Hidehira-nuri | Exclusive beaty of Japanese Lacquerware


Hidehira -nuri is the representative of Traditional Japanese crafts’ beauty

Hidehira-nuri is a type of lacquerware made in the Hiraizumi area of Iwate Prefecture. The characteristic feature of this type of Japanese traditional craft is that it is decorated with gold leaf and other materials from the Hiraizumi area, and is one of the few types of lacquerware with a vivid pattern. (If you like simpler pattern of decorations, you will love Kawatsura Lacquerware or Odawara Lacquerware.) The most commonly depicted patterns are Uusoku-monyou, a combination of Genji clouds and diamond shapes reminiscent of the Heian period (794-1185). In addition, plants and other natural objects are sometimes depicted. This is a different style from Makie, which is more dynamic, yet still has a delicate and tasteful atmosphere.

Hidehira-nuri has a unique characteristic not only in its design but also in its texture itself, with a finish that makes the most of the original beauty of lacquer by reducing its luster. Therefore, the lacquer itself, rather than an unnatural sheen, appears on the surface, creating a rustic beauty. Lacquerware with such vivid colors but retaining a simple texture can be said to have a unique taste unique to Hidehira-nuri.

Hidehira lacquerware
Source: Oochiya

History of Hidehira-nuri

Hidehira lacquerware is closely associated with Hidehira Fujiwara, a Heian-period warlord who once made his name as the king of Michinoku. People say that Hidehira, who was born around 1122 and died in 1187, called craftsmen from the capital of Kyoto and ordered them to make lacquerware using the abundant lacquer and gold available in the Hiraizumi area.

Today, excavation work has progressed, and the remains of a workshop have been confirmed, although the period is not certain. In any case, it is widely believed that “Hidehira-nuri,” named after Fujiwara no Hidehira, may have some connection with the Fujiwara clan. However, it was not until around the 16th century that the current Hidehira-nuri was established. Unfortunately, the lacquerware of Hidehira’s time has not been reproduced, but the traditional process of making lacquerware by the hands of individual craftsmen is still recognized as historically valuable, and in 1985, it was designated as one of the traditional crafts designated by the national government.

Manufacturing Process of Hidehira-nuri

Hidehira-nuri can be roughly divided into three stages: the “base,” which is the process from cutting the raw wood to grinding it into the shape of a bowl, the “coating,” which is the process of lacquering the base, and the “decoration,” which is the process of drawing the unique cloud patterns on the lacquer and applying gold leaf. The process of making a piece of furniture is made up of three steps. The craftsmen in charge of each process work in tandem to produce this lacquerware. Lacquerware from Iwate Prefecture, which has long been known as a source of lacquer solution, is also coated with locally produced lacquer, although it is now less common.

Lacquer scraping

Materials can be collected from lacquer trees from June to October. Lacquer scrapers run around the mountains from sunrise to sunset, scratching the trees and collecting the lacquer solution that oozes out. During the season, lacquer is collected from a single tree every four days, totaling about 150 grams, or enough to make about 20 bowls.

Tamakiri and mold making

After three years of slow drying, beech and horse chestnut logs are cut into rings and shaved. If the wood is suddenly cut to size, it may crack or deform, so at first it is cut larger than the shape of the bowl, and then it is gradually shaved as it dries. The wood is then dried over a period of time, and the moisture content is adjusted to about 20%, and the wood is then smoke-dried.

Wooden ground

A guide is attached to the wheel and shaved into the shape of a bowl. At this time, the wood must be made slowly over time, as rapid drying will tend to cause distortion.

Hardening the Wooden Ground

Lacquer is applied to the wood as if brushing it on. If the wood absorbs moisture, the wood will become distorted during the subsequent coating process and use.

Nunoage, base coating

To reinforce thin areas of the wood, a cloth soaked in lacquer paste, which is a mixture of lacquer and rice flour, is wrapped around the thin areas of the wood. Then a special powder called jinoko, mixed with lacquer paste, is applied to the entire wood to strengthen it (jiinuri), and on top of that, grit powder kneaded with raw lacquer is applied to the wood (sakitsuke). All of these processes are used to create a strong base.


Lacquer is applied in three stages: base coat, middle coat, and top coat. After each coat, the lacquer is dried in a chamber called a lacquer bath. Before each coating, the surface of the dried lacquer is polished with a whetstone to remove large irregularities on the surface and make it rough so that the next coat of lacquer can be applied easily. The top coat is the most delicate part of the lacquering process.


After the bowls have been coated, patterns written on Japanese paper are transferred to the bowls, and cloud patterns, spring and summer flowers, fruits, and other patterns are painted on the bowls to match the patterns. These patterns are called “Hidehira patterns” and are unique to Hidehira-nuri. This is how Hidehira-nuri is completed. 

Source: Tohoku Bureau of Economy,Trade and Industry



Hidehira-nuri is both gorgeous and simple, very fashionable and elegant. The Oshu Fujiwara clan flourished for 100 years in Hiraizumi, Mutsu Province, at the end of the Heian Period. At the height of their prosperity, the third Fujiwara Fujiwara, Hidehira, invited craftsmen from Kyoto to create vessels using an abundance of lacquer and gold, both specialties of Iwate Prefecture. The prosperity of the Fujiwara clan was demonstrated by the grandeur of their tableware, which will surely enrich your dining experience. When you invite your friends and loved ones over for a meal, it will surely be the best hospitality.


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