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Wajima Kirimoto: Drum Up the Craft Throughout Time

Noto is an area which is famous for its beautiful nature, fresh marine product, and culture. During the two day trip organized by the CRM program in Wajima-Noto area, students gained fruitful experience about so-called Wajima lacquer (urushi) or known as “Wajima-Nuri”. One of the destinations on the trip was the Wajima Kirimoto Workshop. I felt so grateful to have a chance to visit this workshop since it is one of the reputable companies in Wajima. However, the most impressive thing for me was how this company survive the decline of the demand of Wajima-Nuri products. According to the manager and the owner's wife of the Kirimoto workshop, Mrs. Junko Kirimoto, wajima-Nuri today is currently in a negative phase. Product sales are decreasing and have forced some companies to close their business. Therefore, the company should find a way to survive these circumstances.

Kirimoto workshop has a long history of trading. This company had started lacquer manufacturing and production since the late Edo Period. A business was established by Kyuko Kirimoto in 1929, specializing in processing, complicated wooden core carving for lacquerware. The second generation Toshihei, expanded the business and built a factory, which also produced a variety of furniture. Presently, this business is managed by Mr. Taichi Kirimoto as the third generation of the Kirimoto family. He helped manage the daily operations of Mr. Toshihei factory and elevated it to a new stage of Wajima-Nuri. Mr. Taichi Kirimoto who majored product design at university, directs overall the regular production process and works with talented craft people in attempt to explore lacquer as part of a modern lifestyle.

Wajima Kirimoto has been trying over any possibilities through design and development of Wajima-Nuri. Some products still apply basic urushi techniques such as, wood core manufacturing and the Fuki-urushi technique. It's also made with Honkataji a typical Wajima-Nuri technique, which applies lacquer cloth on the natural wood object before covering it with the Wajima-Nuri special powder coating, Jinoko. By those techniques, Kirimoto designs its products by considering current trend and the modern lifestyle. He not only produces lacquer ware, but has also produced many interior goods and architectural structures made of lacquer.

As a requirement of the modern lifestyle, Mr. Kirimoto invented Wajima Kirimoto's techniques; Makiji and Seshuji. Makiji enables one to use metal spoon without damaging the surface of the lacquerware. Likewise, Senshuji technique shows a new way of modern lacquer with thousand streak patterns of Jinoko coating products. Currently, the products attract a new costumer, especially the young Japanese generation who lives an urban lifestyle.

At the end of the visit, Mrs. Kirimoto showed us one of the show rooms. It was a well-displayed store, selling high-end pricey products. Undoubtedly, it is a high quality product.  Mr.Kirimoto sets a high standard to sell quality and well-crafted products,which are completely made of natural materials. Mrs. Kirimoto admitted it was not easy to sell the products because people can't tell the difference between high quality and low quality Wajima nuri before using it. Therefore, Wajima City Hall started a free rental system of their products in an attempt to spread knowledge of its value. In addition, they also offer repair service for their products.

Traditional craft techniques in today’s modern society is a serious matter for Wajima Kirimoto to keep the business and traditions alive.  The business tries new   possibilities to rise and produce a better new value. The owners pride themselves of selling good products, which emit energy and relax feeling to the users. They also believe, if they can withstand these circumstances, the next  generation will attain the benefits of Wajima-Nuri.