Being one of Japan’s oldest traditional crafts, the exquisite, shimmering beauty of Japanese lacquerware is born from masterful traditional techniques passed down since ancient times. In this article, we’ll discuss the appeal of Japanese lacquerware while also recommending carefully selected products like containers, chopsticks, and cups that best represent the craft. We’ll also be scoring them based on price, quality, and additional factors, allowing you to find a product to fall in love with!
What Is Lacquerware?
As the name suggests, “lacquerware” is made from lacquer (“urushi” in Japanese), which comes from the sap of tall deciduous trees in Japan, China, and Southeast Asia. Only 150-200 g of sap can be taken from a single tree each season, making lacquer extremely valuable. When a wooden or paper object is coated with multiple layers of lacquer, it becomes sturdy and durable. We call these finished products “lacquerware.”
The more lacquerware is used, the more lustrous it becomes while also changing color, gradually growing into a true one-of-a-kind masterpiece. After finding one you like, you’ll be able to enjoy watching it evolve over the years!
1. THERMO MUG URUSHI MOBILE TUMBLER TREASURE EXHAUSTION (RED) | TAKUMIICHI | ECHIZEN LACQUERWARE
This thermo mug mixes cutting-edge thermoregulation technology with Echizen lacquerware, a traditional Japanese craft with a 1,500-year history. Each step in the production of Echizen lacquerware, from the construction of the base to the lacquering and decoration, is handled individually by a specialized craftsperson, resulting in the most beautiful, high-quality product imaginable. Coming in red and black and featuring many different designs, you’re bound to find one that suits you.
The mug also boasts a screw-type lid with exceptional sealability, making it suitable to use in the office, home, or virtually any other setting. More importantly, it gives you an excuse to feel and enjoy the charm of Japanese lacquerware every day, physically connecting you to Japanese culture through one of the country’s oldest crafts. Being reusable, it’s also eco-friendly!
Related Product: ▶ THERMO MUG URUSHI MOBILE TUMBLER TREASURE EXHAUSTION (BLACK)
2. URUSHI BUSINESS CARD HOLDER VYAC CARD CASE CHECKERBOARD | TAKUMIICHI | ECHIZEN LACQUERWARE
This business card holder is another example of Echizen lacquerware. These days, lacquerware is not just limited to tableware like plates, chopsticks, or cups. It’s used to make everything from business card holders like this to smartphone cases and more, allowing people to experience refined beauty on a daily basis.
With a glistening amber brown coloring and superb durability, this exquisite business card holder will be an instant conversation starter with colleagues and clients. Being able to hold standard 55 x 91 mm Japanese business cards, it will also naturally hold 51 x 89 mm North American and 55 x 85 mm European cards, making it a fairly universal fit. However, there are all sorts of regional card sizes available, so please make sure that it’s the right size before purchasing.
3. 6 COLOR DISHES (21CM, 24CM) | 87.5 | KAGAWA LACQUERWARE
These lovely modern dishes are made using traditional Kagawa lacquerware techniques, a celebrated craft originating in the Edo Period (1603-1867). Coming in a wide range of colors, you can mix and match and choose a set that suits you. With different sizes available (21 cm and 25 cm), they can also be used to serve a variety of different cuisines.
Starting as natural wood, the plates are coated with lacquer using techniques passed down through the centuries to make them highly water resistant, insulated, and antibacterial. The more you use them, the more vibrant and pleasant to the touch they become. While unable to be used in the microwave, dishwasher, or oven, with enough care you’ll be able to enjoy their natural evolution for years to come.
These dishes can also be purchased in a set of six different colors, which will be sure to brighten up your dinner table!
4. TWO COLORS OF BOWL TOP COATING (INNER BLACK, INNER VERMILION) | 87.5 | KAGAWA LACQUERWARE
These bowls are another example of Kagawa lacquerware. They are decorated with circular red, yellow, and black patterns using a painting technique called “komanuri,” the same used to decorate Japan’s “koma” spinning top toys. The roundness of these patterns is a big part of their charm.
The bowls are highly durable and insulated, so they won’t burn you even when holding piping hot soup.
5. DRY LACQUER KOTOBUKI CHERRY BLOSSOM CHOPSTICKS (2 PAIRS) | HASHIMOTO KOUSAKU SHIKKI | WAJIMA LACQUER
These chopsticks are made using the Wajima lacquerware technique in the city of Wajima in Ishikawa Prefecture. Famous for its thriving lacquerware industry, Wajima is often celebrated as the mecca of Japanese lacquering.
Wajima lacquerware sets itself apart by using a high-quality soil only found around Wajima in its base coat. The addition of this soil makes the resulting lacquerware exceptionally durable.
These Wajima lacquerware chopsticks are adorned by popular patterns invoking nature, such as cherry blossoms, maple leaves, and snow. As such, they make great gifts for weddings or someone special.
6. MAEJU SHIKKI DAIMYO ZONI BOWL, HISHO, TAMEFUCHI KIN SERIES (BLACK) | YAMANAKA LACQUERWARE, MADE IN JAPAN
This bowl is an example of Yamanaka lacquerware, a craft that originated in the latter half of the 1500s in the famous lacquerware-producing city of Yamanaka in Ishikawa Prefecture. Nowadays, Yamanaka lacquerware comes in two types: natural wood lacquerware coated with lacquer and modern plastic lacquerware coated in urethane.
Boasting a shape and hue impossible to achieve with just wood, this product represents the pinnacle of modern Yamanaka lacquerware. Being made from a very durable kind of plastic, it is easy to maintain and extremely strong.
7. NAKAYA KEITEI SHOKAI YAMANAKA LACQUERWARE, ROUND COMPACT MIRROR WITH LENS | WOOD GRAIN, LUCKY RABBIT
Another Yamanaka lacquerware product, this lacquerware hand mirror was crafted by the Nakaya Keitei Shokai lacquerware workshop founded in 1957. The mirror’s compact size easily fits in the palm of your hand, making it highly portable. It comes in a variety of adorable designs featuring cherry blossoms, camellias, and Kyoto maiko (apprentice geisha).
The outside of the mirror is also made from shock-proof ABS resin, doubling its durability.
8. 2 PIECES HASORI SPRING & FALL | YAMAMOTO | YAKUMO LACQUERWARE
These Yakumo lacquerware cups are made by the 130-year-old Yakumo Yamamoto lacquerware company. Produced in the city of Matsue in Shimane Prefecture, Yakumo lacquerware originated with Sakata Heiichi, a painter who served the Matsue Domain during the early Meiji Period (1868-1912), who is said to have come up with the craft by basing it on Chinese lacquerware. Yakumo lacquerware is known for its designs becoming brighter and more vibrant the longer they are used, endearing many to the style.
While 90% of the lacquer used in Japan comes from China, Yakumo Yamamoto prides itself on painstakingly sourcing and using rare natural Japanese lacquer for its Yakumo products.
9. YAMAGA SHIKKI-TEN SMALL PLATES, PLUM BLOSSOM SHAPE | SHUNKEI-STYLE 5-PIECE KISHU LACQUERWARE SET, MADE IN JAPAN
These small plates are examples of Kishu lacquerware, a craft that can be traced back to the Muromachi Period (1336-1573). Kishu lacquerware is mainly produced around the Kuroe area of northwestern Kainan, a city in Wakayama Prefecture considered one of the three great areas of Japanese lacquerware. Kishu lacquerware is created by applying a layer of lacquer, letting it dry, and then repeating the process many times. Finally, the product is painstakingly polished to give it a deep luster and pleasant texture.
This set of Kishu lacquerware plates is great for any occasion, including serving traditional “wagashi” Japanese sweets or for use as individual serving plates during a shared dinner. Their glistening, vermilion color gives off an air of sophistication, making them ideal for entertaining guests.
10. HALF MOON TRAY 30 CM, NON-SLIP SET OF 5, KISHU LACQUERWARE
This traditional “obon” tray is also made from Kishu lacquerware. Each step in its production, from the lacquering to the polishing, is lovingly carried out by individual, highly experienced craftspeople to create a magnificent tray that’s both light and durable. It also boasts a non-slip surface, furthering its fantastic functionality.
The tray can be used to artistically arrange and serve bowls of rice, miso soup, and various side dishes. It’s the perfect product for those seeking to introduce a touch of Japanese culture into their homes.
If you want to give feedback on any of our articles, you have an idea that you’d really like to see come to life, or you just have a question on Japan, hit us up on our Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram!
*These products may not be able to be shipped to certain countries. Please see the retailer’s website for more information.
The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.