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Wajima City Hall: The Current Situation and Challenges of Wajima Lacquerware

I was excited to visit Wajima city, because my Japanese friends told me that Wajima is famous for a traditional market and being a production center of lacquerware in Japan. I was looking forward to seeing them.

On September 26th, students and professors from the cultural resource management program visited Wajima City Hall and Mr. Hosokawa who is a staff member of Wajima city hall gave us a lectureabout the current situation and challenges of Wajima lacquerware. At that time, Ms. Ross who is an artist of wajima lacquerware translated his Japanese to English, then we also had a discussion after his lecture.

In that lecture, Mr. Hosokawa said that the most famous thing of Wajima city is lacquerware (as we know wajima nuri). Although the production of lacquerware in Wajima city peaked in 1991, it has declined only 43 percent in producing lacquerware until 2013. In spite of the decline of the production of lacquerware and the number of tourists, wajima lacquerware is still popular and attractive to tourists. Nowadays, there are 29 inns, 96 restaurants, 56 lacquerware workshops using lacquerware for customers and tourists.

Why has wajima lacquerware declined? Because nowadays Japanese lifestyle has changed and adapted to modern society, even products using traditional techniques have become diverse and costs of those products have become very cheap. Only the people who know how to make the lacquerware using delicate and complicated techniques can understand the value of them. Especially, for young people, wajima lacquerware is too expensive to get. While most young people don’t try to learn the traditional ways recently, a few young people try to understand the value of them.

Wajima City Hall has a main role to support wajima lacquerware. They research it and help to make  new products. In addition, they try to promote using wajima lacquerware for our daily lives other than tableware and introduce it to all of the world to draw people’s curiosities from outside, too. They are also planting Urushi trees to raise the value of the lacquerware, because customers tend to prefer ‘traditional material’ made in one place. The staff concerning wajima lacquerware are continuing to make efforts not to cut off the line of succession of cultural resources.                    

                                                                                                                                                                             S.K.

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