Traditional Culture of Japan - Portal site of traditional crafts and culture

Lacquerware decorations by hyōmon and heidatsu


Sometimes a decoration is added to lacquerware by using a metal plate. With this technique, a decoration will be as beautiful as “makie”, which uses powdered gold or silver, and “raden”, which uses rainbow-colored shells.


Similar to makie, this technique uses gold and silver. This decorating technique of lacquerware with the use of a metal plate is called “hyōmon” or “heidatsu”. Today, hyōmon and heidatsu are used interchangeably.


The hyōmon and heidatsu techniques
With the hyōmon or heidatsu technique, first a metal plate is cut into a desired pattern. This plate is then adhered to the lacquerware, and lacquer is applied on top. When polished, a luster of the adhered metal plate and lacquer will appear.


It is said that these techniques were transferred from China to Japan during the Nara Period (From 710 to 794). Since then, the technique has improved and become popular.


Because a metal plate is adhered to lacquerware, the thickness of the metal protrudes at first. When lacquer is coated over this multiple times, the bump will gradually smooth down and become more flat. After polishing, the metal plate and lacquer will be flat and at the same level.


There are some lacquerware that are left with the metal bump on purpose. These are just differences in style depending on the creators. In other words, according to how you apply lacquer, you can create differences such as a flat section, bumpy section, as well as a recessed section.


The difference in meaning between hyōmon and heidatsu was discussed at length. But, it is considered that there is actually no difference between the two.


In many cases, a variety of techniques are combined in one piece of work. Checking to see which techniques are used can be one of the pleasures of lacquerware.

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