Shikki (Lacquerware) is one of the most famous traditional crafts in Japan. Out of the many types of lacquerware, the ones made around Kiso, Nagano is called the Kiso-Shikki. Kiso lacquerware is known to be durable and beautiful, deriving from a land where forestry prospered through its history. The combination of the wood craft and the lacquer attracts many people looking to have a lovely tableware in their everyday lives.
Not only is it famous for the tablewares, the medals used in the Nagano Olympics held in 1998 was crafted with this technique. If you want to know more about Kiso-Lacquerware, Kiso-Lacquerware Museum is a must visit. We had a chance to shoot some videos in this museum so you can actually take a glance of what they do.
Lack of Agricultural Land and Its Strength
Kiso-Lacquerware prospered around Narakawa, Shiojiri city in Nagano. The area was lacking agricultural land but they had another strength: Abundance in forests. So the area became famous for its forestry and they started making lacquerware around the 18th century starting with the lacquerware combs. The area was in between Edo (around Tokyo) and Kyoto so it became a popular souvenir amongst the travelers back then.
But as time passed by, the number of craftsmen declined and the popularity of this culture faded slowly. In order to keep the culture alive, the area decided to create the museum, which consists of more than 3700 items. You can learn how the merchants spread the Kiso-Lacquerware and the history of the culture.
One of the interesting stories we heard during our stay was how they give out lacquerware dishes to the local elementary school for the students to use in their lunchtime. They also open up classes to the children and give them experience on how to paint the lacquer to their chopsticks. The area cooperates with each others to pass this tradition to the next generation.
If you are one of the Japan-Lovers that wants to learn the history with the craft, this is a perfect place for you to learn about Kiso-lacquerware. There are many items you can actually use in your everyday lives and even the old lacquerware still shines in beauty till this day.