Japanese lacquerware or "shikki" refers to crafts made from a wood base painted with the sap of the lacquer tree. The lacquer acts as both a coloring and an adhesive, and multiple coats increase the durability of the item. Lacquer is resistant to the effects of heat, acids, alkalines, and alcohols, making lacquerware items sturdy and long lasting.
History of lacquerware
The history of lacquerware in Japan goes back to the Jomon period (14,000-300 BC), and several lacquerware artifacts have been found in Jomon excavation sites. As ages passed, many new techniques were developed, and lacquer was used to make Buddhist items, temple fittings, ornaments, armor, and tea utenstils. Lacquerware decorated with maki-e (sprinkled gold powder patterns) and raden (mother-of-pearl inlays) was particularly popular in Europe, and from the 15th century, the export of Western-style furniture crafted with Japanese lacquer techniques flourished. From the Edo period (1603-1868) onwards, everyday objects and accessories made with lacquer began to be made.
Today, lacquerware is an indispensable part of Japanese life, being used daily as chopsticks, bowls, saucers for tea cups, trays, and much more. The medals for the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics were also decorated with lacquer, a testament to how lacquerware has become symbolic of Japanese culture.
Lacquerware designated as Traditional Crafts of Japan