Skills galore, lacquerware found nowhere else ”Ryozo Kawakita, Living National Treasure of Wooden Art”

"Ryozo Kawakita, a living national treasure of woodworking."

Skills of the master enhances the charm of wood

Nakata had always wanted to visit ”Kawakita Kobo” ever since he saw some of their work. Kawakita greeted us with his son, Hirohiko Kawakita. The Kawakita workshop is a turnery that produces round bowls and round trays. Ryozo Kawakita is designated a Living National Treasure, inheriting the traditional techniques from prior generations. He specializes in creating works which bring out the appeal of wood. His technique is demonstrated in his ability to draw eight lines within a width of 1 mm. For decorations, he skillfully draws lines using techniques unique to ”Yamanaka nuri”, also adding inlay casting, tortoise shells, and coral to add brilliance, all new ideas to ”Yamanaka nuri”.

Lacquerware to brighten everyday life

What drew our attention was a lacquer tray with large flowers drawn using casting inlay. Nakata commented as he observed the tray with great interest. ”When you think of lacquer ware, bowls come to mind, but ever since I saw your pieces, I’ve come to appreciate the beauty of lacquer trays.” Ryozo Kawakita told us ”We make items that are not to be displayed, but rather to be used. The main goal is for them to be used in everyday life for a certain purpose. For this particular tray, I made it while thinking about how it could be used to place dolls or a buddha statue.”

Experiencing bowl making

Nakata challenged creating a wooden bowl with the help of Hirohiko-san. He began by shaping the wood, using a blade attached to the turner. The blade is held with the right armpit, and the tip is placed against the wood, and the wood is shaved by the turning blade. The direction is adjusted by shifting the body. ”You have to actually experience it to understand” Nakata commented as he struggled in the beginning. After awhile, he was able to maneuver the tools, and makes good progress. ”First, you need to get used to this shaving process by practicing everyday,” Hirohiko-san told us. His advice reflects how persistent effort accumulates day by day.


Wooden art, Living Treasure, Ryozo Kawakita