Technique: Wajima-nuri

Wajima, located in the Ishikawa prefecture, has traditionally been called oya-no-minato, which can be literally translated as parent port. Its seaport was key in trading with China and the Korean Peninsula, as a result it is widely believed that Wajima was entry point of traditional arts from China to Japan. Its climate is also optimal in drying lacquer, and Wajima is the home to abundant forests of cypress trees, which are key in lacquer production. The lacquer art creation process in Wajima has been polished with each generation, reaching a truly unique process, pursuing an utmost level of craftsmanship. There are more than 140 steps in the creation of what is now known as Wajima-nuri (Wajima lacquer art), all sustained by many tools, craftsmen and workshops.

With the Japan Artisan Foundation, we have set foot on the Noto peninsula in Wajima to discover the unique appeal of wajima-nuri.

The beauty and preciseness of the wajima-nuri process truly overwhelmed us and allowed us to discover an artistic aspect not only in the final products, but also in the output resulting from each step.

However, the division of labour for each step also carries an amount of risks. The number of craftsmen and raw materials is gradually decreasing (a decrease that has been further accelerated with the COVID-19 pandemic), putting wajima-nuri on the brink of extinction. We decided that Wajima would be the first area where our organization would take action.



Originally, craft techniques have been applied to various manufacturing processes, cross-fertilized, and passed on while changing their forms from the time they were invented. The Wajima-nuri technique also has such a background. We contacted artist and art director YOSHIROTTEN to see if we could learn from this history and create something new by cross-breeding the craft with the sensibilities of today's artists.


The Yoin speaker units were produced through a joint collaboration with EASTERN SOUND FACTORY (ESF). "Jinoko" used in Wajima base lacquer was blended with lacquer and then applied. This resulted in a chic, subdued appearance and improved sound quality.


This project produced lacquer art works under the supervision of artist Charles Munka, who lives on Sado Island. After strolling around the town of Wajima and engaging in dialogue with many local craftspeople involved in Wajima lacquerware, Munka derived a lot of inspiration from Jidaiwan Taikan (1st Edition) (compiled by Gonroku Matsuda et al), which he discovered quite by chance, and thus he started the project.


As the first step towards a series of projects about combining traditional crafts with cutting-edge technology, we created a glowing lacquered vessel called Yo-kou. The name is inspired by the idea of moonlight in the night sky shining in a cup of sake. Wajima Kirimoto, a lacquerware studio in Wajima-shi, partnered with NIPPON SHOKUBAI, a chemical manufacturing company headquartered in Osaka, to achieve that.