Gratitude for urushi lacquer. The unchanging feeling from its initial establishment

In the historical city of Kyoto, the center is crowded with Gion Festival in summer. In the eyes of the board, Tsutsumi Asakichi Lacquer Shop has been refining lacquer since its establishment in 1882.

"If we don't make lacquer, craftsmen can't work."Asakichi Tsutsumi, the first generation, refined lacquer by hand with his wife, loaded lacquer on bicycles, and delivered lacquer to craftsmen in the city.

Appreciation for being professional with urushi was spoken like a way of saying, to “not waste a single drop of lacquer,” has been passed down as a company lesson for more than a century.

Urushi is a lacquer sap of urushi wood. This is a precious natural bounty that can only be collected from a 10- to 15-year-old adult tree, and fills only as much as one milk bottle. We purchase, refine, and blend the lacquer that urushi tappers collect. Refinement technology and equipment have evolved with the times, changing from the original hand refining to mechanical refining. Although the production volume and speed has increased, this spirit of "do not waste a drop of lacquer" has not changed.

We offer a wide range of urushi material for various professional artisans in Japan including tea utensils, Buddhist altars, Buddhist wares, restoration of national treasures and important cultural property, general shrines and temples, Nishijin textiles, Japanese and Western furniture, bamboo crafts, and elegant instruments. We also offer urushi for more casual use, such as Fuki-urushi and Kintsugi. The urushi used varies depending on the field, production area, conditions and environment used, and the taste of the craftsman. The role of a urushi maker is to meet a wide variety of needs such as drying, viscosity, color and gloss adjustment.

Lingering/warm knowledge - new challenges while keeping tradition

The world's oldest natural paint "urushi" has been used since the early Jomon period (approx. 14,000 - 4,500 years ago). We have played the role as a lacquer refiner in the historical lacquer culture. We believe that our important mission is to faithfully protect the techniques inherited from the previous generation and pass it on to the next generation. 

On the other hand, we have not forgotten the new challenges that come with meeting the needs of the times. In addition to the traditional bowl-refined lacquer that has been handed down from generation to generation, we have developed a high-dispersion purified lacquer “Korin” that has evolved its manufacturing method, and we are committed to developing new products while preserving tradition. Compared to traditional lacquer, our Korin lacquer has better weather resistance, so it is used for the restoration of outdoor buildings such as Nikko Toshogu and Himeji Castle, as well as many national treasures and important cultural properties.

Conveying the charm of lacquer is also our mission.

With the changing times, people's values ​​have changed. Today, with the increased industrialization and consumption in various fields, you can immediately get convenient and cheap products on the Internet.  Disposable products are in low-cost mass production. And we know many of those made of plastic end up contaminating our planet. As the result, the usage of urushi lacquer, natural sustainable material, decreased to less than 10% in the last 40 years. 

We have stood up to change the situation.

First of all, I want many people to know about urushi lacquer. With that in mind, I took the first step, made a small booklet called "urushi-no-ippo". This was our precious first “Ippo” (meaning 'one step' in Japanese). We will continue to convey the charm of lacquer in order to connect the lacquer culture to future generations as a lacquer store.

You can read English version of this booklet from here.