Ouchi lacquer is beautiful with its red color


Ouchi lacquer is also popular doll traditional Japanese crafts.

Ouchi lacquer , also called Ouchi-nuri, refers to lacquerware made in Yamaguchi City, Yamaguchi Prefecture, and was named after the Ouchi clan, a feudal lord, in the Muromachi period, when it began to be made under the patronage of the Ouchi clan. It was designated as a national traditional craft by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry in 1989. It features an austere, dark vermilion ground coating and a sturdy finish with a base coat, middle coat, and top coat of lacquer.

Ouchi lacquer is represented by Ouchi dolls such as Ohina-sama. Numerous colors are used to represent the kimono, but only one color can be worked on each day because the lacquer cannot be applied over and over until it dries. Therefore, some dolls take several years to complete, from the base to the painting.

Gold leaf in the shape of the Ouchi water chestnut, the family crest of the Ouchi family, is applied to the lacquer, which is then sprinkled with gold or silver powder (maki-e). Bowls and trays are decorated with autumn grass patterns such as hagi (Japanese hollyhock) and awn (silver grass) using colored lacquer in subdued tones such as white, green, gold, and black.

In fact, the Ouchi clan had a strong longing for Kyoto. He was quite a fan of Kyoto, creating a town modeled after Kyoto and accepting Sesshu, an ink painting artist, and Francis Savier, a Christian, from Kyoto. He even married his wife from Kyoto and welcomed her with an Ouchi doll modeled after a Kyoto doll. As a result, Ouchi-nuri also strongly reflects Kyoto culture.

Ouchji lacquerware

History of Ouchi lacquer

Ouchi-nuri was born in the Muromachi period (1336-1573) as a symbol of the gorgeous Ouchi culture, and was treated as an important trading item of the Ouchi clan in Korea and the China. The main representative items are bowls, trays, and flower vases, etc. The characteristic features of Ouchi-nuri are the vermilion color called “Ouchi-shu”, the “Ouchibishi” decorated with gold leaf in the shape of the Ouchi family crest, and the autumnal grass pattern.

The Ouchi dolls, with their round faces and long slits in the eyes, are very popular as souvenirs because they are a symbol of marital bliss and bring peace of mind to the hearts of those who see them.

Manufacturing Method

1. Wooden foundation

Wood is cut down and allowed to dry slowly and naturally over several years, and well-dried wood is selected that is suitable for the piece. Chinai, zelkova, and tochi are used for products such as bowls, round trays, and dolls, while hinoki, kiri, and hoo are used for Sashimono such as stacked boxes and inkstone boxes, which are made by combining parts.

2. Groundwork

The finished wood is checked for scratches and imperfections in the gluing. The surface must be smooth in order to apply lacquer evenly. If there are any scratches, kokso lacquer (a mixture of raw lacquer, saw dust, and rice glue) is applied to smooth the surface. The bottom and edges of the bowl, which are prone to cracking and chipping, are reinforced by attaching Japanese paper or cloth with adhesive lacquer, and the unevenness of the wood is smoothed out. The dried base lacquer is then polished with waterproof sandpaper or a whetstone. Mizutogi” means to polish the lacquer by wetting it.

3. Base Coating

A base coat of lacquer is applied to the polished base and allowed to dry. The dried base coat is then polished with charcoal (special charcoal for polishing lacquer) and water-resistant sandpaper.

4. Middle Coating

The middle coat of lacquer is applied to the polished base coat, allowed to dry, and then the middle coat is polished with charcoal or water-resistant sandpaper.

decoration of Ouchi nuri
Nakamura Mingei Corp.

5. Top Coat

The top coat of lacquer is applied to the polished middle coat. To remove dust and dirt, the lacquer for the top coat is rubbed several times with special Japanese paper, and then carefully and meticulously applied in a dust-free “Kami-nuri chamber”.

The lacquer is then placed in the “chamber” and allowed to dry slowly over a period of 12 to 24 hours while the humidity and temperature are controlled. The lacquer absorbs oxygen and moisture, causing chemical changes that transform it from a liquid to a solid.

6. Decoration

Necessary decorations are applied. Typical decorations include urushie, in which patterns are drawn with colored lacquer, hakue, in which patterns are drawn by applying gold or silver foil with lacquer, and makie, in which gold or silver powder is sprinkled on top of patterns drawn with lacquer to create a finished design. Since most of the work is done by hand, it takes about one to two months to complete a single piece.

Ouchi doll
Kikorin’s Forest

Key point

The current Ouchi lacquer was revived in the Meiji era (1868-1912), and was designated as a traditional craft in 1989. It is characterized by the fact that it is lacquered in vermilion and depicts Ouchi water chestnuts in gold leaf in a cloud shape with autumn flowers and grasses. Although Ouchi-nuri couple dolls are popular as decorations, there are other types of Ouchi-nuri products, including trays. Recently, a new type of traditional craft called Yamaguchi Toushikki, which combines Ouchi-nuri techniques with Hagiyaki pottery from Yamaguchi Prefecture, has also been created.



 1        2 

Let's share this post !