JAPAN TRAVEL: Echizen Lacquerware at Urushi-no-Sato Kaikan
Lacquerware in Echizen City has long been regarded as the best in Japan. Its 1,500-year history is backed by an environment perfect for lacquerware which even Japanese royalty has recognized.
From simple bowls and hand mirrors to more elaborate displays of technique, like their local festival vehicle, the level of expertise that Echizen’s lacquerware artisans have is second to none. They can create stunning designs by incorporating different techniques which you can learn yourself through workshops held at the Urushi-no-Sato Kaikan or Echizen’s Lacquerware Industry Hall.
You can take a tour and see the limits of lacquerware pushed by looking through the exhibits, but joining one of their one-hour workshops for e-tsuke (drawing, ¥1,500 per person), chinkin (carving, ¥2,000), and fuki-urishi (lacquer applying and wiping, ¥2,500) is where it’s really at.
First-time visitors may want to try them all, but those pressed for time might want to try their hand at e-tsuke. It’s like being back to the days of art class in grade school, except you’re using lacquer instead of crayons or watercolor.
One of their local masters will let you choose a design which you can then trace onto a red or black bowl, photo frame, coffee tray, hand mirror, or a mini hand mirror. You can opt to create your own design, of course, but be sure you know what you want!
Once you’ve got the design you like on the item you want, the master will then teach you how to use a simple 8-colored palette of lacquer to paint with. From there, he leaves the rest of the process up to you!
You can go as crazy as you want with the colors and even ask for multiple designs to be printed on the same item, as long as you have enough space and time to color them all in. The best part: you get to take home your creations as a souvenir!
Your Hokuriku Arch Pass comes in handy if you want to experience Echizen’s lacquerware industry for yourself. Just ride a JR train to Sabae Station and take a taxi (20 minutes) or hop on the Tsutsuji bus to Urushi-no-Sato Kaikan. You can also take the Kawada Line from Sabae Station and asked to be dropped off at Urushi-no-Sato Kaikan.
Address: 40-1-2 Nishibukurochō, Sabae City, Fukui Prefecture 916-1221
Operating hours: 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (closed on Tuesdays)
Workshop fees (inclusive of equipment and items, a minimum of two participants required):
• E-tsuke – ¥1,500 per person
• Chinkin – ¥2,000 per person
• Fuki-urishi – ¥2,500 per person
Written by Andronico Del Rosario
Supported by GCP
This first appeared in Philippine Primer Magazine Vol. 33 – December issue.