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Published on Feb 25, 2015
Urushi is the sap of the urushi or lacquer tree that is native to Japan, China, and Korea. The sap of this tree contains a resin that polymerizes and becomes a very hard, durable, plastic-like substance when it is exposed to moisture and air.
From that time onward, as Japanese culture developed, so did its use of lacquer and its application to bowls, plates, trays, sake cups, boxes, combs and other objects. As Japanese civilization developed, lacquerware techniques continuously incorporated ever more refined styles. The Nara period (710-794) saw the birth of the maki-e decoration technique in which gold ''dust'' was decoratively sprinkled on the lacquer surface.
Urushi has found many uses in Japanese craft and culture forms. Urushi bowls or plates are an essential part of Japanese haute cuisine forms such as kaiseki. Maki-e (sprinkled application of gold or silver powder) and raden (mother-of-pearl inlay) urushi techniques have been widely used to elegantly decorate furniture, make-up accessories, toys, and writing implements.
Urushi is also widely used in the tools and utensils for the traditional Japanese tea ceremony. Urushi was also used for the altars of Buddhist temples and in the making of armour, helmets, swords, and other implements of war. In the Edo period (1600-1868), personal accessories made with urushi such as medicine cases, combs and hairpins became widely popular. Today, urushi continues to be used in its traditional forms and in modern, new ways.