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The School of Wajima Lacquerware

 

 After we visited Wajima Museum of Urushi Art, learning a brief history of an urushi lacquerculture developed in Japan. We went to the Ishikawa Prefectural Wajima Institute of Lacquer Arts, which is near by the museum. The institute was established in 1967 and built to preserve and develop Wajima lacquerware techniques, to research and study, and to collect related documents and data. The institute aims to hand down the techniques and skills possessed by artists designated as Important Intangible Cultural Property (Living National Treasures) for future generations. These artists make up its most important professors. But on the day we visited, as it was in the summer vacation, there was no student in the institute. Also on the second floor are being restored, so we only could take a look of the first floor. When we walked in, firstly we saw the masterpiece of the Tangible Cultural Property which was displayed in the entrance hall. Such other displayed beautiful and lovely Wajima lacquerwares also were designated as Important Cultural Properties of Japan, made by the experts who teach at this institute.

   Later on, we saw the masterpiece works. The staff of the institute explained about the course of the school and the current situation. The institute provides two courses-- a special introductory training course and a regular training course. The special introductory course is designed for beginners who want to learn basic skills. The students study lacquering and ornamental techniques for two years. In the regular course, there are four areas of study; "Soji" (woodwork), "Kyushitsu" (lacquering), "Makie" (lacquer ornamentation techniques) and "Chinkin" (lacquer ornamentation by carving). This course gives three years of training to those who already have basic skills in their chosen area. As the regular course requires the students to already have basic skills, many of them are craftsmen working independently or are in apprenticeships. The students in this course have contributed to raise the technical level of Wajima lacquerware industry. Not only these courses, the institute also provides the Japanese tea ceremony, calligraphy chirography and flower arrangement classes for the students to foster their cultural literacy. The staff also mentioned the current situation, they have 55 students nowadays; among them have two students from Korea, two from China and one from Taiwan. But the institute still confronted by the problem of low numbers of enrollment. They welcome more people to learn and carry on the skill of making Wajima lacquerware.

    Finally, the staff showed us the students’ works and their classrooms. From my opinion, maybe those works are not perfect, but they truly can be the first step for those who wants to become the lacquerware maker. As the number of students in each course is small, each classroom was used by 2-5 students and the training is given in a one-to-one style basically by making pieces of work. And another benefit is that students do not need to pay the tuition fee.

   Due to our visit, here is my suggestion: because the institute has many resource including well-appointed classrooms and experts, it is a chance for them to start the summer camp, open to everyone for experience the whole making process of Wajima lacquerware. I suggest this because it is really hard for people to understand and enjoy something that is not connected to their life. The first problem is people in general do not know the value of lacquerware. If they start to make it by themselves, it would be easier for them to understand the value of Wajima lacquerware and know how to distinguish between the authentic Wajima lacquerware and the fake Wajima lacquerware by themselves. Furthermore, those who join the camp can be potential customers and start to enjoy the lacquerware in their life.  

(S.W.)

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