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Goin’ Japanesque!

Hyakushiki; Innovative Kiso Shikki Lacquerware that Mixes Lacquer and Glass

Japanese ceramics are highly praised due to its quality and the beautiful Japanese designs. Most people however, may not know of the different characteristics that exist depending on the region. If you were to pick something out as a souvenir, we imagine it would be more interesting if you were to know the distinct styles. It should be more enjoyable using these items if you were to know the characteristics of each different style as well. Therefore in this article, we have focused on the Kiso Shikki or Kiso Lacquerware as well as introduce the newly developed Shin (New) Kiso Shikki. Hope this serves as good reference when you pick out your souvenirs in Japan.

 

What is the Kiso Shikki?

木曽漆器

kiso-shikki
Tray, https://www.we-like-shinshu.com/

Kiso Shikki is a lacquerware that has been passed down in the region surrounding Shiojiri of Nagano Prefecture (formerly known as the Kiso region). It has a history of at least 400 years or older. Its characteristic is first and foremost its beauty, but also that it uses traditional Japanese lacquer techniques. By having a coating of lacquer, the wares have a vibrant sheen as well as increases in functionality.

Additionally, the high quality has allowed this lacquerware to be recognized nationally as a traditional craft in 1975. The fact that it has been so widely traded attests to the level of high quality it has attained. The trays, chopsticks, rice bowls, bento boxes, all the various items that have been in trade are all of high, trustworthy quality.

See here for characteristics of lacquerware: Maki-e: A Traditional Technique with Marvelous Freedom of Expression

 

About Hyakushiki: A New Style of Kiso Shikki

Even though the Kiso Shikki is made using unique traditional skills, the current situation in Japan is that old traditions are becoming more and more extinct. The new brand that was developed in order to bring change to such a situation is the Hyakushiki.

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A Representative Work: Tsubomi (Bud)

The Hyakushiki is a new brand that was launched in 2014 by Maruyoshi Kosaka Wood & Urushi Work, a traditional workshop that has over 70 years of history. Its characteristic is that it adopts a technique called the “urushi-glass”. The urushi-glass is a technique that mixes urushi (lacquer) and glass, which was thought to be the worst combination. Generally, lacquer and glass do not adhere to each other and crackles or flakes off. However this technology allows for use of lacquer on the outside similar to traditional lacquerware and the inside, which comes in contact with food or drinks to be made in glass. The durability of the glass prevents scratches and damage from silverware such as forks and knives and is strong against oils.

We also want to ask you to look at the captivating and beautiful design of the representative work, Tsubomi. Indeed, the name Hyakushiki (one hundred styles) originates from a design that is reminiscent of a kaleidoscope. The kaleidoscope was called “Hyakushiki megane” (literal translation is glasses of one-hundred styles) in the past, and the name of the brand is derived from this term. The deep shine of the urushi lacquer and the clarity of the glass create the ultimate harmony. 

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Although it is made in the modern style, they have not cut corners in terms of traditional craftsmanship. The design that is depicted on the outer lacquer is created one by one by skilled artisans. The process of putting in one line at a time is such a painstaking process that it can take several days just to insert the designs in a single piece.

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The Hyakushiki, made with such attention to detail reveals a completely different aesthetic once liquid is poured inside; the patterns and designs appear. It would be awesome to pour some cold sake and float cherry blossom petals in the cup. It’s a type of ceramic that you want to keep looking into the vessel.

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Since there are so many varieties, it would also look stylish to have an entire table setting of Hyakushiki, like pictured here. It seems as it would be compatible not only with Japanese cuisine but French, Italian or any other type of cuisine. Perhaps, this is what it means when people say the table setting is big part of the dining experience.

 

The Hyakushiki has succeeded in preserving the beautiful and prestigious Japanese tradition of urushi-lacquerware and at the same time modernized it. The innovative mix of urushi and glass may leave you mesmerized once you experience using it. Also, because it is all handmade, there is no two pieces that are exactly the same; making it the perfect item for a souvenir. Official website

Related:
The Three Great Porcelains of Japan: Their Histories and Characters
Decorative Patterning in Swords, Armor, and More: The Art of Japanese Inlay

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