The craftsman hand-scrapes the dried rough molds. Suzuki style rokuro, which is a type of rokuro that uses a pick-pocketing wheel, can be used to efficiently finish a large number of wooden pieces.

On the other hand, craftsmen who make wooden boards are called soawashi, and soawashi in Aizu have a very long tradition as a production center. In the process of shaving wood for planks, they use several different types of planes to shape the wood. Skilled techniques are required to create a solid wood base.

3. Groundwork

Rust preparation is done under the base of the wood base. Rusty lacquer, a mixture of raw lacquer and polishing powder, is applied to make the surface flat and smooth, and then polished to eliminate unevenness and improve the adhesion of the lacquer. This process is repeated several times.

4. Nuri (lacquering)

In the lacquering process, a base coat, a middle coat, and a top coat are applied. In the primer and middle coats, after the lacquer is applied, it is polished and a final check is made to ensure that there are no scratches. The top coat is then carefully applied to prevent dust and unevenness of the lacquer.

The top coat is usually done in hana-nuri (flower lacquering), in which the lacquer is finished as it is applied. This process leaves the skin of the lacquer as it is, resulting in a soft and warm finish. To dry evenly, the lacquer is sometimes turned upside down and dried in a drying bath.

5. Maki-e

Maki-e is a method of applying the adhesive properties of lacquer. Gold, silver, or colored powders are sprinkled on top of a picture drawn in lacquer. Pigments such as vermilion, green and blue are used for colored powders.


The more you use it, the more you get used to it, the more you get used to it. It is a beauty of auspicious designs and a variety of decorations. In addition, the grooves are carved more finely and shallowly than on lacquerware from other regions, giving the decorations a softer look.

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