Tsugaru Lacquer

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Tsugaru nuri is Aomori prefecture’s one and only historic and economic industry and work of art. Tsugaru is the name of the western part of Aomori prefecture, located at the very northern part of Honshu in Japan. Although lacquer is common to see in every part of Japan as a historical form of art, the ways in which it is manipulated varies depending on the region. There are many different types of techniques for tsugaru nuri, but the first one that catches the eye is “kara nuri”, with its flamboyant and unique design.

“Kara nuri” is a way in which speckles and checkers are drawn with lacquer on a flat foundation, with a ground color painted on top of the surface. On top of that layer, using sand grindstone or coal, the designs are grinded out, and a glossy lacquer is layered… As you can see, this is a very tedious and complicated procedure. There are other ways in which flower seeds are used in order to make small designs called “nanako nuri”. For all of the techniques, the lacquer is painted on over and over, a process that has remained unchanged for over 300 years. This is why each artwork takes over two months to complete.

Tsugaru nuri was founded at around the 17th or 18th century. When the Edo period started in 1603, the world was doing well in terms of politics. Then, a law was passed stating that “alternate attendance” was required, and that the feudal lords of each region of the country were to frequently visit Edo. Because of this, people from Kyoto, Osaka, and Edo started to spread to other districts, and local industrialization was encouraged. This is the period that is known to have influenced the beginning of artworks and crafts in Japan. In the case of tsugaru nuri, many artists and craftspeople came from various regions of Japan to the region of its birth to improve their own skills.

Historical items such as bowls, chopsticks, plates, and tea supplies using tsugaru nuri have long been popular, but recently smart phone cases and accessories made with nuri technique designs can be found as well. This is an extreme blend of the old and new, with modern technology wrapped in designs that have been around since the 17th century. If you want to be unique and carry around something that is a different from others, you must get a hold of one of these items!

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