Imabari city, Ehime prefecture is home to some of Japan’s top lacquer ware.
Sakurai Shikki’s (‘Sakurai Lacquer Ware’) unique characteristic is its blend of techniques of craftsmen summoned from Wajima, Yamanaka, Echizen and Kainan, which gives the lacquer ware 5 different roots, rare even at the national level.
Iyo Sakurai Shikki Kaikan (Sakurai Lacquer Ware Hall) is located about 20-minutes drive from central Imabari city right after exiting the Yunoura interchange.
As you enter the shop, you can see various lacquer ware pieces on display and for sale.
Before taking a good look at the products, let’s see how they are made.
This time we interviewed Mr. Hiroshi Okada, an Ehime traditional craftsman with 27 years of experience in the art.
An image painted with a fine brush…
“As times have changed and certain things have become easier, traditional handicrafts have begun to disappear,” says Mr. Okada who is the youngest craftsman here.
As he carefully carries out each stage of his work and shows them to me one by one, I understand well what makes lacquer ware so great. It is a tradition that I for one would like to see continue.
After observing the workflow, we head inside the shop. As so much work goes into each one, you would think that lacquer ware pieces would be luxury items, but at Sakurai Shikki, there are plenty of relatively affordable products.
For example, these glasses.
If you compare them with average glasses, they are on the expensive side, but they make lovely thoughtful gifts.
Lacquer ware also has antibacterial properties!
The reason why traditional Japanese multi-tiered lunchboxes are usually made of lacquer ware is apparently because it helps stop food going bad. So, this is knowledge from ancient times… and that’s why the next piece that caught my eye was this one – a beautifully-colored lunchbox.
Lacquer ware has since ancient times been given as gifts in Japan, but there is more to the tradition than just its looks.
Did you know that lacquer has adhesive properties? From the meaning “after it sticks, it’ll never be separated”, in offering lacquer ware, the giver included the desire of wanting to continue to associate with the receiver for many years to come.
The next photograph includes lacquered items such as the three sake cups and the tray on which they are put, which are used for ‘sharing of sake’ ceremonies at traditional Japanese weddings.
The lacquer’s hidden meaning of “never being separated” is perfect for these items.
After reconfirming how wonderful lacquer is, we head to café Hananuri, which is located next to the shop.
Giving an added feeling of elegance, Hananuri serves its various dishes on Sakurai Shikki’s lacquer ware. This time I had the shop’s original curry and gold dust coffee, which I highly recommend. Making it really delicious, the curry had just the right amount of spiciness…
It’s often thought that lacquer ware is hard to maintain, but actually it’s surprisingly easy. Though lacquered tableware can’t be put it in a dishwasher/ dryer, just a simple wipe with ordinary washing up liquid and a soft sponge is enough.
In addition to giving it as a gift, how about buying some lacquer ware for yourself, as well?
Iyo Sakurai Shikki Kaikan (Iyo Sakurai Lacquer Ware Hall)
Location: Ko 340-1 Nagasawa, Imabari city, Ehime prefecture
Closed: Tuesdays (If Tuesday is a national holiday, the shop is open that day and closed the following day)
Homepage: http://www.sakuraishikki.com/index2.html (Japanese)
Setouchi Finder Photo-writer: Maki Ohashi
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