Tsugaru Nuri(津軽塗:Tsugaru lacquer) ~ Aomori 300 Years of Pride ~

Traditional crafts

1.What is “Tsugaru Nuri”?

There is no exact definition of “Tsugaru lacquer”, but it is generally a general term for traditional lacquer ware produced in the Tsugaru region.

It is said that a craftsman who made lacquer ware was started by the lord of the Tsugaru domain.

It is said that the word “Tsugaru-nuri” was coined in 1873 when the lacquer ware was exhibited at the Vienna World’s Fair to clarify its origin. There is.

Of course, the tradition of the lacquer ware industry in the Tsugaru region is even older and can be traced back to the middle of the Edo period.

Tsugaru Nuri is also the only traditional craft designated by the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry in Aomori Prefecture.


It is robust and practical, and at the same time has a very graceful appearance.

The technique called “polishing change coating” used in Tsugaru coating is a method of smoothing out lacquer that has been applied multiple times to express a pattern.

“Painting”, “sharpening”, and “polishing” of lacquer are performed 38 to 48 times, and a huge amount of time and effort is generously poured into what is commonly called “stupid painting”, so one work is completed. It really takes 3 to 6 months.

It can be said that a complex and beautiful lacquer pattern and a sturdy and firm feel can be obtained.

There were various painting techniques during the feudal era, but the four techniques that have been handed down to the present day are “Kara-nuri,” “Nanako-nuri,” “Monsa-nuri,” and “Cotton-nuri.”

2.Working process

The Tsugaru coating process is completed by first applying the base and then performing each coating pattern process, and then applying a top coat.

① “Base”
② Tsugaru paint 4 technique of “Tonuri”, “seven people Konuri” “Monsha coating”, “Nishikinuri”
③ “Top coat”

Process is performed.


“Hard base”: Robust base peculiar to Tsugaru Nuri

The base of Tsugaru lacquer uses a technique called Honkenchi, which is a type of lacquer base.

First, after adjusting the shape and surface of the wood, apply lacquer directly to harden it firmly (harden the wood), and then (cloth) it to prevent problems such as cracks, deviations, and spoilage of the wood.

Repeatedly apply a spatula to the lacquer, which is a mixture of lacquer, rice paste, ground powder, and abrasive powder, and finally grind it smoothly.

“Kara Nuri”, “Nanako Nuri”, “Monsa Nuri”, “Nishiki Nuri”, Tsugaru Nuri 4 techniques 

“Kara Nuri”(唐塗)

It is a representative of the Tsugaru case and is produced in the current case.

The complex speckled pattern peculiar to Kara-nuri is created from a total of 48 processes by repeating the work of applying, drying, and sharpening many times.

It takes at least one and a half to two months to complete.

The history of Kara-nuri is long in the technique of Tsugaru-nuri, and in the 5th year of Shotoku (1715), there is already a record that says “Kara-nuri no Gobunbox”.

The name “Kara-nuri” comes from the fact that imported products from China were originally called Karamono.

It is thought to have been named “Kara-nuri” in the sense of “excellent” and “rare”, reflecting the social climate of the time.

The basis of the Tang dynasty pattern is called “Tang dynasty”, and the lacquer ware finished mainly with the Tang dynasty is called “Tang dynasty coating” or simply “Tang dynasty”.

It is a basic technique of various “polishing change coating”, and it is a coating with a profound atmosphere with a beautiful colored lacquer fault.

A black lacquer containing egg white is set up with a spatula to create a speckled pattern, and then colored lacquer is applied over it, and when the horse is tested with a whetstone or charcoal, a cut surface appears and a unique pattern appears.

“Nanako Nuri”

Nanako-nuri is a kind of “sharpening change-painting” technique, and its feature is to sow rapeseed seeds to make a pattern.

Characters such as “Nanako”, “Uoko”, “Nanako”, and “Shinko” are applied to the pattern that the collection of small ring patterns by seeding is associated with fish eggs.

The history of Nanako-nuri in Tsugaru-nuri is uncertain, but it does not seem to be unique to Tsugaru-nuri.

For example, the name “Nanaco” can be seen in the craft specimen “Hyakuko Hisho” of the Kaga domain in Enpo 6 (1678).

In addition, the word “roe-nuri” can be seen in the books written by the Obama Domain doctor during the Enpo era.

From these facts, it is probable that it was propagated through trade routes with other clan during the feudal era.

It is a stylish Edo Komon-style paint reminiscent of a fish egg (Nanaco).

Seeds are sown on a brushed lacquer coating film, and when the seeds are peeled off after drying, ring-shaped protrusions remain, which are coated with blood-colored lacquer, and when sharpened, a small ring pattern Appears.

“Monsha Nuri”

Charcoal powder (tanpun) of gauze (the fir pattern is called “gauze” in the Tsugaru region) is sown on a black lacquer pattern (mostly a souvenir pattern mainly for line drawing), sharpened, and polished. It is called Monsa-nuri.

To date, there have been few examples since the Meiji Restoration, and nowadays it is rarely seen as a general product.

As one principle of crest coating, it is a kind of change coating mainly made of charcoal powder and black lacquer, and it is said that it was not a fixed technique but had more illusionary variety.

In addition, Monsa Nuri is the most unique of the sharpening techniques, and it can be said that it is a coating unique to Tsugaru Nuri.

On a matte black background. It is an astringent coating in which a glossy black lacquer pattern emerges depending on how the rays hit it.

After drawing a picture or pattern with black lacquer with a brush, apply lacquer, sow rice husks (rice husks) with charcoal powder, dry it, and then sharpen it to reveal the pattern.

“Nishiki Nuri”

“Nishiki-nuri” is a kind of change of “Nanako-nuri”. It is a gorgeous technique reminiscent of cotton.

It takes a lot of time and effort to create, and requires more advanced technology.

Therefore, it is said that there are only a few Tsugaru painters who can paint Nishiki-nuri at present.

Therefore, there are few products and it is very valuable.

Nishiki-nuri is the newest of the four Tsugaru-nuri techniques that have been handed down to the present day, and is a gorgeous and gorgeous painting technique that brings together the thoughts of the common people who longed for gorgeous gold and silver lacquer work.

It is a luxurious brocade-style painting based on “Nanako-nuri”.

When you draw a cherry blossom arabesque and a saaya type on a Nanako ground that has been blurred in a yellow and vermilion pattern, add a green shading, and brush and polish the vermilion lacquer with tin powder. , The pattern is blocked by the arabesque and appears and disappears softly.

※Source: Refer to the Aomori Prefecture Laquer Ware Cooperative Association website


3.Traditional craftsmen

Painter Takeji Iwatani

Born in 1945, I decided to apply Tsugaru Nuri because I had a physical disability.

Let’s get a job in our own hands because we have a body that is not free like other people.

With that in mind, Mr. Iwatani enrolled in a technical school that teaches Tsugaru Nuri and devoted himself to learning the techniques day and night.

After graduating, he became a disciple of a master who was active as a painter, caught up with his brothers, and continued to study Wei to overtake.

He has lived this way for 50 years, including his discipleship.

During that time, I took a disciple, but basically I kept making it with my own hands until the end.

Mr. Iwatani’s work touches the hearts of many people because he stands in a place unrelated to such compromises.

The reason why Mr. Iwatani says, “The essence of Tsugaru lies in polishing” is because the character of the past exists there.

For example, in the case of party lacquer, lacquer is applied in multiple stages.

In the same way, the undercoat and sharpening are repeated, but by sharpening, the gimmick coating hidden in the undercoat becomes a pattern and appears.

The pattern is, in other words, the time of the past and the work of oneself in the past.

“Sharpening is the moment when you go back to the past and rise to yourself at that time. You can see everything by looking at the pattern that came out from under the grindstone.

Somewhere in this part, I was sick, or I couldn’t imagine the final pattern. Tsugaru Nuri is also an act of questioning one’s past work. “

The past is basically forgotten.

You can move forward with a new feeling because you forget it.

But time and things are by no means one-way.

For example, the rain that shook 100 years ago went around the bottom of the earth, and over the years, it appeared on the ground, became a river, went out to the sea, and eventually became a cloud, and wet the earth again as raindrops.

Draw an arc instead of a straight line, but time still moves forward

Meet the past while advancing to the future.

It may be like a Zen question and answer, but it can only be created through this act.

I think that is the dignified view of the world in Mr. Iwatani’s work.

Mr. Iwatani said, “I am standing at the point of zero now,” while continuing to work.

When he was young, a craftsman who asked him to say, “If you do one thing for 1000 days, everyone will become a thing to some extent.

However, if you want to be a true craftsman, you will finally reach the zero point for another 10 years in a row.

How far can we move forward by breaking through that zero? That is the most important thing. “

It seems that what I have been thinking about for many years while biting this word is the feeling of “finally”.

Painter Masakazu Kobayashi

Kobayashi Lacquerware 6th generation, a young craftsman who will lead the next generation, exhibited at a large-scale trade fair in Italy (Milan Salone) (2017)

I’m really looking forward to seeing how Tsugaru Nuri will be carried in the future!


Tsugaru Nuri has been working on new businesses one after another, with measures such as production area diagnosis, promotion projects based on the Transmission Law, new product development, demand development, human resource development, organizational strengthening, etc. as revitalization measures.

However, in the unpredictable changes in social conditions, some new challenges have arisen.

And among them, marketing is the biggest issue.

Due to the aging of craftsmen and changes in lifestyle, the production value of Tsugaru Nuri has dropped sharply.

It peaked at 2,140 million yen in 1984, and fell to 233 million yen in 2015, nearly one-tenth.

The number of craftsmen has decreased to one-sixth during the same period, and measures for successors are urgently needed.

However, in recent years, various attempts have been made, mainly by young craftsmen, such as cross-industry exchanges, various open recruitment exhibitions, and exhibitions.

In addition, he has launched a brand called “Royal Collection” and is collaborating (jointly developing) with major glass makers, ceramics makers, and jewelry makers in the metropolitan area.

Furthermore, the Tsugaru Nuri breakthrough strategy “TSUGARU JAPAN” business (prefectural priority business) consists of two businesses, “Overseas expansion product promotion business (Sales Strategy Division)” and “Product shell flower promotion business (Hirosaki Giken)”. It is linked from product-in to market-in, and has built a sales network in collaboration with overseas crystal makers.


The only traditional craft in Aomori prefecture.

It is said that Genbei Ikeda, a painter, was the founder about 300 years ago, and it seems that the reason for the beginning was for industrial development.

Under such circumstances, I thought that the techniques, thoughts, and traditions that had been handed down without interruption were immeasurable.

Takeji Iwatani said, “Sharpening is the moment when you go back to the past and rise to yourself at that time.”

As I say, it is always a fight against myself, and only when I can understand and accept myself in the past can I make something that exceeds my previous works.

I thought it was a very convincing and very deep word.

I feel like I was taught how to deal with myself.

I don’t know much about traditional crafts yet, so I would like to understand the origins and roles of each one at that time and gain the awareness that can be gained from that tradition!

Next time preview

I would like to post about ” Takayama Chasen ”.

Let’s have a good trip!