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The characteristics and history of negoro-nuri style and Kishū lacquerware


Lacquer was so valuable that it used to be collected as tax in Japan. Because of this, lacquerware made by using lacquer began to evolve throughout Japan.


Among these, the “negoro-nuri” style lacquerware, which was created around the Middle Ages, is known as a high-value work of art.


What is negoro-nuri?
Lacquerware originated from Negoro Temple in Wakayama Prefecture is called negoro-nuri. The monks who lived in this temple during the Kamakura Period (From 1185 to 1333) made lacquerware as an item to be used at their temple, and this was the beginning of the negoro-nuri style lacquerware.


Negoro-nuri style lacquerware is created with black and vermillion lacquer. After the shitaji undercoats, black lacquer is coated multiple times and then the vermillion lacquer is applied only once.


A vermillion color was very valuable back then. Even powerful people used to refrain from using vermillion lacquer, so vermillion lacquerware of the negoro-nuri style was quite rare. Thus, lacquerware made in Negoro Temple became to be respected.


This type of lacquerware will become worm over time with use. Then, the vermillion coating will be rubbed off and the black lacquer underneath will appear.


The characteristics and history of negoro-nuri style and Kishu lacquerware
*Black lacquer starting to show up with the wear


Negoro-nuri style lacquerware will alter in its appearance with use. This lacquerware with black lacquer slightly coming out gained popularity among the people of that time because it was considered to have its own beauty. The “beauty of usage”, which appears over time, received recognition back then.


As the negoro-nuri style lacquerware with black lacquer coming through was distributed to the public, and many people started to assume that “lacquerware with rubbed-off vermillion lacquer was negoro-nuri”. However, the original negoro-nuri is the lacquerware with a vermillion coating on top. Thus, we need to recognize that negoro-nuri is not something where the black lacquer is intentionally shown.


However, as mentioned above, today, people misinterpret the lacquerware, after it was rubbed off, as being negoro-nuri. The lacquerware with a peek of the black lacquer by polishing the vermillion lacquer is produced and available today.


Also, the negoro-nuri style that uses black lacquer without vermillion lacquer is called “kuro negoro”. Either it is a vermillion or black color. Negoro-nuri is generally not adorned with designs.


Learning Kishū lacquerware
Traditional lacquerware crafts that have been handed down in Wakayama Prefecture are called “Kishū lacquerware”. Negoro-nuri, which is also created in Wakayama Prefecture, is one type of Kishū lacquerware.


Negoro Temple, which had strong power during that time, was feuding against Hideyoshi Toyotomi, who brought the entire Japan under his rule. Because of this, the temple was marked by Hideyoshi and devastated for a while due to his attack.


It is said that the monks of the temple spread throughout Japan and passed down the techniques of lacquerware in their new locations. According to a theory, the lacquerware that was created by these monks in Kainan City of Wakayama Prefecture and evolved while protected by Kishū Domain is Kishū lacquerware.


After World War II, Kishū lacquerware achieved success by taking a particular note of synthetic resin or plastic-made materials from early on and breaking away from traditional lacquer.


However, this direction led to a decline in people who carry on traditional techniques. Furthermore, when cheap lacquerware made in Asia started to come into Japan, the production regions started to decline. Today, traditional techniques are incorporated into Kishū lacquerware and it has been considered a hallmark of traditional crafts of Wakayama Prefecture.


Kishū lacquerware is an everyday item for the general public. The main feature of Kishū lacquerware is that it has a certain level of quality while simplifying the processes of lacquerware making without clinging to high-quality materials.

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