Offbeat Wajima Lacquerware to Benefit Today’s Users -1
Today in Japan, many people use steel knives, forks and spoons with their meals. Outside the country, many more people regularly use steel cutlery. To adjust to today’s eating habits, Taiichi wanted to produce Wajima-nuri lacquerware that is resistant against friction between a dish and a steel spoon for example.
Through trial and error, Taiichi devised a new technique called “Makiji.” In this technique, the surface of the product is rough, unlike traditional products. Roughness is the result of a blend of special soil used for the base of Wajima-nuri lacquerware and the lacquer itself. The soil-mixed liquid coats the tableware, making the surface grainy and firm.
The quality of Wajima’s special soil, diatomaceous earth, is high; it’s made of the fossilized remains of plankton-like creatures that lived en mass in this region 12.5 million years ago. The purity is extremely high. This is another reason why lacquer techniques are highly developed in Wajima. Taiichi’s original Makiji technique increases hardness by using only high-quality soil and urushi lacquer. Because of the hard surface, steel spoons or forks won’t leave a scratch. In addition, the hardness allows you to use neutral detergent with a regular sponge for cleaning.
Gorgeous Japanese Kaiseki cuisine is a perfect match for traditional Wajima-nuri lacquer dishes and bowls. With the Makiji technique, Wajima-nuri tableware will help you enjoy Western food with steel cutlery free from worries. For hundreds of years, lacquerware like Wajima-nuri products has been adapted to human use. When you hold one of these pieces, you will feel how light and warm they are. In these dishes, pasta or curried rice can go beyond food meant merely to satisfy hunger. It turns into a selective lifestyle. To allow the food to take center-stage, Taiichi creates only black or reddish tableware.
Where did this idea of a scratch-free Wajima-nuri lacquer technique come from? He majored in Product Design at university, where his professor provided an impactful definition of design: The essence of design is to benefit today’s lifestyle by offering greater usability and comfort. Beautiful colors and shape as well as coolness are only a part of design. This idea changed Taiichi’s life.
He started to think about how to combine the definition of design, traditional crafts and lacquer techniques to improve conventional Wajima-nuri lacquerware. At that time, Japan was enjoying the “bubble economy”, and Wajima-nuri lacquerware was booming. The products were selling at their highest possible prices. Taiichi, however, asked himself a question. “Extremely expensive lacquerware is selling like hotcakes. But are high sales alone good for the Wajima-nuri lacquer industry?” In the midst of the heated economy that was raising the demand for and prices of Wajima-nuri products, he struggled with this question day after day.
“I came to think more profoundly about what craftsmanship was, and what lacquerware I should create to serve society, etc.,” said Taiichi. His came to the conclusion that his mission was to benefit contemporary users by conveying in an easy way the true comfort of lacquerware and the calmness of wood, distancing his position from the then-booming ultra-luxury Wajima-nuri products. This became the root of Taiichi’s development as a Wajima-nuri lacquerware professional.