The Hiruzen Plateau in Maniwa City, Okayama Prefecture, is visited by over 2 million tourists per year. Gobara, a small village hidden away in one of the plateau’s corners, is home to Gobara lacquerware, a type of lacquerware that is made for everyday use. In this event, join artisan Kunimitsu Takatsuki to discover more about the history and techniques of this unique urushi.
Gobara lacquerware uses woodgrain from the chestnut trees native to the Hiruzen Plateau. The natural grain of the chestnut wood is finished with the natural varnish of lacquer trees from the Bitchū region, creating a firm, long-lasting coating. This is completed with a high-quality gold-inlaid lacquerware technique. Unusually, Gobara lacquerware uses a unique method of making woodgrain by grinding raw timber using a potter’s wheel – a special process not found in any other lacquer-producing regions.
Gobara lacquerware, which is said to have emerged during the years of the Meitoku period (1390-1400), has a proud history spanning over six centuries. At one point in time it was mass-produced. Gobara techniques were developed further in the Edo period when lacquerware enjoyed immense popularity, particularly in the San’in region of western Japan. However, due to a combination of wartime labour and material shortages and the introduction of strict regulations, lacquer production came to a halt towards the end of the war in 1945.
The revival of lacquer production finally occurred in the 1980s with the support of the Okayama Prefecture Cultural Assets Association. In 1989 local volunteers began making efforts to revive production and in 1992 the Gōbara Lacquerware Promotion Association was established to protect the traditional handicrafts of Okayama Prefecture. In 1996, the Gobara Lacquerware Hall was established as a base for production, and continues producing lacquer to this day.
There were tastings of green tea, sake and miso from Maniwa City at this event.
About the contributors
Kunimitsu Takatsuki is a master artisan and craftsman specialising in Gobara lacquerware. Born in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, he has been honing his skills in wood-cutting and wood-grain since 2003, becoming a member of the Japanese Crafts Association in 2009. Takatsuki’s work has been recognised at numerous exhibitions, including the 2001 Ishikawa Prefectural Governor’s Prize at Kenroku-en Garden’s seventh Tea Ceremony Craftwork Exhibition and the 2008 Fukutake Cultural Encouragement Prize. He is a five-time prize winner at the Japanese Traditional Craftwork Chugoku Region Exhibition.