Painting Lacquer Story

​浄法寺塗 / Joboji-Nuri from Hazawa Kogei

Joboji-nuri is a lacquer painting technique invented in Joubocjimachi in Iwate Prefecture 1,300 years ago.

Jobojimachi(City) is the source of high quality lacquer where the monks of the local temple, Tendaiji, started the technique long ago when painting their own kitchen wares.

 

-Please share with us about being a craftsman of Joboji-nuri.

Hazawa Kogei:At the beginning, I was doing multiple jobs in agriculture and paint job. When I was 28, I saw the recruitment for craftsman to paint dou of kendo bogu in a local lacquer ware centre.

I used 2 years to learn their painting techniques.

 

Iwate has been a kendogu manufacturer for a long time, to learn the craft and techniques, I have been putting in a lot of effort to learn the painting skill while working in the local kendogu workshop.

I have been working in the lacquer ware center for 5 years.

 

-I think it is hard to learn a new that you have no knowledge of before.

Hazawa:At the lacquer ware center, the painting techniques are not actively taught.
This is why I learn to paint Kendo "Do" at a local Kendogu workshop while working there.

On the other hand, Jobojimachi(=City) is one of the oldest region to produce high quality lacquer and had a lot of craftsmen in the 1950s.

The techniques where perfectly passed down and preserved, it is a good environment to learn about lacquer painting, I think it is a great blessing.

 

(Joboji City is a famous production area of high quality lacquer for a long time.)

(Craftsmen lacquer and express various shades of color.)

(The quality relies on deep experience and intuition of craftsmen.)

-Please share with us the rough outline of your production schedule.

Hazawa:The production process is as follow.

1. Polish the surface of Do-dai

2. Solidify the Do with raw lacquer

3. Apply a base coat

4. Polish

5. Raw lacquer applied to protect base coat

6. Apply top coat

7. Polish

8. Apply raw lacquer for protection

9. Polish to a mirror finish

-What are the point to focus on a  Joboji-nuri Do-dai?

Hazawa:Instead of only looking at the surface, look at the inner coat and the glim it radiates due to the careful polishing during production.

I made the Do with an idea of replicating the sense of beauty in “ Nihonto” (=Japanese sword).

It would make me very happy if my clients would appreciate this beauty in the Do I made.

 

-What are your goals from now on?

Hazawa:I am planning to keep doing this profession for another 10 years while in the meantime find means to pass on the skills and techniques onto someone wiling.

This is to ensure the skills I have polished to live on while paying back my respect to the local region.

As a producer of high quality lacquer, the local region has also been keenly supporting my effort to find a heir to my techniques.

As Do-dai lacquer masters are dwindling in number, I feel a strong responsibility to pass on the Joboji-nuri lacquer technique.

 

“Joboji-nuri is the representative of Dodai lacquering”, is the saying I want to maintain for the years to come and I will continue working hard for it.

(Their works receive a high reputation from old‐established Kendo-gu shops and workshops.)

※By pressing the button, it will open up "Hearing Sheet Form".

-After that you went independent and become the top lacquer master for Do.

Hazawa:I was 33 years old when I went independent.

Initially, it was hard to increase the orders coming in from other kendogu stores.

Due to that, It was a coincidence that through one of my acquaintance, I had the chance to Tokyo to promote my business.

There are other Do lacquer workshops at the time, but it was a time when bamboo Do is on the decline, this also meant more and more workshops were going out of business.

Due to the decline, the scarcity of Do lacquer master allows greater part of the market share to me.

Although I only started to supply the kendogu store in Tokyo, however, thanks to words of mouth, more and more order came in from other parts of the country.

 

-What is your production capacity?

Hazawa:At our most prosperous time, we had a total of 3 masters in the workshop with a production of 60 pieces of Do-dai per month.

Now I am doing it alone and can only produce 30 pieces per month.

Although there are a variety of order requirements, but I am not able to fulfill any demands.

For example:

  • Tamenuri(溜塗)

  • Kuro(黒呂)

  • Mushikui(むし掛け)

  • Gyoun(暁雲)

  • Kanshitsu(乾漆)

  • Aogai(青貝)

  • Nashiji(梨地)

  • Fukiurushi(拭漆)

Techniques used are the ones used in lacquering high quality lacquer ware in Japan.

I would be very happy if clients can appreciate the sense of history from my work.

-Please share with us the history and characteristics of Joboji-nuri

HazawaJobojimachi is right next to a region well known for traditional production of lacquer.

These lacquers have been used in the lacquer ware being sent to the Morioka clan in the Edo times.

Nowadays the lacquers are being used in the restoration of national treasures and other items in Nikko Toshogu(=日光東照宮).

The lacquer in Japan has a characteristic that it forms a very strong and durable coat.

As the coat of paint is hard, it can withstand the test of time and harder to be scratched by the strikes from Shinai.

On the other hand, when the lacquer is being applied, it is very soft before it dries so it is not possible to apply a thick coat in one go.


Depending on the state of the lacquer, multiple layers of lacquer is applied to adjust the hardness.

Before the main coat, 2 layers of raw lacquer is applied to the polished bamboo Do to solidify it.

This is to prevent moistures from entering the dou through the gaps which allows the leather, bamboo and lacquer to adhere to each other strongly.

This allows long term durability.

As leather is from a living thing, it has elasticity, so it is important to apply lacquer accordingly.

Normally, the lacquer thins out over years of use, the veins of the leather below the lacquer becomes visible.

Although the veins can be hidden with a thick layer of lacquer, but the lacquer would crack if not careful.

This is why experience is important when determine how thick the lacquer should be applied.