Urushi is a Japanese traditional natural lacquer. Unlike chemical lacquer, Urushi is the natural sap collected from the Urushi tree. It doesn't contain any hazardous substances or toxicity so it is friendly to the environment and to humans.
Approximately 200g of sap can be collected during that period from a 14 to 15 year-old tree, enough to lacquer ten soup bowls. Once a certain quantity of sap is lost, the tree dies and is cut down in autumn. A new tree grows out of the stub of the old tree the following spring, renewing the process.
There aren’t many Urushi trees in Japan anymore and therefore Japan-made lacquer can be hard to come by. Allergic reactions to the trees, and the availability of synthetic materials like plastic have contributed to a lack of appreciation for the traditional craft.
Initially, Urushi was used as an adhesive for weapons and other hunting tools. Later, Urushi lacquer was developed as a coating for decorative objects, adding creativity and refinement to its protective and resistant qualities. It is said that the word URUSHI was derived from the words "URUWASHI - meaning beautiful" and "URUOSHI - meaning moisture" because of the shininess of its surface.
Meet the Tsutsumi Family. Since 1905 they have dedicated their lives to the craft of Urushi refinery and are now the largest distributor of Japan Made Urushi.
The current successor Takuya has been inspiring us through his many projects advocating for the survival of the struggling industry. He not only teaches children and in colleges but also started to plant Urushi trees in the outskirts of Kyoto in the hopes that people can experience the whole lifecycle of planting, growing, harvesting and creating.
The Japanese way of keeping in harmony with the seasons and the local environment will always be at our core. That’s why Pieces of Japan is committed to prioritizing the sustainability of craftsmen and the natural resources that support them.
We believe that in sharing beautiful, durable, handmade products that last for generations, we can take steps away from our current throwaway culture to create meaningful connections with the things we own.