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Address: 24-55 Kawai-machi, Wajima 928-0001, Ishikawa Prefecture
Name/address in local language
Phone Number:
+81 768-22-2155
08:30 - 17:00
Closed now
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Sun - Sat 08:30 - 17:00

Wajima Nuri Kaikan

(Wajima Urushi Craft Museum)

The 1st floor is a store,and...

Wajima Nuri Kaikan

(Wajima Urushi Craft Museum)

The 1st floor is a store,and 2nd floor is the lacquerware museum,exhibiting historical

documents and material relating to Wajima lacquerware.Admission to the museum is

Traditional Japanese handicraft



About Wajima nuri

Wajima nuri is a traditional lacquerware method originated and developed around Wajima.

The word may refer to both the craft technique and urushi artifacts .?

About Urushi

Urushi is the sap of the urushi tree. It has strong adhesive properties and is used as a

lacquering material that on hardening becomes extremely durable and produces a glossy finish.

It can be found widely throughout Eastern Asia and has been used in Japan for several

thousand years. The word ‘urushi’ is thought to have originated from the Japanese uruwashi

or urumu which approximates to the English for fresh and vibrant gloss. When urushi hardens

it is very resistant to both acids and alkalis and is durable enough to last several thousand

years. Urushi product have been found in excavations that date from the Jomon period (8000

BC - 300 BC). There have even been cases reported where the original wooden base has

completely rotted away but the original urushi coating has remained with its color and quality


Urushi is also a very delicate substance. The quality of urushi changes depending on the time

of day and year in which the urushi is taken from the tree and it is also affected by the method

and place by which it is collected. Urushi is different from other coating materials in the way

that it is dried. It contains a substance called urushiol which reacts with oxygen and hardens

through a process of oxidization. For this process to occur a suitable temperature and level of

humidity are both necessary. The drying process also proceeds gradually over a considerable

length of time after the piece has been completed. Therefore a piece that has just been

finished should be treated very carefully when it is first used. It can be used normally after

the first year and after about three years of use the gloss fully matures and the piece can be

said to have come of age.

Urushiware is Ecological

With its raw materials of wood and urushi, urushiware is a collaboration of two of the blessings

of nature. The production process uses almost all natural materials which means that a very

small amount of energy is required. Further, there are no harmful side-effects associated with

the production process and it creates minimal environmental pollution or ecological damage.

The History of Wajima-nuri

There are a number of theories as to how urushi production started in Wajima but as yet none

of them have been confirmed. Vessels that contain locally found powder mixed in with the

urushi undercoating have been discovered in a number of local excavations which date back to

medieval times. From evidence found in the small number of handed down texts that have

survived the centuries, it is thought that urushi was being produced in Wajima in the

Muromachi Period.

Important factors in the development of urushiware production are both the local abundance of

readily available materials such as Noto cypress, zelkova, urushi trees and Wajima jinoko

powder and the area’s favorable climatic conditions. Wajima was historically a port of call on a

major sea route which made it convenient for the transportation of materials and goods. This

was probably an important contributing factor to the local development of the industry.

However, the fact that the people involved in the production and distribution of urushiware

had such pride in their work, and that the level of the techniques were continuously being

honed, are probably the most important factors in ensuring that the tradition has been passed

down so successfully to the present day.

The Production Process of Wajima-nuri

There is a systematic division of labor in the production process of Wajima-nuri that at its

broadest level can be divided into the stages of substrate production, lacquering and

decoration. Within these general categories there is a further level of specialization which

includes the wooden substrate crafts of wan-kiji (wood turning to produce objects composed of

concentric circles), magemono (the bending of previously soaked wood to produce substrates),

sashimono (the assembly of processed wood into boxes and shelves), hou-kiji (specialist

carving of more complex shapes), and the lacquering techniques of shitaji (undercoating),

uwanuri (top coating), ro-iro (polishing), maki-e (predominantly decoration through the

sprinkling of gold or silver into intricate patterns) and chinkin (decoration through carving of

patterns onto the surface and filling the grooves with gold and sliver).

With a production process based on a system of division of labor, a piece will typically go

through over one hundred stages which can take anything from six months to several years to

complete. Each of the specialist fields have developed their own traditions of high level

craftsmanship and efficiency at each stage of the production process which have been carefully

passed down through generations and are still held in high regard today.

Each craftsman works with confidence and dedication to produce his work. The nushiya is the

master craftsman and it is his job to manage and oversee the entire production process. From

the time that an order is placed until the delivery of the product he is uncompromising in

ensuring that at each stage the highest standards of quality are maintained.

Wooden Substrates

The shape of the wooden substrate differs according to its purpose and the industry is divided

into trades in which craftsmen who have mastered the necessary specialist techniques work.

Certain woods are more suited to certain shapes and the correct choice of wood for each

shape is another important part of the production process. Whichever kind of wood is chosen,

it needs to be dried for three to five years after the tree has been felled before it can be



Wan-kiji, which is also known as hikimono-kiji is the technique of turning wood on a lathe a

while carving it with a turning tool. It is used for producing circular vessels such as bowls,

dishes, plates and pots. The woods most often used are zelkova, cherry and horse chestnut.


Sashimono or kakumono, is the assembly of wood that has been made into boards. The woods

most often used are Noto cypress, Japanese cypress, paulownia and gingko. The boards are

used to make such things as stacked box sets, ink-stone boxes, miniature dining tables and



Using thin prepared wood with a vertical grain, the wood is soaked in water to make it pliable

and then bent into round shapes such as circular trays and lunch boxes. Good quality wood is

necessary such as Noto cypress or Japanese cypress.


Hou-kiji is also known as kurimono-kiji and falls within the field of sashimono. It is the

specialist field of the production of substrates which have many curves and require the carving

of more complex shapes such as tatami floor tables, the legs of flower vases, the mouse of

sake bottle and spoons. The woods most often used are magnolia, katsura and Noto cypress.


Wajima-nuri has a characteristic lacquering method. It is known as hon-kataji and is a

traditional technique of undercoating. Wajima has remained steadfast in keeping to this

method and through continuing research has strived to achieve the highest quality possible in

urushiware. It has become the standard in Wajima lacquering.

The parts of a wooden substrate that are most prone to damage are reinforced with cloth that

is applied to the wood with urushi. Subsequent urushi undercoats are mixed with Wajima

jinoko which literally means earth powder.

Jinoko is high quality baked diatomaceous earth (a light soft chalk-like sedimentary rock that

contains fossilized algae that give it an absorbent quality). Jinoko is extremely heat resistant

and when mixed with urushi dries to form a hard and durable coating. Jinoko in Wajima is

graded according to the size of the particles and is applied to the substrate mixed with urushi

from the rough ippenji (first grade) followed by ippenji Between each stage the surface is

sanded when dry and with each layer the finish becomes both finer and smoother.

The repeated undercoating process however is not just for the purpose of ensuring durability.

The undercoating process is also known as jitsuke and through careful manipulation of the

thickness of coats and the sanding process between these coats the craftsman also determines

the final shape and character of the substrate. It is an extremely important stage of the

production process as there is no room for error as any oversight will be visible in the finished

product. In order to produce such high quality work, a considerable level of technique is

required from the craftsmen to consistently produce at such a demanding level.

In uwa-nuri high quality refined urushi is applied to the substrate with a brush. Dust is the

greatest enemy at this stage which requires great care and concentration.

There are several varieties of urushi which are each used according to their individual

properties. The season and climate contribute to the condition of the urushi when it is used

and so it has to be carefully prepared. The experience and techniques of the uwa-nuri

craftsman provide him with the ability to carefully mix and adjust the urushi so that each time

it is used an optimum coating is achieved.

Decorative Techniques

One of the most important factors that give the both durable and elegant-its character is the

beauty of the decorative techniques of maki-e and chinkin . With their harmonized colour-

schemes they add a new dimension of aestheticism to urushiware.

Ro-iro Finish

Broadly speaking there are two main finishes in urushi. These are nuri-tate and ro-iro. Nuri-

tate refers to the finish that is achieved by applying the final coat of urushi and doing no other

work on it after it has dried. Ro-iro is a repeated process of rubbing urushi into the top coat

and then polishing it. At the end, the final polishing is carried out using the skin of the hand

until even the tiniest scratches have been removed. The resultant mirror-like finish which is

unique to urushi sets off the gold and silver decorative work.


This is the decorative technique of using urushi to draw patterns on a lacquered surface and

then sprinkling on gold or silver. It has a history of several thousand years and is one of the

representative decorative techniques in Japanese urushi art.

Within maki-e there are a number of specialist techniques such as hira maki-e (flat collage-

like designs), togidashi maki-e (sanded through designs) and taka maki-e (raised designs).

These can be used in a variety of ways to achieve many different kinds of finishes.


Chinkin is a decorative technique that involves carving into the lacquered surface of

urushiware and filling these grooves with gold leaf or powder. A round-tipped chisel is the

standard tool and is used for carving lines and grooves but other special chisels are also used

for different particular tasks such as carving shallow wider areas or gouging out deeper

grooves in the surface.

How to Handle Urushiware

If urushiware is used for its original purpose it will rarely become damaged. However, there

are some points to remember with regard to the way that it is washed and stored. If care is

taken to keep to these guidelines, urushiware will enhance the aesthetic quality of your life

for many years to come.

How to Wash

Urushiware can be washed with a conventional neutral household detergent. Scrubbing

brushes and steel wool that contain abrasive material in them will cause scratching and so

should be avoided. If urushiware is washed separately from tableware with rough surfaces such

as pottery any risk of scratching can be further avoided.

No Microwave Ovens

Electromagnetic waves burn urushi so under no circumstances should urushiware be put into

microwave ovens.

Refrain from Using Automatic Dishwashers and Dish Dryers

Please refrain from automatic dish washers and dish dryers as boiling water and hot air can

damage urushi.

Avoid Direct Sunlight

Urushi deteriorates by being exposed to ultra-violet rays and so should not be placed in areas

that get direct sunlight for long periods of time.

How to Store

If urushi is to be stored for long periods of time it should be out of direct sunlight and in a

place with a reasonable amount of humidity. In order that mold does not form on it is

important that any dirt or water should be wiped off before storage. A place that is too dry

can cause warping so should be avoided.

Scratches and Damage Can Be Repaired

Urushiware can be re-lacquered and damage can be repaired. In Wajima this has been known

from olden times as naoshimon and is the responsibility of craftsman who made it.

Transportation information (to Wajima)

From Tokyo

  Airplane / Tokyo (Haneda)-Noto Airport: 1 hour

From Noto Airport

  Bus or shared-taxi: Approx. 20 minutes

From Kanazawa

  Car / Using Noto toll road: 1 hour and 30 minutes

  Hokuriku railroad / Okunoto Express bus: 2 hours

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TripAdvisor Reviewer Highlights

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Wajima Lacquerware Muesum

Traveling to Kanazawa- add this excursion to Wajima a center for Lacquer production for hundreds of years. Stopping at the Lacquerware Center gives you a foundation for all the... read more

Reviewed 12 April 2016
Squaw Valley, California
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45 Reviews from our TripAdvisor Community

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Showing 3: English reviews
Hong Kong, China
Level Contributor
117 reviews
87 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 36 helpful votes
Reviewed 26 October 2016

Just a few minutes walk from the Wajima morning market, the ground floor is a shop that sells the very pretty but expensive Lacquerware. 2/F is where the museum is and you have to pay to get in. shows how the lacquerware is made and displays some antique lacquerare. Had a free entry with the Noto one day bus tour,... More 

Thank fionayyy
Squaw Valley, California
Level Contributor
31 reviews
13 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 12 helpful votes
Reviewed 12 April 2016

Traveling to Kanazawa- add this excursion to Wajima a center for Lacquer production for hundreds of years. Stopping at the Lacquerware Center gives you a foundation for all the amazing pieces that are for sale in the shops around Wajima. If you want to understand what makes a piece exception this is a great way to get that education before... More 

1 Thank Tahoepov
Singapore, Singapore
Level Contributor
77 reviews
62 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 43 helpful votes
Reviewed 2 March 2015

We visited Noto Peninsula as a day trip from Kanazawa. We never made to visit the Wajima Lacquerware Center but after checking the bus timings (we took the first bus from Kanazawa to Wajima) we decided to drop off at the lacquerware district instead. The lacquerware store was very very pricey! A friend even commented that it’s like they accidentally... More 

1 Thank chemislove

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