It was our first time visiting Yamanaka Onsen, the center for the traditional craft of Yamanaka Lacquerware. Coming from Kanazawa, a big city, Yamanaka was a small and quiet town. We took a taxi from the train station and saw the scenery becoming more and more rural as we got closer to our destination. Although we were tempted to explore more of the town, our schedule was tight, and we went straight to the Unomatudo studio to meet the owner, Hata-san.
Hata-san gladly welcomed us when we arrived and showed us around his office/gallery where the entire Unomatudo lacquerware collection was on display. The pieces were all breathtakingly beautiful. Here is what some of them looked like:
After a little chat over some local tea, Hata-san explained how the Soji collection came to be:
He inherited his family’s lacquerware store in 1999, and produced new collections each year to promote Yanamaka lacquerware. In 2011, he had the idea of adapting this tradition to modern life. He decided not to use the traditional dark lacquer (Urushi) to cover the natural beauty of wood grain. Collaborating with a design studio, Mute, he produced the Soji collection, which is defined by simple modern shapes with exposed wood grain and bold colors.
Soji collection consists of Tutu (canister), Hako (container), Wan (bowl), and Sara (plate). We currently sell tutu and hako at our online store. The Soji collection is available only at gift shows, design exhibits and a few places in Japan. MONOSQUARE is the only store that carries the Soji collection in the U.S. at this moment.
After learning the history of the collection, we went on a tour of the workshop and manufacturing facility.
All lacquerware starts from this lumber of the Castor Aralia tree. The lumber stays outside to dry and is then transported inside the workshop.
After the initial cuts, all the rough-cut ware stays in storage, then proceeds to the carving and lathing area.
We met this master craftsman who specializes in lathing. There were about seven people at the workshop, each with their own specialty.
We were honored to visit the center of Yamanaka lacquerware and see the process of making it firsthand. After meeting the master artisans who create this beautiful craft, we gained a deep appreciation of it. Every time we look at Soji products, we can feel the warmth and care that went into producing them.
We are proud to introduce the Soji collection to a new audience.