Story of HIBI Urushi Bowl - A Visit to Ishikawa Prefecture

The history of Yamanaka lacquerware dates back almost 400 years, to the Azuchi-Momoyama period. It started when the group of "kijishi" (wood masters), who traveled from mountain to mountain and lived by making turned bowls, had migrated to the upstream of Yamanaka Onsen (hot spring). The bowls were made as a souvenir for those visiting the hot spring, and the area then developed as the origin of bowls for everyday use, taking in techniques of lacquer and gold lacquer.

Ishikawa prefecture in Hokuriku has been known as the traditional production area for lacquerware since old days. There are three regions — "Yamanaka of woodwork", "Wajima of lacquerware", and "Kanazawa of gold lacquer".

Yamanaka lacquerware is famous for its second-to-none techniques and perfection in the world of turned woodwork; the advanced technique of "rokuro biki" (wood turning), what distinguishes Yamanaka lacquerware, is supported by wood masters who have superior craftsmanship.

Lacquerware is made through various processes such as "kiji biki", "kiji gatame" and "nuri" by skillful wood masters.

Kiji biki
The artisans use "rokuro (potter's wheel)" and several kinds of "kanna (Japanese-style planes)" made by themselves to turn the "arabiki" roughly shaved wood.

Kiji gatame
It is then carried to "nushi (painter)" who paints wood with raw lacquer mixed with diatomaceous earth and whetstone powder so the wood grain is filled and the content does not leak when used. By repeating the process called "mesuri" to dry lacquerware a few times, it is made more durable. "Nushi" then evenly polishes the surface. This process greatly influences how good the lacquerware will be.

HIBI lacquerware is made with the technique called "fuki urushi". By lacquering, wiping it off and drying for 5 times, lacquerware will be glossier and the wood grain is beautifully enhanced. By putting even and thin layers of lacquer, the simple yet elegant texture is created.

The urushi bowl has a beautiful and smooth line connecting the body to the base, created to be comfortable to use daily, and to fit in natually at the table. Pursuing the easiness to hold and the smooth texture on the mouth, the artisans show their craftsmanship to make it as thin and light as possible.

One of the features of lacquered woodwork is the fact that it does not conduct heat when putting hot food in it, and keeps warm soup warm for a long time. Created with care, it is durable. As you use it day by day, it will age beautifully and could become one of your most cherished items.

The natural feel of wood and lacquer, the design to lead it to the user's life; it is the gem created by superior craftsmanship to connect materials and form.