Sanuki-urushi in Takamatsu City

Diary 2008.3.15



I had to go to Takamatsu yesterday to do some paperwork, so I decided to make the best of it and take a detour to the Takamatsu City Museum of Art. In the special exhibits room on the second floor, there was a solo show of works by local lacquerware master, Oota Hitoshi. He specializes in a technique called rantai kinma. Mr. Oota has been designated a living treasure by the national government.
Back downstairs, I saw an exhibit of kinma lacquerware made by other people including one piece by Ota Hitoshi’s wife Ota Katsuko, and another exhibit called “Sheltering from the Rain; Chronicle of the Museum Collection”, a collection of the gallery’s past twenty years of permanent collection shows. I was rather pleased with myself when I successfully identified the works by Takashi Murakami, Yoshitomo Nara, and Yasumasa Morimura. I hadn’t heard of any of the other twenty or so artists in the show, so I suppose I still have a ways to go in my contemporary Japanese art education.
There are lots of promising looking restaurants and shops in the streets around the gallery. I found a place to have lunch based on the recommendations of the gallery staff, and then set out to look for shops selling lacquerware. After asking at a souvenir shop that had a small selection, I headed to the Goto family shop.

A tray made by the daughter of the Goto family

Their daughter is the fifth generation in the line of lacquerware makers. She showed me the rantai kinma tray she recently made under the direction of Oota Hitoshi himself, at his workshop. The shop has a range of items – from affordable bowls and trays for daily use, to high-end tea ceremony goods. Everything is handmade by the three members of the Goto family – father, mother, and daughter – right there in the shop.

Inside the Goto shop

The old name for Kagawa Prefecture is Sanuki, and Sanuki-urushi is the name for the local style of lacquerware. The Goto’s have their own style of lacquerware on top of that, called Goto-nuri. Apparently their goods start out a darker red, but they become a more brilliant red with use, so there is an added sense of fun. They had several products which were a result of collaboration between their lacquer and other local traditional products. There were lacquer chopsticks with cases made of traditional cloth, and trays made of local granite and embellished with lacquer. The Gotos also participate in local cultural events and tourist-attracting programs to try and get more publicity for their shop, but even then it seems like hard going for a little cottage industry like theirs.



Canadian living in Tokushima City. Translator, Interpreter, and Sofie's mom.

Articles by Claire


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