Offbeat Wajima Lacquerware to Benefit Today’s Users-2
Such craftsmen are rarer these days. But Junko sees an opportunity in the situation. “Before, some workers in this industry might have been engaged in this job because of its profitability. We can no longer be that way,” she said. “Today, people doing this job are those who truly love natural materials such as wood and lacquer, want to hand over these Japanese techniques for posterity, and hope to make our minds and daily lives affluent through our products. Although we may be put in a challenging condition, I see that we are positioned in an exciting period as well.”
Without demand, products can’t be made, and craftsmen can’t continue with their jobs. Fully aware of this situation, Taiichi, while being responsible for the entire production process, communicates passionately with as many people as possible both within and outside Japan.
The Urushi Lacquer-Coated Cloth Plate is a result of such efforts. This is tableware that combines Japan’s tradition and global food culture. Due to its simple design, the dish itself does not assert. Once you hold it, you will probably be surprised by its lightness. Like the Makiji series, this cloth plate series is also being enjoyed by many lacquer fans.
A new challenge is often interpreted as a threat or resistance by traditional circles. Wajima Kirimoto’s attempt was no exception. They had to bear the brunt of criticism from the conservatives. For those used to their Wajima-nuri lacquerware having smooth surfaces, Taiichi’s fortified rough surfaces were not acceptable. Some people called his design “dirty.” Taiichi said, giving a bitter smile, “I was asked why I had to make such a different thing.” But he didn’t give up his belief. He kept asking a question: How can traditional authenticity survive while benefiting today’s people?
In March this year, the grand prize of The Mitsui Golden Takumi Award was granted to Taiichi’s design. After 31 years of exploration in the pursuit of Wajima-nuri lacquerware that fits in with today’s life, he was recognized for the first time by receiving this honorable prize in Japan.
Story by Motomi Takahashi