2013.11.5

Lacquer – Opening Its Way To Future

Until the Edo Period, lacquer was indispensable in Japan in people’s daily life.  While paints and plastics were not yet in existence, lacquer was used as a popular finishing material to apply on saddles, swords, furnitures as well as on other utencils.  However in recent years, lacquered goods are slowly giving its way to less expensive and more practical goods that are preferred by younger generation.

Looking back over its long history, the existing oldest lacquer work in Japan is the ornament of some 9000 years ago, excavated at Hokkaido Kakinoshima Site(Early Jomon Period.)

By the end of Edo Period, lacquer was known abroad as “Japan”.  Needless to say, its beauty is recognized worldwide.

Such national and traditional cultural identity of Japan is facing now in our modern time a crisis for its existence.

It is never an easy story with lacquer cultivation. Let’s take a look into it.

It is never an easy story with lacquer cultivation. Let’s take a look into it.

 

From one tapping, only a very small amount of sap can be harvested. For the reason that often skin rashes are caused by lacquer, cultivation of lacquer tree is restricted in its planting location.

In addition, a time span of 10 to 15 years should be taken into account for the growth of a tree to be tapped.

Adequate sun and good earth drainage are essential, that accordingly require good maintenance to prevent any undergrowth.

It is a plant that needs enough care and protection until the very end of lacquer harvesting process.

Here is a picture of a lacquer tree seedling.        Disposing undergrowth of weeds and pest extermination several times a year are also indispensable for good growth of the plant.

Here is a picture of a lacquer tree seedling.        Disposing undergrowth of weeds and pest extermination several times a year are also indispensable
for good growth of the plant.

 

Lacquer tree planting, its care, sap harvesting….all these work is carried out by lacquer tappers. It is a laborius task, that requires a lot of patience.

Not only that, the harvesting period is limited to a very short time of the year.  This signifies that one cannot earn living  by lacquer cultivation and harvesting alone.

All such difficulties have led to the decreasing number of tappers and the aging of craftsmen.

Mr.Yuhzo Hida, here in the picture, is a tapping expert with 50 years of experience. The quality and tapping quantity of lacquer sap rely totally on the tapper’s experience and skill.

Mr.Yuhzo Tobita, here in the picture, is a tapping expert with 50 years of experience. The quality and tapping quantity of lacquer sap rely totally on the tapper’s experience and skill.

 

In today’s lacquer market, the domestic produce is only 2%  whereas the entire rest is imports from China and Vietnam.

China, however, faces a similar situation as in Japan.  The younger generation is shifting from countryside into cities, seeking for work. Consequently aging craftsmen are left behind in the country .  Japan’s import from China is hence driven to decrease in amount year by year.  We should be aware of the vital situation we would face in near future where we could no longer be dependent on the imports.

Taking in account the time it needs from planting to harvesting, the problem needs to be tackled already for solution in order to prevent lacquer and tapping skills from withering out in our country.

After having entirely tapped, trees will be felled. From the stump sprout new buds.

After having entirely tapped, trees will be felled.                                             From the stump sprout new buds.

 

 

Lacquer trees won’t grow just anywhere and only in specific countries such as in Japan, China, Korea and Vietnam.

If only ten years scheme is well accounted, producing domestic lacquer is never a dream and can be accomplished without recession.

Should we be so carefree with the long tradition of our lacquer culture and put an end to it in our time…

Driven by such an ardent passion, I have decided to cope with the problem and launch a NPO, the aim of which is bringing up tappers and planting lacquer trees.

The process is now underway applying for an authorization of our NPO based in Daigo-machi, Kita-Ibaraki.

 

Here in Daigo-machi, you will see a rich nature and a true rural beauty.

Here in Daigo-machi, you will see a rich nature and a true rural beauty.

 

 

Its name stands for the Daigo lacquer since long. The lacquer with high transparency and of quality is produced here. Noteworthy is the number of tappers still living in this area. This signifies an easier way out and countable possiblity of enhancing the lacquer culture without too much difficulties as starting from null or even from minus basis.

Daigo-machi as its center and as its base,  my aim is to actively work for the conservation of lacquer culture that Japan and our next generation can continue to be proud of.

I am confident to achieve my goal with the cooperation of group of my supporters from different fields, i.e. artists, cultural organizations, business corporations, that all unanimously acknowledge the importance of keeping cultural legacy.

Yakata Yousai will be the temporary base until our base in Daigo-machi will be ready. Upon official approval of our NPO office, I will be setting up “Lacquer Fund” for which your kind contribution, if I may ask, will be most appreciated.

I cordially hope for your understanding and for your kind cooperation which is an absolute and essential support for the future of the finest lacquer, the cultural treasure of the world.

Thanking you for your attention,

Takako Yazaki,
Producer of Yakata Yousai  &  President of Reijunkan

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