Kawatsura Lacquerware

Thanks to the rich natural environment of Mt. Kurikoma, lacquerware techniques were established and passed down to woodturners and lacquer artisans there over the centuries. The solidity and simplicity of its unique manufacturing technique made Kawatsura lacquerware famous all over Japan. They brought the products to the next level, where they were appreciated for their beauty and practicality.
Kawatsura lacquerware is a specialty of Kawatsura town in Yuzawa City. It is believed to have started in 1193 when Lord of Inaniwa’s brother Onodera Michinori built a castle in Odate (today’s Yuzawa) and ordered his vassals to paint lacquer on the arms and armor. Another theory states that it began in 1189 when woodturners and lacquer artisans escaped, migrated to Kawatsura, and taught lacquerware-making after Minamoto No Yoritomo defeated Fujiwara in Hiraizumi.
The industry was fully established during the early Edo period. Samurai manufactured lacquerware as their side jobs in the Keicho era (1596–1615). Inspired by their work, the people in the snowy region started making lacquerware during the agricultural offseason and formed the Kawatsura lacquerware center.
In the late Edo period, many artisans were actively protected by feudal clans. Later, they exchanged techniques with other lacquerware production regions, such as Aizu and Wajima, to learn about gold-inlay and gold lacquer.
Kawatsura lacquerware, which has been produced in the Tohoku region since the Edo period by farmers, is known for its solidity, distinctive of practical wares, and its simplicity, suited for the snow country’s crafts. Products with traditional designs have drawn attention in recent years, and lacquerware became Japan’s Nationally Designated Traditional Craft Product in 1976.