Japan is proud of its exquisite handcrafted lacquerware, which is famous throughout the world. Originally produced in Wajima City, Wajima-nuri lacquerware bowls are exquisite yet place high importance on durability, making them a favorite since ancient times.
At Wajima Kobo Nagaya in Kawai Town, Wajima City, Ishikawa Prefecture, visitors have the chance to make their own chopsticks and other accessories inlaid with precious metals. Create long lasting memories as you see, touch, and then make your very own Wajima-nuri.
Spend a Slow Day at the Lacquerware Village
Wajima Kobo Nagaya is located in the center of the “Lacquerware Village” part of Wajima. It’s about three minutes walk from Asaichi-dori street, where the Wajima morning market is held. Going to the morning market before lunch and visiting the factory in the afternoon is a good way to tour Wajima.
While much of the historical flavor from Wajima’s Kawai Town remains, there was a lot of construction in 2004 aimed at expanding tourism. The one-story wooden houses with traditional kawara tile roofs are reminiscent of old Japan and generate a soothing atmosphere. Enjoy the chance to relax as time passes by a little slower.
See, Experience, and Create at Wajima’s Many Workshops
Rather than being solely items of practicality, the artistic value of handcrafted lacquerware has been further established in recent years, and this trend is likely to continue. Bowls that use true urushi (Japanese lacquer) are beautiful and robust enough to last a lifetime.
There are many different workshops, each offering their own services and experiences. You can learn about lacquerware, get repairs, try making your own, buy finished products, see the craftsmanship first hand, and more. Grow your appreciation of Wajima-nuri as you learn the arts of makie (sprinkling powders of precious metals for decoration) and chinkin (making inlays).
Japanese people even say that through seeing, experiencing, and making lacquerware, your very way of looking at it will change.
Make Your Own Wajima-nuri, Learning True Makie and Chinkin Techniques
Watching the various processes involved in creating Wajima-nuri is great, but I really recommend heading to the Taiken-kobo (experience workshop) to try it for yourself. There, they’ll teach you how to do makie and chinkin, two techniques for decorating your lacquerware.
Makie involves creating a picture with lacquer, and then engraving and filling it with the powder of gold, silver, or some other precious metal, after which it is polished. It is often used alongside chinkin, which is when a pattern is engraved into the bowl and lacquer is rubbed into that particular area. Then, gold, silver, or other precious metal flakes are placed on top of this.
The lacquerware you design is great to take home as a souvenir.
Design Your Own Chopsticks and Take Them Home the Same Day
At the Taiken-kobo, you have the option of using makie or chinkin to make a puzzle, chopsticks, or cellphone charm.
For this article, I’ll describe what it’s like to make the chopsticks. You can choose kuro-nuri (black lacquer) or ryu-nuri (“dragon”-nuri, dark red lacquer). Even if it’s your first time, just relax – they give you a chance to practice before you try the real thing. Once you’re ready, grab hold of the engraving tool and use it to carve your design, creating a fine quality pair of chopsticks all your own!
Once you’re done designing, the staff will pull back the lacquer , add gold dust, and then it’s finished! The pattern you created will stand out differently depending on how the gold settled into the etching. Now you can use these for the rest of your time in Wajima, and even after you go home.
If you choose to do chinkin you will be able to take them home the same day, but if you do makie then you will have to wait 2-3 weeks for them to be shipped to you. Advanced reservations are possible, but unfortunately the website is Japanese-only at the moment.
Here are the details:
Chopsticks and Cellphone Charm Making Experience - chinkin and makie Cost: 1,500JPY (Packing and shipping within Japan - 200JPY) Duration: Around 30 minutes, depending on the person Reservations: Required for groups of 10 or more Taking Your Creation Home: Allow 2-3 weeks for delivery of products created using makie. Chinkin designs can be taken home same-day.
Puzzle-Making Experience - Chinkin only Price: 2,500JPY for adults, 2,000JPY for high school students or younger Duration: Around one hour, depending on the person. Reservations: Available from groups of 3 upwards. Groups of 5 or more must reserve 3 days in advance (can accommodate groups of up to 40) Taking Your Creation Home: Same day
Rows of Unique Lacquerware Shops Line the Streets, Filled with Great Gifts
Once you’ve made your own souvenir, you can check out the Shikki-kobo (lacquerware workshop), where you’ll find the Wajima-nuri shops called Aiyomosa, Sakamoto Shikki-ten, and Touhachi -ya. Here you’ll find vivd colors of practical, modern lacquerware on display, which make perfect gifts for family and friends back home.
This is also a good place to see the finished products, crafted in the very place that birthed the art of Wajima-nuri. As time goes on, the decorative and practical value of these goods may very well create even more enthusiasts.
Take a Quick Break in Wajima’s Foot Spa
Featured in a popular Japanese guidebook, Wajima Kobo Nagaya is a great place to spend the day as a couple or family. You’ll learn a lot and get deep into Wajima culture.
At the end of the day, you can head to the nearby ashiyu (foot spa), open from 5:00AM to 11:00PM, for a short reprieve.
Have a nice trip to Wajima, where time passes a little slower, and the atmosphere is truly unique.
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