Traditional Succession and Revolution in the World
Words by Megumi Rokuhara
Kagawa-Shikki, a Japanese wood lacquer ware from the Edo era
Although Kagawa is the smallest prefecture in Japan,
people in the region are certain that they have rich traditional arts of the highest craftsmanship.
“Shikki”, a Japanese lacquer ware, has acquired huge reputation amongst many kinds of local craftworks.
This lacquer ware has become common with both aristocracies and ordinary people and is known as “Kagawa-Shikki”.
In the first half of the Edo era (about 1630~40s), it flourished under the patronage of Yorishige Matsudaira, a feudal lord of Kagawa.
The technique of painting Shikki, called “Urushi Nuri”, is now applied to a wide range of products other than products for conventional use.
The studio “Nakata-Shikki” was established by a passionate craftsman in Kagawa, who passed along his skills to his family over generations.
Even until today his grandson still inherits the skills and the tradition of the family.
The family has also strived to create unconventional, modern, and rich Urushi products.
“I hope that people feel familiar with Urushi.”
Nakata-Shikki is often used to hold activities in an attempt to introduce the fascination of the Urushi world, which seems a little separated from the daily lives of people.
Urushi is a kind of resin that is harvested from the Urushi tree.
People may misunderstand Urushi as a harmful lacquer because some get a rash when they touch it in liquid condition.
However, you never have to be worried about getting rash from a finished Urushi product.
On the contrary, Shikki has been used to stock foods in Japan because Urushi is naturally antibacterial.
Nowadays, we usually store foods in the fridge, but Shikki is suitable as a Tupperware (lunch box) and for special occasions of celebration.
Modern, creative ideas with traditional techniques
While maintaining traditional methods, Shikki craftsmen are eager to develop another innovative, easy-to-use Shikki based on modern lifestyles.
They are also willing to make products for people overseas.
“When I gave a pair of Urushi-chopsticks as a gift to a foreign, she started to use them as hair accessories because, she said, they had cute designs.
I liked the idea a lot.”
He continues, “I realized there could be many ways to use Shikki.
Not just one specific, conventional way.
I’d like my customers to use our Urushi products in the ways that suit them.”
His facial expression looked animated when he was talking about his customers and his works.