NIHONMONODiscovering Japan [Nihon] through authentic craftsmanship [Honmono]

”Sotetsu Nakamura, Lacquerer” 400 year-old Tradition of Lacquer Coating

”Sotetsu Nakamura, Lacquerer”
400 year-old Tradition of Lacquer Coating

Lacquer a Part of the World of Tea Ceremonies

”Nakamura Sotetsu” is of the lacquerer lineage, one of the ”Senke 10 shoku”, the 10 designated families the Senke school had selected. . ”Lacquer is coated and stroked on very gently. Just like handling a baby. It can therefore be said that it calls for a womanly sensitive touch.” The coating process consists of more than 10 procedures. First the first layer of lacquer is coated on a very thin wooden bow called the ”kiji”. The foundational lacquer needs to be in multiple layers and, and after its ground and polished into shape, the outer coat is applied for finishing. Over this, makie or colored lacquer is added. Various types of lacquer is coated over each other to prevent deformation to last a century’s time.

A Calm Quiet Workshop

When we visited their workshop, craftsmen were working on the foundational layers of lacquer, all requiring delicate skills. It was very quiet and calm, and Sotetsu Nakamura reminisced on how she always used to play while she looked on her grandfather the 11th generation, working. I asked her a simple question, ”I’m familiar with red or vermillion lacquer, but does green lacquer exist?” ”Oh yes. It is called ”seishitsu” and the Kanji for this is literally ”blue lacquer”. It has existed from a long time ago. Colors are created by adding pigments to the lacquer so it allows you to create different hues of color. Blue and white are rather new colors.” Finally we observed the tools that are normally used, such as the brushes and pigments, which made us stop and wonder if joy, sadness, dignity, all emotions have also been passed down the generations through these tools.


Sotetsu Nakamura