The Hidden Potential of Urushi (Lacquer)

Lacquer is a type of resin obtained from varnish trees (Toxicodendron vernicifluum) endemic in East Asia. Since the Jomon period in Japan, pottery and various other objects are expected to be durable, with colors and decorations being added at times, thereby soothing and captivating people’s hearts. The Statue of Ashura, a Nara-period Buddhist sculpture masterpiece, is highly famous as a dry lacquer statue created by wrapping a clay core with layers of hemp, followed by applying a lacquer base coat called kokuso (a mixture of lacquer, sawdust, and other materials), refining the details, and then finishing with a coat of lacquer. The lacquer pieces and techniques left to us by our ancestors are truly broad ranging and rich—truly astounding works—but I believe lacquer to be a blessing from nature that is overflowing with creativity and bursting with potential even today.

Work born from Encounters

Forty years have passed since I entered the world of manufacturing, and looking back, I have met so many people and encountered so many different things. And I can't tell you how much I have been encouraged and healed by those encounters. It seems to me that my work is an extension of those encounters. Now that I have passed my 60th birthday, every day is still a series of discoveries and trial and error. I am grateful for the many people who support me and for the great nature that surrounds me, and I hope I continue to work in good faith every day to "mark time in the eternal history of lacquer!

What I’m thinking now…

Living in the deep mountains of Kiso Valley and working with lacquer, many things come to my mind. Sometimes it is about life, sometimes it is about events happening in the world. Human beings are a mystery, and we don't even know ourselves well, much less our abilities and qualities. In any case, it's not a big deal! It seems that all I can do is to keep struggling every day to find out who I really am.

11th of march, 2021
Takeshi Ito


  • Marumata Shikki-ten
  • 1800 Kisohirasawa, Shiojiri City
  • Nagano 399-6302