This article was written by Iwate Prefecture’s Morioka Regional Development Bureau, and translated by Amanda Wayama. 

Iwate – known as a lacquer producing-area

Iwate Prefecture in northern Japan has long been a producer of urushi lacquerware. Lacquerware is defined as crafts and tableware that have been coated with the sap of the lacquer tree (which is called “urushi” in Japanese). You may have heard of “maki-e,” a traditional technique for decorating Japanese lacquerware with intricate metallic patterns, but did you know that people use urushi as basic dining ware as well? In today’s article, we’re showcasing Appi-style urushi, which is a style of lacquer tableware that is created in northern Iwate.

1Appi Urushi Studio

The small workshop immediately stands out, with its striking black triangular roof and wooden beams. This is the Appi Urushi Studio, where they create Appi urushi tableware. When you enter the main foyer, you’ll see red and black bowls, dishes, and chopsticks displayed in a quiet atmosphere.

Appi Urushi Studio

The shop right by the main entrance

Making lacquerware

So how does one make both beautiful and useable lacquer tableware? We’ll show you in the video below.



(Video contents)

Harvesting sap for lacquer (called “urushikaki”)

Processing the lacquer

・The coating process (under layers, sanding, outer layers)

The raw sap taken from the urushi tree can’t be used as it will have debris and imperfections. Artisans at the studio clear the debris from the sap and adjust the water levels to make the urushi coating. Urushi sap is naturally a burnt tea-like color, so pigment is added to get the red color.

The processed sap is then applied to a wooden surface to form an under layer, and left for one day to dry. Then the artisan will sand down this dried layer, making it easier for the next layer to grip onto. By repeating this process, you can achieve a very deep color and luxurious texture.

Artisans at this studio apply the urushi sap in five layers. Each layer is sanded down after drying, so the complete coat is not even 1 millimeter thick. This work requires great concentration.

Appi Urushi Studio (the working process)

 Urushi Studio (applying layers of urushi)

An interview with an urushi artisan

Urushi artisan : Ms. Mikami

We spoke with Ms. Mikami, who works at this studio.

This is Ms. Mikami’s fifth year working at the studio. She originally had an interest in sculpture, but after going to work at a university as an artist and interacting with her senior colleagues, she gained an interest in urushi lacquerware.

Q1) Has working at this studio changed your opinion of the place?

A1) With my experience here, I’ve learned that this studio is very serious about the craft. Previously, I was involved with creating artistic objects, but here at this studio we make everyday items – and a lot of them. The production schedule is completely different too. That’s when I realized what it means to work as an urushi artisan. Even your working position is different – when you work on urushi lacquerware, you sit on the ground cross-legged.

Q2) Do you have non-Japanese guests at this workshop?

A2) Before the spread of COVID-19, many foreign guests at the local Appi ski resort would come to try out making chopsticks here. We still offer that service here, so please come visit.

Q3) What urushi lacquerware do you recommend to foreign guests?

A3) We have a bowl that would work great as a salad bowl. For those using lacquer for the first time I recommend using spoons or other western cutlery. When you bring the cutlery to your lips, you’ll feel the smooth and luxurious texture of the urushi sap. Even my children use lacquerware bowls.

Q4) How do you maintain lacquer tableware?

A4) You can’t put them in a dishwasher, but you can wash them with dish soap like any other tableware. After washing them, make sure you dry them with a towel. One last wipe with a dry towel will give it a nice polished sheen. Lacquerware grows more lustrous the longer you use it. That’s what makes it so interesting – you “make” it into something that fits you perfectly.


Appi Urushi Studio Homepage (English page) and

Please check out the studio’s homepage for more information on Appi Urushi. English and Chinese language versions are available.



You can purchase items made at the Appi Urushi Studio at, which offers international shipping. We hope you’ll find the tableware perfect for your tastes.


You can paint chopsticks or plates with your own design at this studio. Please come visit when tourism in Japan strikes up again – You’ll definitely want to try our urushi!







「時間を重ねて作る私だけの食器 安比塗漆器」



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A1. 実際に働いてみて、かなり堅牢なイメージを持ちました。以前はアート作品の製作に関わっていたのですが、日用品を作るこの工房では製作する量がとても多く、また製作スケジュールもまったく違います。これが漆器職人を仕事に持つということだと感じました。他には所作が違いますね。漆器を作るときは胡坐をかいて座るんですよ。




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