OMAKASE Artisans: Asada Lacquerware - Good Design Award Winning Lacquerware Specialists

Asada Lacquerware is a distinguished Japanese artisan brand renowned for its exquisite Yamanaka lacquerware. With a rich history dating back to its founding in 1912 by Kyosaku Asada, the brand masterfully blends traditional techniques with contemporary design. Founded over a century ago, Asada Lacquerware has become synonymous with exquisite craftsmanship and timeless design. One of their standout techniques is Murakumo-Nuri, where soot from burning candles creates unique and captivating patterns on each piece.

This blog not only explores their rich history and meticulous artistry but also features stunning visuals by Irwin Wong, a prolific Tokyo photographer renowned for capturing the essence of Japanese culture and craftsmanship. So let us dive in to discover how Asada Lacquerware blends age-old techniques with contemporary aesthetics to create functional works of art.


A Legacy Steeped in Tradition

Yamanaka Lacquerware, with its roots in the scenic Yamanaka Onsen, is a cherished part of Japan’s cultural heritage. This craft, known for its intricate workmanship and enduring beauty, has been passed down through generations. Asada Lacquerware’s journey began in 1912 with Kyosaku Asada, a skilled woodworker from Ouchi Village. 

Kyosaku’s dedication to his craft led him to train ten apprentices, setting the stage for a family legacy that continues to flourish. His son, Takao, guided the company through Japan’s post-war economic boom, ensuring that the craft thrived. Today, under the leadership of Kyosaku’s grandson, Takashi, Asada Lacquerware blends the past with the present, maintaining the rich Yamanaka tradition while innovating for the future.

The Allure of Yamanaka Lacquerware

What makes Yamanaka lacquerware so special? It’s all about the details. The artisans at Asada Lacquerware start with the finest natural materials, meticulously layering wood and lacquer (urushi) to create pieces as durable as they are beautiful. Each layer of lacquer is applied with precision and patience, resulting in a glossy, resilient finish that enhances the natural beauty of the wood. The final products are not just visually stunning but also incredibly durable, making them perfect for both daily use and display.

A Master Preserving a Legacy

A unique aspect of Asada Lacquerware is their dedication to preserving specialized skills, particularly the Murakumo-Nuri technique. This method involves a single Yamanaka artisan using soot from burning candles to create a unique and captivating pattern on each cup. They employ the only artisan capable of producing a specific, highly specialized lacquerware technique.

By employing the only artisan capable of this delicate process, Asada Lacquerware ensures that this rare and beautiful craft continues to thrive. The preservation of such specialized skills not only maintains the integrity of Yamanaka lacquerware but also keeps the tradition alive for future generations.

Masters of the Craft: The Asada Artisans

At the heart of Asada Lacquerware are also many other dedicated artisans who bring each piece to life. The Asada family has nurtured a deep respect for traditional techniques, ensuring these skills are passed down through generations. The current artisans are trained rigorously, mastering the intricate processes that define Yamanaka lacquerware.

Their commitment to high-quality craftsmanship shines through in every item they create. The passion and dedication of these artisans ensure that each piece of Asada Lacquerware is a true masterpiece, reflecting the rich legacy of the Asada family.

Innovation Meets Tradition: The Asada Difference

Their ability to seamlessly blend tradition with modern design sets Asada Lacquerware artisans apart. The artisans are constantly exploring new finishes and ideas, such as resurrecting the ancient beeswax lacquer, Mitsurou, and creatively using Zelkova bark to minimize waste. 

This innovative spirit ensures that their pieces are not only rooted in tradition but also relevant to contemporary life. From elegant tableware to intricate decorative items, each piece is designed to enhance everyday experiences. The result is a harmonious blend of beauty and functionality that embodies the essence of Japanese artistry.

omakase Recommends

If you’re interested in owning a piece from Asada Lacquerware, here are our recommendations here on omakase.

Suwari Wooden Cup

Unveiling a masterpiece in swirling: The Suwari Cup by Asada Lacquerware boasts a rounded shape that invites you to savor your whiskey or wine.  Crafted with meticulous attention to detail, the craftsman polishes the lacquer a stunning five times for a flawless shine. But the true magic lies in the "Murakumo-Nuri" technique, where a single Yamanaka artisan uses soot from burning candles to create a unique and captivating pattern on each cup.  This rare technique elevates the Suwari Cup from functional to extraordinary, making it a treasured and truly unique piece.

Lacquer Wooden Dinner Plate

Asada Lacquerware brings everyday elegance to your table with their sleek Lacquer Wooden Dinner Plate.  Designed for modern living, this plate features a user-friendly rim for easy handling, unlike some traditional lacquerware.  Crafted from lightweight yet durable materials, it turns even a simple pasta dish into a culinary masterpiece, proving that beauty and functionality can go hand-in-hand.

Utsuroi Wooden Cup

Asada Lacquerware's Utsuroi Wooden Cup, the winner of the prestigious Good Design Award, exemplifies their fusion of tradition and modernity. Its captivating metallic exterior reflects a modern aesthetic, while the interior's "fuki-urushi" finish reveals the natural wood grain, adding warmth. Each color option embodies a specific season, reflecting the cup's name, "Utsuroi," which translates to "passage of time" in Japanese. 

In Conclusion

Asada Lacquerware is a perfect blend of tradition, innovation, and exceptional craftsmanship. Their dedication to preserving ancient techniques while embracing modern design ensures that each piece is a functional work of art, cherished by all who own them. So why not add a piece of Asada Lacquerware to your tableware and discover the timeless beauty and functionality of these exquisite creations? You will soon discover you’ve bought a piece that will remain with you forever.

Learn More About Irwin Wong

Irwin Wong is a Tokyo-based photographer known for his dynamic portrayal of Japanese culture and craftsmanship. His work has been featured in numerous high-profile publications and his keen eye for detail and vibrant imagery bring life to his subjects. Irwin's two books, Handmade in Japan - The Pursuit of Perfection in Traditional Crafts, published in 2020 and The Obsessed - Otaku, Tribes and Subcultures of Japan, published in 2022 are available via through Gestalten. To learn more about Irwin, visit his website and follow him on Instagram.

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