Posted on

Japanese Masks: A unique identity

Japan is famous for its impressive theatre and performance, both of which often incorporate the use of unique Japanese masks. Along with often being used in theatre, traditional Japanese masks are mainly decorative and are usually available to purchase at shrine festivals and events. Japanese masks have long been connected to folk myths and tails with many of them representing people, creatures, devils, ghosts, and animals. Some traditional masks include; Gigaku, Bugaku, Gyodo, Tengu, Kappa, Noh, Kyōgen, Shinto, Kagura, Kitsune, Hyottoko, Oni, Kabuki, Samurai, Kendo and Animegao. Let’s take a look at some of these unique masks, their meaning and why they are so widely used across Japan.

Gigaku masks

Gigaku Japanese masks are some of the most traditional of Japanese masks. These masks were often used in dance-drama as an art form which longer exists today. These unique masks were designed to represent the face of superhuman, demon, lion or bird and were handcrafted from wood. Alongside Gigaku, there were also Bugaku masks; another traditional Japanese mask also used in dance-drama which featured moveable jaws.

Gyodo masks

Japanese masks such as the Gyodo are used to represent traditional Buddhist figures and are often used for outdoor Buddhist processions. The name of these masks represents three distinct ceremonies: ritual of temple buildings or images while chanting sutras, masked processions during memorial services, and, in Pure Land Buddhism, reenactments of the descent of Amida.

Oni masks

Oni are demons and can be found on many Japanese masks, they are usually depicted as red-faced and angry with long sharp teeth. Oni masks are most common during the Bean-Throwing Festival, also known as Setsubun, when people wear them for festival performances at shrines.

Tengu masks

Tengu are the fearsome demi-gods who protect the mountains. These Japanese masks depict red faces and angry expressions, but their most obvious feature is a long, red nose. In the past, Tengu were more birdlike, as they became human, the beak turned into a nose but kept its long shape. These Japanese masks are used for Noh stage plays and at certain Shinto festivals. They’re also often used as a decoration since the Tengu are thought to frighten bad spirits and bring good luck.

Kitsune masks 

Japanese masks often represent animals, and the Kitsune mask is a popular Japanese mask that takes on the form of a fox. This type of mask has strong links to Japanese culture,  where the fox is known to possess different personalities; it can be good or evil depending on the situation and in Shinto religion, the Fox is a messenger of the god Inari, the protector of rice, agriculture, and fertility. These Japanese masks are worn by participants in certain Shinto festivals or by attendees to join in.

Kabuki masks

Kabuki is a modern Japanese theatre art form which uses a whole host of Japanese masks in its performances. Kabuki masks have replaced more classical ones with painted faces and make-up using ingredients such as rice powder to create a white base for mask-like make-up. Make-up is used to exaggerate and enhance facial lines with the designs incorporating different colours, each with their own representations much like other Japanese masks. Purple lines represent nobility while green lines represent the supernatural, and red lines represent passion, hedonism, and other positive things. Blue or black lines represent jealousy, villainy, and other negative sentiments.

Noh & Kyogen masks

As part of Kabuki theatre, there is also a range of Japanese masks that are used amongst Noh and Kyogen performances. Kyogen is often performed as comic relief during the intermissions of Noh theatre, a typically more serious and solemn performance, where a range of masks are used. In Kyogen, actors performing non-human roles wear masks, and in Noh, masks are even more common, with hundreds of different styles and designs available for actors to use.
At Atelier Japan, we showcase Japanese culture and traditions through our beautiful collection of Japanese fans, tea, pottery and jewellery, all of which make the perfect addition to any celebration or your interior design. Browse our collection to find something just as unique and expertly crafted as traditional Japanese masks.
Japanese Masks    Japanese Masks    Japanese Masks     Japanese Masks

Posted on

Japanese Dolls: A bespoke craft

Japanese dolls are an incredibly unique area of Japanese crafts. There are many types of traditional dolls, but together they are most commonly known as ningyō which can be translated to mean ‘human shape’. Japanese dolls are all individually designed to represent different things; some represent children and babies whereas others are crafted to represent things such as the imperial court, warriors and heroes. Much like Japanese mythology and symbolism, many Japanese dolls are also crafted to represent fairy-tale characters, Gods and also people from the daily life of Japanese cities. Let’s take a look at the dolls’ intricate history and what makes them so significant.

A handcrafted history

The oldest known Japanese dolls originate back to the Jōmon period, a time in Japan that dates to 14,000 to 300 BC. During this period, Dogū or small humanoid and animal figurines, were being crafted to represent gods and be used in rituals. This is thought to be the start of traditional Japanese doll craft. As Japan entered the Kofun Period around 300-600 AD, the Haniwa, small terracotta figures that were made for ritual use and buried with the dead, were also being crafted. They were seen as grave offerings and were made in the shape of people, animals and objects. By the 11th Century, the Heian Period was known for several types of Japanese dolls that were mainly used for playing, rituals and as protection from bad spirits. It was commonly thought that dolls could trap bad spirits and be used as protection by the person who carries the doll. 
Moving towards the 14th Century, dolls began to become more sophisticated and new materials were being tried and tested. Okiagari-koboshi, or ‘roly-poly toys’ were made from papier-mâché and were seen as a symbol of perseverance, resilience and good luck. It is believed that the first professional dollmakers were originally temple sculptors who used their pre-existing skills and knowledge to make painted wooden Japanese dolls. 
Japanese dolls were then crafted using carved wood or a wood composition and were then lacquered using ground oyster shell and glue before being finished with textiles. As Japan entered the Edo period, it became more closed to trading which meant Japanese dolls were being made and developed for a market of wealthy individuals who would pay for the most beautiful doll sets to be used as a display in their homes or as valuable gifts. This competitive trade was eventually regulated by the government which meant that artisans who crafted Japanese dolls could be arrested and banished for breaking the laws on materials and height.

Culture of the doll

Ever since ancient times, dolls have been a part of traditional Japanese culture. Japanese dolls represent an item of respect as a child’s plaything or an object that brings delight. The outer appearance of Japanese dolls has constantly changed over the years but the love for this piece of Japanese culture has remained steady throughout.
In Japan, there are two main doll festivals that are celebrated. The first is known as Hinamatsuri, the Dolls’ Festival or Girls Day, which is celebrated annually on the 3rd of March. The second is known as Tango No Sekku, or Boy’s Day, which is celebrated annually on the 5th May. Even to this day, Japanese Dolls are not only considered objects of decoration or entertainment but as living creatures also. An expression of such ritualistic behaviour is found in the ceremonies of Doll Burial. If a doll’s owner must reluctantly throw it away, he takes it to a temple where old and new Japanese dolls, both expensive and ordinary ones, are piled together and burnt to ashes once the owner has expressed their gratitude and said farewell.
One type of Japanese doll that proves to be quite popular is the Daruma. Traditionally, this doll is seated in a meditation pose with large eyes and a big beard usually painted in a vibrant red. When it comes to Japanese dolls, the Daruma is believed to symbolise perseverance. With its wobbly appearance and heavy base, the Daruma stays stable and upright symbolising the idea that even if you fall, it is important to try again. Initially, Daruma’s eyes are not drawn on by the maker. this is so that when the owner of the Japanese doll wishes for something or decides to pursue a new aim, they may draw in a left eye. If the aim is then achieved or the dream is realised, the right eye is also drawn. Aside from the Daruma, there are many other types of Japanese dolls all of which have unique characteristics and meanings to explore.
Searching for your own piece of Japanese doll culture? At Atelier Japan, we have our very own handcrafted collection of Japanese dolls, Darumas and ornaments made by some of Japan’s finest artisans. Visit the Atelier Japan collections to explore our Japanese dolls and purchase your own piece of Japanese culture for your home.

Posted on

Japanese Inlay: A delicate design

Inlay is an ancient Japanese craft that has been around for many years. Traditionally, Japanese inlay is the craft of embedding both gold and silver into a base material to create an intricate and unique design. There are many types of inlay, depending on which base material is selected for the construction. Japan has a rich history of inlay and handcrafted metals that dates back centuries, with many of them still commonly practised today in cities such as Kyoto. Let’s take a look at some of the traditional techniques behind the intricate craft of inlay.
Inlay covers a range of techniques in sculpture and the decorative arts for inserting pieces of contrasting, often coloured materials, into depressions in a base object to form ornaments with unique design and characteristics. A great range of materials are used for both the base and the inlays that are inserted. The most common are metal and wood and tend to be inlaid with pieces of colour wood, precious metals and even diamonds using various matrices including clear coats and varnishes.


In a wood matrix, inlays commonly use wood veneers, but it isn’t uncommon for other materials such as shells, mother-of-pearl, horn and ivory to also be used. ‘Zogan’ is a Japanese traditional inlay decorative technique where a delicate motif is carved on a wooden surface before pieces that have been cut out from shells or different coloured wood are placed into the carved surface. Products made with natural materials are designed to bring a sense of nature and relaxation when using them or having them in your home, one of the great charms of traditional wooden inlay products. 
Once referred to as Mokuga during the Nara period, Moku-zogan is a decorative technique where wood is hand-cut into pieces of varied shapes and delicately filled with auspicious silver and gold metals. 
As we know, wooden materials come in various colours according to the type of wood and the environment in which they grow. Traditional Japanese inlay craftsmen need to have sensibility and technique to be able to cut the wood into particular pieces and assemble them based on their beautiful and natural colour shades. Due to different woods having different grain patterns and colour shades, each inlay product gives different impressions and textures, even though it has the same design. Such different impressions bring to life the motifs, such as flowers, trees and animals which are often affiliated with Japanese craft.


To create metal inlay techniques, lines are carved into the surface of the metal and different metals are then inlaid in the delicately carved-out lines, with the differences in the colour and texture of metals creating the design of inlay that is so instantly recognisable. 
The process of creating metal inlay products is very refined and intricate. Tiny grooves are carved into the surface of the metal and then widened out using specialist tools. Gold or silver metal is then inserted into the grooves before being hammered delicately into the edges of the grooves. To complete and execute the inlay to a high standard, craftsmen will burnish the surface with a file or whetstone to smooth the final piece.
There are a variety of metal inlay techniques such as hirazogan or flat inlay, in which flat sheets are inlaid to be the same height with the base surface; takaniku zogan or high mounted inlay, where material is set on a high-relief metal ground; and nunome zogan or texture inlay, in which thin metal leaf is hammered into a carved pattern.
Although inlaying is an ancient and old method of decorating a range of ornaments and jewellery, today, inlay is still ongoing with intricate inlaid products still being produced hundreds of years later in the city of Kyoto, demonstrating the beauty of this traditional art form that is still around today, all handcrafted to perfection, piece by piece. 
At Atelier Japan, we have curated a fine collection of handcrafted metal inlay jewellery and craft. From brooches and bracelets to rings and tie pins, you’ll find a beautiful array of Zinlay products on our website. Browse the Atelier Japan store to discover the entire Zinlay collection and how their family business is bringing this inspiring ancient technique into the modern world.

Posted on

Japanese Calligraphy: The art of the brush stroke

Japanese calligraphy is known as shodō or shūji in Japanese, the way of writing, is a form of calligraphy or artistic writing within the Japanese language where letters and symbols are created by hand using a brush dipped in ink. This is a beautiful art form as well as a means of communication. The ability to carry out Japanese calligraphy is a skill passed down from generation to generation as it requires a lot of training to master. Let’s take a look at how Japanese calligraphy has adapted to become the art form we know it as today.

Japanese calligraphy symbols and style

The symbols and characters created in Japanese calligraphy are known as kana and kanji. These are drawn using a series of vertical, horizontal and angled brushstrokes to make each symbol or character completely unique. Kana are symbols that represent syllables and don’t have specific meanings, on the other hand, kanji are more complex. There are more than 100,000 kanji, each with their own specific meaning. In Japanese calligraphy, kanji are symbols for words or ideas, like luck, peace and happiness, along with more common and inanimate objects and items, such as dog or fire.
When it comes to the style of Japanese calligraphy, there are three main types. The first is kiasho, a block style that is also the most common. Second is gyosho, a running hand style that is semi-cursive and lastly, sosho, known as grass hand, a flowing, graceful and cursive style of Japanese calligraphy. Most Japanese calligraphers are traditionally trained in both Chinese and Japanese scripts, with the styles and scripts used being influenced by both the content of the text and the aesthetic considerations. Due to the intricate style and perfection idealism of Japanese calligraphy, students who learn the art are taught the importance of proper breathing just like students of Zen meditation and martial arts; the calligrapher only has one chance to get it right.

Calligraphy’s chartered history

Japanese calligraphy developed from Chinese writing symbols around 2,000 years ago. During this time, Japan was yet to have developed a written form of language, therefore people began to adapt characters from Chinese writing into Japanese forms and symbols. This process was gradual and slow to start but began to continue into the 5th and 8th Centuries. The developments of this adapted language led to complete changes in Chinese symbols, taking time to develop a unique Japanese written language that would later be used in traditional Japanese calligraphy. One of the main differences between the two languages is the combination of kana and kanji, those of which are not found in Chinese calligraphy.
From the 8th Century through to the 14th Century, many people continued to adapt Chinese symbols into Japanese kanji, however, other artists began developing unique forms of Japanese calligraphy letters and symbols.

Tools for Japanese calligraphy

When it comes to the creation of Japanese calligraphy, a special set of tools, papers and techniques are required. Commonly, Japanese calligraphy requires a fade brush, sumi ink, a suzuri inkwell, hanashi paper, a shitajiki felt pad and a bunchin paperweight. These items all come in different varieties and a whole host of price ranges, allowing beginners and advanced Japanese calligraphers to personalise their calligraphy tools.
The crafting of Japanese calligraphy uses two ways to hold a brush. With the tankoho method, the brush is held like a pencil with the thumb, index and middle finger, the sokoho style, however, also uses the ring finger. Alongside tools and brush holding styles, the paper also plays an important role. There is a variety of different paper choices to be selected when it comes to Japanese calligraphy, especially since the practice has become more modernised. Typically, white paper is used for kanji and letter paper for brush writing or sending more personalised letters. This paper comes in a variety of patterns, colours and thickness so that calligraphers can choose the right paper to complement their brush strokes.
At Atelier Japan, we powerfully encapsulate the ancient artisanal past of Japan and articulate it for the modern audience. Our traditional makers have taken both care and time to create authentic Japanese products for you to enjoy using their expertise honed over generations. Browse the Atelier Japan website to discover our collections of teas, fans, pottery, silverware and jewellery for a truly exquisite Japanese experience.

Posted on

Japanese Textiles: A handcrafted history

Japanese textiles have played a long and important role throughout Japanese culture for many years. The creation of Japanese textiles is highly intricate and needs an abundance of skill and talent that only a few Japanese weavers and dyers have. Commonly, Japanese textiles use a range of materials including silk, hemp, ramie and cotton, the majority of which are given a range of weaves and decorative treatments to produce textiles of distinctive design and exceptional aesthetic merit.

Woven Textiles

When it comes to Japanese textiles, an inordinate amount of skill goes into each and every piece. Japanese textiles most commonly use plain twill weave, satin weave and brocade to create unique pieces, with the wide variety of techniques possessed by textile workers across Japan reflecting the true attention to detail found in each and every piece. Commonly, patterned twill and twisted warp-gauze have been used together since the Nara Period to achieve feminine styles such as loose trousers known as hakama and stiff jackets known as kamishimo.


Embroidery has always played a fundamental part in Japanese textiles, providing the detail in many of the beautifully intricate pieces that are found across the country today. Embroidery came into popularity in connection with Buddhism and was originally used to create mesmerising wall hangings in temples that usually depicted pictorial scenes and landscapes.
Japanese textiles that feature embroidery use only a small selection of stitches including French knots, chain stitch, satin stitch and couched satin stitch. In garments, particularly the well-known kimono, embroidery is applied to a variety of already dyed fabrics such as vat-dyed plain weave silk textiles and silk stains that are dyed using techniques that include the shibori and katazome. The embellishment is used on these dyed textiles to decorate them and enhance their look for a exquisite finished piece.


The unique beauty that you often find in Japanese textiles is a result of extensively developed dyeing techniques that have evolved over centuries by ancient textile makers. These textile dying techniques include paste-resist, shape-resist, ikat, the binding of pre-arranged warp or weft yarns and combinations of different methods, all to achieve bold and unique styles. Since the Japanese textiles industry began, many methods have come and gone from fashion. These included wax-resist dyeing known as batik, which was replaced by paste-resist methods such as stencils known as katazome and freehand dying known as tsutsugaki,  the finished result of which is highly intricate.
Shaped resist dyeing is often referred to as shibori, which in Japanese literally means tie-dyed and is one of the more popular methods of dying Japanese textiles. Generally, the term refers to dyeing the cloth and creating a unique design by binding, twisting, folding, stitching or compressing the fabric. These binding methods are often known as bound-resist, and are regarded as a very refined and precise way to achieve the stunning colours used in Japanese textiles such as kimonos.

Decorative Stitching

Many years ago, Japanese farm women developed a technique for salvaging and reusing worn cotton textiles by stitching them together in varying layers for use in jackets, aprons and other protective garments. This practice of remaking Japanese textiles quickly caught on. The technique of quilting and stitching the textiles is known as sashiko and developed from a practical way of using cloth to create a unique craft of decorative stitching. Sashiko is almost always carried out using white cotton and thread on indigo-dyed cotton cloth, where stitches run parallel to the wrap to create an elaborate geometric pattern.

Contemporary Japanese Textiles

When it comes to contemporary Japanese textiles, there are four main categories in which textiles can be considered. Firstly commercial textiles. Commercial textile production of man-made fibres and materials once played an important part in Japan’s post-war recovery, however, recent times have seen a decline in production with this being moved to countries with lower labour costs. Traditional Japanese textiles, on the other hand, continue to flourish. The Japanese government continuously encourages the preservation of traditional arts and crafts through its subsidies so as not to leave ancient and cultural textile traditions behind.
Alongside traditional Japanese textiles, fashion textiles have also seen significant support and interest over the last few years. Fashion textiles are being used by some of Japan’s international fashion designers. Lastly, art textiles or fibre arts are another form of Japanese textiles and are thriving in Japan’s contemporary art scene with a number of pieces receiving international recognition through exhibitions.
Looking to explore more traditional Japanese crafts and art? Why not browse the rest of the Atelier Japan website where you can discover our bespoke collections of traditional fans, silverware, pottery and tea that have all been handcrafted by some of Japan’s most skilled artisans.

Posted on

Japanese Craft: An ancient history

Japanese craft has a long and traditional history throughout Japan. Included in Japanese craft are handicraft, a sometimes more precisely expressed as artisanal handmade craft style, that includes a wide variety of useful and decorative objects all of which are made completely by hand using simple tools. As well as traditional Japanese craft many modern craft pieces are now produced by independent studio artists, working with traditional craft materials and or processes to protect the nature of traditional crafts. Let’s take a look at what makes Japanese craft so unique.

Types of Craft

According to the Japanese Ministry of Education, Science and Culture, Japanese craft can be divided into eight auspicious categories: pottery, textiles, lacquerware, metalwork, dollmaking, bamboo and woodwork, papermaking and miscellaneous. These categories of craft can then be further divided into a number of more specific subcategories. The Japan Kōgei Association agrees with the distinct definitions set for Japanese craft and the many variations are protected by the government. In order for an object to be officially recognised as traditional Japanese craft, it must meet all five of the following requirements:

  • The item must be practical enough for regular use.
  • The item must predominantly be handmade.
  • The item must be crafted using traditional techniques.
  • The item must be crafted using traditional materials.
  • The item must be crafted at its place of origin.

Each individual craft requires a set of specialised skills, and those who work in crafts are eligible, either individually or part as a group, for inclusion in the list of Living National Treasures of Japan. Although Japanese craft serves a functional or utilitarian purpose, they are often handled and exhibited in a similar way to visual art objects.

History of the Craft

Japanese craft dates back since centuries to when humans settled on Japan’s islands. Handicrafters used natural, indigenous materials, a tradition which continues to be emphasised today. Traditionally, objects were created to be used and not just to be displayed and therefore the border between what was Japanese craft and what was Japanese art was not always very clear. Japanese craft had close ties to folk art, but developed into fine art as well as becoming part of the concept of wabi-sabi aesthetics. As time developed, crafts became increasingly sophisticated in their design and execution with craftsmen and women becoming artisans with increasing sophistication.
By the end of the Edo period and the advent of the modern Meiji era, industrial production was introduced. This lead to Western craft objects and styles being copied and they began to replace the traditional Japanese types. Traditional Japanese craft began to wane, and disappeared in many areas, as tastes and production methods changed. Specific crafts that had been practised for centuries were increasingly under threat, while others that were more recent developments, introduced from the West, saw a rise.
Although Japanese craft was is seen as a National Treasure under the protection of the imperial government, it took some time for their intangible cultural value to be fully recognised. In order to further protect traditional Japanese craft and art, in 1890, the government instituted the Guild of Imperial Household Artists, who were specially appointed to create works of art for the Tokyo Imperial Palace. These artists were considered amongst the most famous and prestigious and worked in areas such as painting, ceramics and lacquerware.
The Second World War left Japan devastated and as a result, Japanese craft suffered. The government decided to introduce a new program known as Living National Treasure, to recognise and protect the craftspeople of the fine and folk art skill set. Inclusion in this list came with financial support for the training of new generations of artisans so that the traditional art forms could continue. Although the government has taken steps, private sector artisans continue to face challenges trying to stay true to traditional Japanese craft whilst at the same time reinterpreting old forms and creating new ideas in order to survive and remain relevant to consumers.
Despite modernisation and westernisation, a number of Japanese craft and art forms do still exist, partly due to their close connection to certain Japanese traditions such as tea ceremonies and martial arts. Many exhibitions and displays take place every year to exhibit a number of both modern and traditional kōgei artists in an effort to introduce Japanese craft to an international audience.
At Atelier Japan, our makers powerfully encapsulate ancient and artisanal Japanese craft that has been articulated for the modern audience. All of our products are intricately made by hand to create authentic Japanese products for you to enjoy in the comfort of your home. Visit our website and browse our bespoke range of teas, fans, jewellery and pottery.

Posted on

Japanese Lacquerware: Intricate ancient craft

Japanese lacquerware is a Japanese craft used within a wide range of fine and decorative arts. Japanese lacquerware is crafted from a deep and shiny lustre of black or red, and is sometimes adorned with a gold leaf or mother-of-pearl inlay. Japanese lacquerware was introduced to the West during the 16th century but only began to spread more widely in the 17th century when the Dutch East India Company, immediately enthralled royalty and nobility to Japanese lacquerware. Let’s take a look at the history and intricate processes that are carried out to achieve exquisite and unique lacquerware products.

A step back in time

Japanese lacquerware uses a unique substance called urushi which has been used to produce holy ceremonial ornaments, works of art and utilitarian objects for thousands of years. The oldest urushi lacquered ornaments discovered in Japan date back to around 7000 BC, during the Jōmon period, and they remain the world’s oldest urushi lacquer objects to date. Japanese lacquerware technology is believed to have been invented by the Jōmon as they learned to refine urushi, a process which took several months. This process also began to see the use of iron oxide and cinnabar, the products used for creating the distinctive red Japanese lacquerware. Lacquerware was traditionally used in pottery, different types of wooden items and, in some cases, burial clothes for the dead were also lacquered. Since so many lacquered objects have been discovered, that are said to have been from the early Jōmon period, it is indicated that Japanese lacquerware was clearly a highly established part of Jōmon culture.
Many experts are divided on whether Jōmon lacquerware was derived from Chinese techniques or invented independently as many traditional crafts and industrial arts produced throughout Japanese history were initially influenced by China. As Japan entered the Edo period, they saw an increase in the growth and use of lacquer trees and the development of the techniques used. By the 18th century, coloured lacquers came into wider use to craft more unique and bespoke Japanese lacquerware. In recent decades, there has been an effort made by the Japanese government to preserve the art of making Japanese lacquerware.

An introduction to urushi

Urushi is a natural sap found in the urushi tree with its beauty and lustre being one of the many appeals that urushi has when used for Japanese lacquerware, the extraction which, uses and maximises the natural vitality of the urushi tree. Urushi is one of the most durable natural lacquers available, making it perfect for crafting a range of Japanese lacquerware ornaments that are designed to stand the test of time. Astoundingly, the urushi tree creates this intricate sap to heal itself when it becomes damaged, this quality has many characteristics important to the making of Japanese lacquerware. Starting from its unique drying process caused by humidity, to its great strength after drying, urushi allows for durable and incredibly hard finishes for Japanese lacquerware once dry. Moreover, urushi lacquer is resistant to water, acids, alkali, alcohol and heat as well as having antibacterial effects, making it a truly remarkable substance to craft from.

A valuable asset

Urushi is a highly valuable asset to the Japanese lacquerware industry and takes a lot of time and knowledge to collect. Urushi is tapped by carving the bark of the urushi tree with a horizontal long groove that’s left to produce a clear milky-white sap. Before urushi sap can be collected, it takes at least 10 if not 15 years for a fully developed urushi tree to grow big enough to be tapped. The urushi tree yields around 100 to 200 grams of raw urushi sap in its whole lifetime, making it a very precious and expensive substance which is why Japanese lacquerware is so valuable. Due to its valuable nature, it takes a highly skilled and experienced urushi collector to tap the trees, this is often done from June to October and is a painstaking experience where the collector extracts the Japanese lacquerware sap drop by drop.
The whole extraction process is incredibly natural and relies on a skilled urushi collector to collect the sap entirely by hand. The skill, knowledge and decision making to collect urushi sap is very complex, and since each tree is different, urushi collectors must understand the conditions of each tree. From the angle of the tree trunk to the direction of the sun, many variables have to be taken into account before the sap can be collected to make traditional Japanese lacquerware.
At Atelier Japan, we use only the finest traditional craft techniques. Our makers have stood the test of time and have prevailed among huge global disturbances, remaining unwilling to go backwards. Visit Atelier Japan to explore the products that our makers have taken care and time to craft.