[To bring the tradition of Yamanaka Lacquer, which has been passed down since the Azuchi-Momoyama Period, into our modern everyday lives]

Masayuki Gato of Gato Mikio Shoten

1. The reason for choosing this job

When I was a kid, I didn’t know where lacquer wares were sold and who bought them. I somehow got a job with a lacquerware wholesaler in Tokyo after I graduated high school as my parents have told me to do so. I became a trader going in and out of Tokyo’s department stores.

At department stores, pictures of my fathers which I used to always see when I was in my hometown, Yamanaka, were lined up next to the products. Though I used to think that the products were old-fashioned, they sold very well.

“Is it so amazing to make bowls out of wood and paint lacquer?”

I questioned myself, and I again thought of Yamanaka, the place I was raised in, and about Yamanaka Lacquer. Bowls found in every household, bowls for confectioneries serving oranges and rice crackers on the top of a kotatsu, tea trays to carry things single-handedly, hand cleaners, and touch lights… all of those were Yamanaka Laquer. Yamanaka Lacquer had the largest amount of production among all other domestic competitors.

As I started to live in the city, I finally realized how great my hometown is, the hot spring district with less than 10,000 residents. The local people somehow constantly return from the cities to visit Yamanaka Onsen. I now think that it perhaps was natural for me to born in Yamanaka Onsen and get this job.

2. The attractions of Yamanaka Lacquer

The base of Yamanaka Lacquer is the completeness of the grain. Vessels are thinly applied with lacquer through Yamanaka Lacquer’s Fukiurushi, which is a process that requires good grain to produce high-quality products.

Such vessels are considered to be cheap in the market, however, in reality, they could only be made by Yamanaka Lacquer. In contrast to stiff vessels thickly coated with lacquer, products of Yamanaka Lacquer are healthy and casual, making full use of the materials. This requires a high level of skills by craftsmen.

Though viewers are often attracted by the luxurious parts of the lacquer wares, such as makie, chinkin, and overpaints, the most important component of these vessels is the underlying grain. For the time being, I would like to continue producing products without destroying the concept of emphasizing Yamanaka’s throwing techniques.

3. The outlook of the future

Considering the fact that even the people living in Yamanaka Onsen don’t know about Yamanaka Lacquer, 99% of the world population probably don’t know about the characteristics and techniques of Yamanaka Lacquer.

Yamanaka Lacquer has to first be recognized at home and abroad. That is what a person born in Yamanaka would naturally do.

Gato Mikio Shoten's Karmi Tea Canisters