A Maritime Trading Hub
Wajima Lacquers have been made since the sixteenth century in the small town of Wajima, on the Noto Peninsula in Ishikawa Prefecture. The oldest surviving example of Wajima ware is a pair of red lacquered doors on the main shrine of Jūzō Gongen Shrine, said to date from 1524.
The port of Wajima, formerly known as “Oya no Minato” (Parents’ Harbor), long thrived as a base for sea transportation. From ancient times, there was interchange with China and the Korean Peninsula; through these, lacquer techniques that originated in China were introduced to the region. The Wajima area has abundant forests with trees essential to producing lacquer ware, including the lacquer tree (Rhus vernicifera), zelkova, and asunaro (Noto hiba). It also has a climate suitable for hardening urushi, a natural form of lacquer.Some 120 separate processes are involved in the making of Wajima Nuri (lacquer), all done by hand. They are divided into ten different categories, each of which is undertaken by a different set of specialists. The urushiya (lacquerer) plays the role of producer, overseeing the entire production and handling orders, sales, and delivery of the finished product.
Techniques involved in each process are passed from generation to generation. Rigorous specialization raises the level of expertise and ensures preservation of techniques. Specialists are uncompromising in their pursuit of excellence every step of the way. They take pride in their work and lavish pains on it so they can hand over the piece to the next worker with full confidence. Only items created through this painstaking, hands-on process are deserving of the label Wajimanuri.