Aizu-nuri is one of the traditional artworks in the Aizu region in Fukushima prefecture and is certified as a Traditional Craftwork of Japan. There are many varieties of techniques, including raden, urushie, kanshitsu, makie and hananuri, and Japanese horse-chestnut, maple, Japanese zelkova, red zelkova, Japanese big-leaf magnolia and cherry trees are used as wood materials. The lacquer is heat-proof and resistant to most chemicals, which makes the product durable. In addition, one can say the smooth and glossy lacquer is representative of Japanese aesthetics and beauty.
The establishment of lacquer craftwork in Aizu dates back to 1590, when Gamo Ujisato, who was appointed feudal lord of the Aizu region by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, encouraged its production as a local industry. Ujisato called on the kijishi (wood craftsmen) and lacquer artisans from his previous territory (current Shiga prefecture) and had them hand down the latest techniques of the time. Thus, the techniques of Aizu-nuri rapidly improved, and Aizu became one of the biggest production areas of lacquer, with the entire process managed in the area, from the growing of trees to the production of the finished product.
In the Edo era, Hoshina Masayuki, the first generation lord of Aizu Domain, worked on the preservation of lacquer trees, and the following domain lords put effort into the innovation of production techniques, which led to exporting their products to foreign countries such as China and the Netherlands, making the region one of the most famous areas of lacquer production in Japan.
In 1971, in order to pass on the traditional craft techniques to future generations, Aizu Lacquerware Cooperative Union established a committee to foster people who would take on the techniques of Aizu lacquerware. Currently, their trainees choose either lacquer or makie as their major after completing basic training, and get two years of additional training with an intense curriculum. In 2003, the program was approved by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare and was branded as the Training School for Future Aizu Lacquerware Artisans. Aizu-nuri has survived 400 years of history and wars and has continued to grow to this day, incorporating the latest techniques into its tradition.
In Aizu city, many people are trying to use lacquerware more in their everyday life. It has been adopted by public buildings and private facilities such as hotels and high-class Japanese restaurants as they aim to make the city full of lacquer’s presence.
Fukushima-ken Tourism Bussan Museum
Corasse Fukushima 1F 1-20 Mikawaminami-cho Fukushima-shi Fukushima-ken
Machinoeki Tsurugajo 4-47 Outemachi Aizuwakamatsu-shi Fukushima-ken