Table of Contents
- 1. History
- 2. Features
- 3. The charm of Hida Shunkei
- 4. The process of making Hida Shunkei
- 5. How to take care of Hida Shunkei
Hida Shunkei is a traditional Japanese craft and beautiful lacquerware that has been handed down in the Hida region around Takayama City, Gifu Prefecture. In the Hida region, woodworking techniques have developed against the background of abundant forest resources, and crafts using wood have thrived in the region since ancient times. In the early Edo period (17th century), a master carpenter working on the construction of a shrine and temple under Takayama Castle was struck by the beauty of the fine grain of the wood he happened to chop open and made a tray from it. This beautiful tray was presented to the elder brother of the daimyo of the Takayama domain, and the tray was lacquered with suki-urushi lacquer by a lacquer craftsman, which was the beginning of Hida Shunkei.
Since then, Hida Shunkei, with its natural wood grain, was first used for tea ceremony utensils. From the end of the Edo period to the Meiji era (1868-1912), square shaped tea utensils such as Jyuubako (stacked boxes) and Gozen (a table for serving food) were made, and from the Taisho era (1912-1926) to the early Showa era (1926-1989), beautiful shaped three-dimensional curved objects such as tea ceremony jugs and mizutsugi (water container) were produced. In 1975, it was designated as a national traditional craft.
Today, it is also attracting attention as furniture, accessories, and tableware that can refresh the atmosphere of the home.
The greatest appeal of Hida Shunkei lies in the simple beauty of the natural wood grain, the high level of craftsmanship, and the glossy, clear amber color that becomes more beautiful the more it is used. The beauty and presence of this simple, elegant, and beautiful wood has attracted many tea masters since ancient times.
Hida Shunkei is characterized by a beautiful glossy finish achieved by applying a coating called “suki-urushi” to the wood. Because this lacquer is transparent and allows the grain of the wood to be seen, it requires a high level of skill in all aspects of the process, from material identification and processing to the lacquering process. The color tone of the lacquer varies according to the lacquer craftsman.
3. The charm of Hida Shunkei
The reason why we recommend Hida Shunkei is its beauty and high quality. Hida Shunkei is made with a lot of time and effort, and each piece has its own unique value due to the skill and passion of the craftsmen. In addition, Hida Shunkei is a work that embodies traditional Japanese culture, and its presence and historical value are part of its appeal.
Because it is a product made of wood, it is easy to match with Scandinavian interiors, which are also based on wood. Another appeal of Hida Shunkei is that you can choose from a large selection of furniture, accessories, tea utensils, interior goods, kitchen utensils and tableware, and many other things that you like. They are durable and can be used for many years, and they are also environmentally friendly. It is a great gift for yourself as well as for your family and friends.
4. The long and labor-intensive process of making
The production of Hida Shunkei involves many processes and requires a high level of craftsmanship.
First, cypress, Japanese cypress, and horse chestnut trees, which are local to the Hida region and more than 200 years old, are dried naturally for 5 to 6 years.
The wood is then cut into pieces and the craftsmen make the kiji, or base, of the piece of wood before applying the lacquer.
Craftsmen can be divided into three main specialties. Hegimeshi craftsmen combine the wood planks and glue them together with nikawa (a glue made from animal skin and bones and heated with water) to make jyubako (stacked boxes) and trays.
The magemonoshi first steams the wood and forms the softened pieces with a wooden roller called a koro. The edges of the wood are then reinforced and finished to make lunch boxes, tea canisters, etc.
The hikimono-shi, or “hewn-material craftsman,” uses a technique of attaching wood to a wheel and rotating the wheel while cutting with a blade to make round trays, confectionery containers, tea saucers, and other round objects.
Once the wood is finished by these craftsmen, it is passed to the lacquer craftsmen. After polishing the wood, the lacquer craftsman applies a fine clay called tonoko, which is kneaded in water, and then wipes it off with a cloth. This prevents unevenness in the lacquer to be applied later and makes it easier for the coloring to blend. This process is said to be the most important of the entire process, as it helps to even out the surface of the wood.
The wood is then colored with yellow, red, or other naturally occurring dyes.
The colored wood is then coated several times with soybean extract to create a thin film. This undercoating is done to prevent the lacquer from suddenly seeping into the wood. After the surface of the wood is polished with sandpaper, a mixture of raw lacquer and egoma oil is rubbed into the wood and wiped off with a cloth, repeating the process many times. The lacquer then becomes hard and translucent, changing the appearance of the grain of the wood.
After that, a coat of clear lacquer is applied for the top coat to finish. This lacquer is produced uniquely by each lacquer craftsman, and the method of making it is a secret. Lacquer is very delicate and hardens under certain humidity and temperature. The lacquering process alone takes three to four months, but the lacquer is applied over and over again, resulting in a durable and lustrous finish.
Finally, the lacquer is dried in a large cupboard-like drying room called a “furo,” which maintains the proper temperature and humidity and rotates halfway around every few minutes.
5. Care instructions
For light stains, wash quickly with lukewarm water. For oil stains, wash gently with diluted detergent. After draining, wipe off water with a soft cloth first, and then let it dry naturally.
It should be stored away from direct sunlight and places of high temperature and humidity.
Hida Shunkei has a characteristic that allows you to enjoy its change over time. Over time, the color and luster will change, revealing a deeper beauty. Regular care and proper storage are important to enjoy this change over time.
Hida Shunkei is one of the most beautiful and delicate traditional Japanese crafts. Hida Shunkei, created by craftsmen who have inherited its history and traditions, symbolizes the preciousness and aesthetics of Japanese culture. When choosing Hida Shunkei, pay attention to the quality of materials, craftsmanship, and design, and take good care of it, and you will be able to enjoy its beauty for a long time.
- Japan Traditional Crafts Exhibition Hall official website](https://www.jtco.or.jp/kougeihinkan/?act=detail&id=273&p=21&c=17)
- Traditional crafts portal site “Traditional Crafts Japan”](https://kougeihin.jp/craft/0516/)
- KOGEI JAPAN “Hida Shunkei” (https://kogeijapan.com/locale/ja_JP/hidashunkei/)
- Takayama City “Hida Shunkei” (https://www.city.takayama.lg.jp/shisei/1000067/1002790/1002815/1002816/1002818.html)
- Hida Takayama Tourism Official Website “37. Hida Shunkei (A Japanese Heritage Site)” (https://www.hidatakayama.or.jp/watch/37-%E9%A3%9B%E9%A8%A8%E6%98%A5%E6%85%B6%EF%BC%88%E6%97%A5%E6%) 9C%AC%E9%81%BA%E7%94%A3%E6%A7%8B%E6%88%90%E6%96%87%E5%8C%96%E8%B2%A1%EF%BC%89/)
- Top picture: https://kogeijapan.com/locale/ja_JP/hidashunkei/