The beauty, the culture and the fine production technique of crafts that the region and the artisans have created over the last 800 years
The great patron of Kawatsura Sikki ware, the Onoderas family was conquered by the Mogamis in Keicho 5 (1600).
After Akita’s new domain lord Yoshinobu Satake assumed leadership, the merchants in the region got support from the lord and began to foster the industry of Kawatsura Sikki ware.
During the Manji years (1658～1661), Shiroemon Sato was a patron of Kawatsura Sikki ware.
In the Bunka/Bunsei period (1804～1830) a wealth merchant named Rihei Takahashi obtained authorization from the domain to import some specific materials from Kyoto and expanded the channels for sales of Kawatsura Sikki ware to the other areas. Under the policies to increase production by the domain, various household goods were produced from Kawatsura Sikki ware such as bowls, individual small dining tables, and tiered food boxes.
Monbei Sakurada was brought from the Aizu region during the Tempo years (1830～1844) as a master woodworking joiner, and the processing techniques of plates were improved tremendously.
Then, from the Aizu region in the Kaei 2 (1849), Tosai Tsunoda taught them the skill of gold-relief, then decoration techniques were also established.
By the Meiji period (1862～1912), Kawatsura-town was a solidified foundation for one of the lacquer ware production areas. Therefore, they invited instructors from the capital to improve their techniques and designs. Moreover, getting this good advice led to expansion of sales.
Kawatsura Sikki wares were shown at the Japan-British exhibition in Meiji 43 (1910), since then, it made inroads in export to overseas market. The introduction of the Suzuki Lathe for woodwork in the Taisho period (1912～1926) meant that the wood spindle techniques and productivity were very high.
However, it is getting more and more difficult to obtain the broadleaf wood necessary for the production of Kawatsura Sikki.
What is produced by shaving wood with a turning lathe is called hikimono. In the first stage called kidori, wood is cut into appropriately sized blocks. In the second stage called arabiki, a block of wood is roughly shaven with a turning lathe. In the final stage called shiagebiki, the wood, once thoroughly dry, is given the finishing touches.
Because trees are alive even after they are cut, if the wood does not dry properly, it will warp. Also if the wood is cut without considering the grain, the quality of products can be poor; that is, the products can be fragile. Consequently, understanding the precise traits of wood is very important.
The coat of Kawatsura Sikki has been done through several processes. First, delicately shaved wood is coated with kakishibu and namaurushi, and then it is polished. The wood is coated and polished over and over. The reiteration of coating and polishing is a stage called jinuri (primary coating), which makes Kawatsura Sikki durable.
After jinuri, through some coating processes such as nakanuri (secondary coating) and honnuri (finishing coating), the wood has been sophisticatedly coated. Honnuri is finished with the last step called hananuri (also called nuritate); the wood is lacquered evenly without lines as a result of painting with a brush, which requires a great deal of technical skill and experience.
“Maki” in makie means “sowing” in Japanese. Makie painters first make a preliminary sketch of patterns; trace the patterns with hiragakiurushi; “sow” gold or silver powder, and finally dress lacquer ware with a fibre of a leaf. The gold or silver powder “sown” onto the lacquer ware eventually becomes art, from which the name of makie derived.
Illustration (8) Hatake working with four people
Two people on the observers’
Right) These two are removing rough edges from the bowls with planes.
The third man from the right) This man is adjusting the height of the bowls, which is known as Fuchikiri.
Left) This work is called Kurokuri or Kokusome. He is repairing the chipped bowls with a mixing lacquer, parings, and rice.