All About Japan

The Samurai Spirit of Aizu Lacquerware

Handicrafts Summer in Tohoku Fukushima Tohoku

The creation of traditional Japanese lacquerware, or shikki (漆器), is a beautiful, slow-moving, heartfelt process. In the Heart of Aizu, a reflective video from Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Taylor Hawkins, introduces us to three artisans in the former samurai town of Aizu-Wakamatsu, who continue to work together to bring a timeworn tradition to life.

Susumu Ishihara is a kiji-shi (木地師), a woodworker. He follows in his father and grandfather's footsteps, lathing and shaping shaping wooden bowls by hand, listening to the sound of the wood as is it tells him how to shape it.

As a nuri-shi (塗物師), Toru Yoshida applies lacquer to the shaped bowls. The characteristics of the wood varies from tree to tree, and he adds reinforcement where needed, attentive to how even the quality of the lacquer changes with the weather.

Finally, maki-e-shi (蒔絵師) Yasutsugu Yamauchi applies painted designs to the lacquered bowls. Honoring his teacher, he resists the push toward mechanization and industrialization, insisting on painting each bowl by hand.

Like the work of these three artisans, the video is a love letter to quiet determination and the arts of the past, still carried on so earnestly in Aizu-Wakamatsu.

- (Japanese)