Kyo-shikki (Kyoto lacquerware) (京漆器)

"Kyo-shikki" is a handicraft of lacquerware produced in Kyoto City. Being of practical use as well, it is one of Japan's best-known lacquerware in Japan.

Kyo-shikki is a lacquerware produced on the basis of values as 'arts and crafts' rather than as serving dishes for daily use, being made from thinner wood grain, treated with foundation more carefully and given more sophisticated and elegant makie (Japanese lacquer sprinkled with gold or silver powder) on it than lacquerware produced in any other area of Japan.

Kyoto has been the center of production of lacquer craftworks in Japan as well as of politics and culture since the transfer of national capital to the city of Heian-kyo, supplying high-quality lacquerware made with a great deal of time and care, from religious service accessories to tea utensils of the royalty and nobility. Having developed side-by-side with court nobles and mercantile houses who are its customers, Kyo-shikki is extremely expensive compared with lacquerware produced in the other areas, with a design which is thin, delicate and elegant.

As these handicrafts of Kyo-shikki were used as presents between daimyos (Japanese territorial lords) and spread all over Japan, they have influenced the origin and manufacture process of the other local lacquerware.

The characteristics of Kyo-shikki is "Honkataji," the most basic process of manufacturing lacquer craftworks in which thin wood grain is reinforced with hemp attached to it by using lacquer and starch glue, layers of foundation called "Jisabiurushi" and "Sabiurushi," which is a kind of paste made from "Yamashina Jinoko" and "Yamashina Tonoko"both produced in Yamashina Ward, Kyoto City and mixed together with lacquer, are applied onto the reinforced wood grain, and, after a process called "Kukurisabi" in which the corners of the artifact are reinforced for the purpose of strengthening and making the sharp edge sharper, black and red lacquer is applied onto it layer by layer.

As the manufacturing technique of lacquerware spread across provincial areas and local lacquerware was created, the process of "Honkataji" was passed on to manufacturing processes of Echizen lacquerware, Yamanaka-nuri and Wajima-nuri lacquerware, but it is common practice to mix rice glue into foundation in Echizen, Yamanaka and Wajima because work efficiency concomitant with production volume is required. It is beneficial to add rice glue because application of foundation to the artifact and its cure control are made easier and as a result workability is improved. However, durability is lowered by blending resin (lacquer), fillers such as Jinoko and Taonoko, and starch, which has less resistance to water.

On the other hand, in the case of Kyo-shikki good at production of small lots with a high unit price, percentage of lacquer in the whole foundation is about 50 percent by weight (wet)/60 percent by weight (dry) because rice glue is not added, so the artifacts are costly but durable thanks to foundation which contains much resin.

Kyo-shikki is designated as "Traditional Crafts" by the Minister for Economy, Trade and Industry.

[Original Japanese]