Hida Shunkei, making the most of the grain of the wood | Traditional Japanese crafts in Gifu

Hida shunkei lacquerware
Source: http://www.tozawa-sikki.jp/

Hida Shunkei in Gifu prefecture

The main characteristic of Hida Shunkei is
that it is rarely decorated. While other lacquerware aims to create a gorgeous
and luxurious effect by coating the wood and using chinkin and maki-e, Hida
Shunkei focuses on showing and enhancing the wood itself. Another traditional
Hida craft, Ittoh Itto-bori, was also created with the aim of utilizing the
texture of the wood rather than relying on coloring.

In an age when synthetic resins and metals
have been favored for their price and durability, the warmth and gentleness of
natural materials are being reevaluated. It is precisely because they get
scratches that we develop a sense of care for things. It is because they are
troublesome that we become attached to them. These traditional crafts truly
embody one of the major currents of our time, the return to organic production.

Hida Shunkei mainly has red and yellow
colored pieces, but the red color is still more popular among women. The light
colors are very nice. The shop also offers a wide variety of items for daily
use such as tea bowls, trays, choko (tea chopsticks), wine glasses, and tea
ceremony utensils such as jujube (jujube), chashaku (tea ladle), and tea boxes.

Hida Shunkei products are handmade by
craftsmen, and no two products are alike, from the shape of the wood grain to
the color of the dye, the way the color changes, and the subtle curvature of
the wood. It is very enjoyable to choose the one and only product that fits
your sense from among many products.

Source: tsugumono

Origin of Hida Shunkei

In 1607, during the reign of Shigeyori
Kanamori, then lord of Takayama Castle, a carpenter named Kizaemon Takahashi
presented a clam-shaped tray made of sawara wood to Shigeyori’s eldest brother,
Shigechika (Sowa), who liked it so much that he had Narita San’emon, a lacquer
painter, paint it. Since then, “Shunkei Nuri,” golden-colored
lacquerware with its natural wood grain, has become a specialty of Hida, a mountainous
country. When Shunkei lacquerware was first produced, it was mainly used for
tea ceremony utensils, but after the Edo period (1603-1867), it was also used
for trays, stacked boxes, and other daily necessities, and became available to
the general public.

During World War II, the industry
temporarily declined, but after the war, it made a comeback as a production
center. During the period of rapid economic growth, demand increased for gifts,
and the recent tourism boom in Takayama has expanded demand for souvenirs. In
1961, a federated cooperative was established, and in 1975, the then Minister
of International Trade and Industry (now the Ministry of Economy, Trade and
Industry) granted the first designation as a traditional handicraft. (Excerpt
from “Traditional Crafts: Hida Shunkei” published by the Hida Shunkei
Union Cooperative Association)

Manufacturing Process

1. Raw wood

Wood used for Hida Shunkei is cypress,
Japanese cypress, and horse chestnut, etc. After 5 to 6 years of natural
drying, the wood is finished by a Kijishi (woodworker). After natural drying in
the field, the wood is transported to a sawmill where it is processed into

2. Natural Drying

The boards are piled up to dry and then
left to dry naturally in a warehouse.

3.Sawing and Cutting

The boards are cut to the shape of the

4. Wood fabrication

Depending on the type of product, the wood
is made by the following specialized craftsmen.

  • Hegimeshi

Hegimeshi make a square shape (stacked
boxes, trays, etc.) by combining the pieces of wood by loomed boards. The
boards are glued together with glue (an adhesive made from animal skin or bones
and heated with water).

  • Kyokumono-shi

The magemono-shi bends boards that have
been softened by steaming to make round vessels (lunch boxes, tea caddies,
inkstone boxes, etc.). The shape is formed using a wooden roller called a
“koro,” and the two ends are joined together, glued with glue, and
then reinforced by binding with yamazakura bark.

  • Hikimono-shi

The hikimono-shi (hikimono-shi) attaches a
piece of wood to a wheel and, while turning it, uses a blade to cut and hollow
it out to make a circular object (round tray, confectionery vessel, saucer,

5. Fixing

The finished wood is handed to the lacquer
After the wood is polished, it is coated
with a fine grit clay, kneaded in water, and wiped with a cloth. This is done
to prevent unevenness in the lacquer application and to allow the colors to
blend together when the lacquer is applied. The “metsubome” (stopper)
is said to be the most important step in the entire process, as it ensures
uniformity of the surface of the wood.

6. Coloring

Color is applied using yellow, red, or
other dyes.

7. Undercoating

To prevent the lacquer from suddenly
seeping into the wood, several coats of “gojiru” (soybean soup) are
applied to create a thin film. The “gojiru” is the squeezed juice of
the soybeans, which is made by straining the soaked soybeans in water through a
mortar and pestle.

8. Finish Polishing

The surface of the wood is polished with

9. Suri Urushi

After rubbing a mixture of raw lacquer and
sesame oil into the wood, the lacquer is wiped off with a cloth to soak into
the wood. The lacquer is then wiped off with a cloth and soaked into the wood.
The lacquer becomes hard and translucent as it is applied over and over again,
and the grain of the wood changes.

10. Top Coating

Transparent lacquer is applied for the top
coat. The top coat is carefully and meticulously applied, as it is sensitive to
dust and dirt. The lacquer for the top coat is made by each lacquer craftsman,
and the process of making the lacquer is considered a secret. Lacquer hardens
and dries at a certain humidity and temperature, so different types of lacquer
are used depending on the humidity and temperature of the day, as well as the

11. Drying

The lacquer is placed in a large
cupboard-like drying room called a “furo,” where it is dried at the
appropriate humidity and temperature.

Source: https://www.fukuju-sikkiten.com/tradition.html


Yamada Shunkei Store

Business hours: 10:00-17:00 (10:00-16:30 in
Closed: Sunday and irregular holidays

Note: Can you ship overseas?

Due to the high number of accidents
involving damage during shipping, they do not currently ship overseas. It is
possible for customers to bring their items overseas themselves, but we
recommend that they pack them adequately.


Hida Shunkei Nuri Honpo Fukuju Lacquerware

Business hours: 8:30-17:00 (Sundays,
Closed: January 1 and August 15


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