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Wajima Cityhall

This time, our field trip in Noto focused on the Wajima lacquer ware in Wajima city. In the morning of September 25th, our class went to the Wajima city hall. In there, the officer Mr. Hosokawa, who in charge of the lacquerware affairs, gave us a lecture about the policy of preserving and spreading this precious artifact. Mrs. Suzan worked as the interpreter.

 

At first, Mr. Hosokawa introduced the severe condition of the Wajima lacquer ware. According to statistics, compared to the prosperous time, which was around 1991, the current output is only 20 percent. Meanwhile, the number craftsman has shrunk more than half. In order to fight with this situation, the Wajima city set many policies, which can be summarized in 12 ways, such as developing new products, enlarging the oversea market, training young craftsman, etc.

 

As far as I am concerned, two of the approaches are impressive and prominent. One is the development new products. Its main point is keeping the production of high quality products while catering for modern people's taste.  Craftsmen have already tried hard, so we can see many new products like accessories, coffee cups and baby toys. In my opinion, only by making new products that fit the market can the Wajima lacquerware survive. The other approach is the free lending system. According to Mr. Hosokawa, people outside Wajima city can lend Wajima lacquerware for free for a certain time. The experience of using it may impulse their will to buy it. From these policies, we can tell how hard the local government is trying to preserve and advertise Wajima lacquerware.

 

After the lecture, we asked many questions to Mr. Hosokawa. For instance, when and why did the condition of the Wajima lacquer ware became so severe that policies had to be made? How to pass Wajima lacquer ware to next generation? Selling and preserving, which is more significant now? Here, I would like to summarize his answers as followed.

 

Wajima lacquerware used to be a symbol of welfare in 1980s when the Japanese economy reached the peak. However, after the economic bubble burst, people no longer had such amount of money to afford it. Meanwhile, as modern culture has become increasingly rich and colorful, people could have much more choice. So since 1990s, the condition of lacquerware has become more and more severe. Without many orders, craftsman could not make their living by just making lacquerware, many companies had to shrink or collapse, and craftsmen lost their jobs. Since it’s hard to earn living by only making lacquerware, young people, especially males refused to join this field. Gradually, making lacquer ware became a female’s elegant “hobby” before they get married, which can also be proved by the condition in training school that male students is numbered.

 

Now, government’s work focuses on improving the sale rather than preservation. Their aim is to help local people earn their living by making lacquerware without changing the technique and skill to make it cheap enough to sell. It’s hard, but they will not stop trying. They have already made some achievements. People’s interest in the Wajima lacquer ware at home and abroad began to increase.

 

During this two-day trip, I was so impressed by the beauty of the Wajima lacquer ware and its exquisite workmanship. I really hope it can be prosperous again, not only in japan, but also all over the world. I know it will be difficult, but I believe, as people pay more and more attention to traditional culture and artifacts, we will be able to see Wajima lacquerware being prosperous again. (L.M)

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