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Handmade traditional craft of glittering Wakasa-nuri chopsticks! Make your home cooking more enjoyable!

Publication date:2024.02.06 / Update Date:2024.02.20

Handmade traditional craft of glittering Wakasa-nuri chopsticks! Make your home cooking more enjoyable!

You can make your own traditional Wakasa-nuri chopsticks! At "Chopstick Furusato Kan WAKASA" in Obama City, you can experience "Wakasa-nuri Chopstick Making" in which you sharpen one-of-a-kind patterns with your own hands. The moment the glittering pattern comes to life, you will be thrilled. Here is a report on the experience corner, while touching on the history of Wakasa-nuri chopsticks!

What are "Wakasa Lacquered Chopsticks" in the first place?

Wakasa-nuri chopsticks have a beautiful glittering pattern against the deep black and red of the lacquer. According to Ms. Imai of WAKASA, the "glitter" expresses the beauty of the small sand and shells washed up on the beach of Wakasa Bay.

Wakasa lacquered chopsticks began 400 years ago. It is said that Sanjuro Matsuura, a lacquer painter of the Obama Clan at that time, created them using local shells, inspired by Chinese lacquer art*. Abalone shells are still used in Wakasa lacquered chopsticks today. (Imai)

*Decorating lacquered vessels to create artistic works of art.
The wooden base is processed into the shape of chopsticks and coated with lacquer of various colors many times. In the process, seashells, eggshells, pine needles, gold leaf, etc. are scattered. When the chopsticks are polished, the glittering shells and other glittering elements that were coated inside emerge.

The color of the lacquered lacquer also appears as a gradation of colors. In the late Edo period (1603-1867) and early Meiji period (1868-1912), the techniques of maki-e2 as well as raden1 were used in combination, and as many as 200 different patterns were already available. (Imai)

The fact that one-of-a-kind My Chopsticks can be created at the hands-on corner can be said to be the result of coincidence, which can only be discovered by sharpening them.
1 Luminous shells, such as luminous shells and abalone, cut into thin strips and scattered over the surface of the lacquer ware.
*2 Decorated by painting letters or patterns in lacquer and sprinkling gold powder on them before the lacquer dries.

I immediately tried my hand at making my own chopsticks!

The first step is to choose the chopsticks to be sharpened. Choose one of three types: red, black, or blue, whichever you prefer.

Although polishing is done with a machine, it is not a very difficult process. Anyone from elementary school students to the elderly can experience it. Aprons are available for rent to avoid getting your clothes dirty. (Imai)

It takes about 10 to 20 minutes to finish. You can participate even if you just want to give it a try when you stop by during a day trip.
The trick to beautifully sharpen the pattern is not to sharpen too much at once. Even though the lacquer is applied in layers, too much grinding can scrape off all of the lacquer and even the wood base.

The lacquer layer is thin at the corners of the chopsticks, so special care should be taken there. We will be right there with you to guide you through the process, so don’t worry. (Imai)

Their My Wakasa lacquered chopsticks are ready!

I was nervous about not over-sharpening, and at first I was afraid to ……. But once I got used to it, I concentrated on it silently and it didn’t take long. I feel attached to my one-of-a-kind chopsticks! I will cherish my daily meals. (Left)

Lacquered chopsticks, a traditional craft, look "grandma-ish?" (Left) I used to think that traditionally crafted lacquered chopsticks looked "granny-like," but these sparkling ones are cute and make me excited! I want to use them every day! (Right)

The experience of sharpening Wakasa-nuri chopsticks costs 1,100 yen (tax included). It is very reasonable for a traditional craft.

I started …… with the hope that by offering the opportunity to make your own chopsticks, you would develop a love and appreciation for chopsticks. (Imai)

Obama was one of the Miketsukuni (provinces that supplied foodstuffs to the capital of Kyoto) from ancient times. This richness of food culture gave birth to Wakasa-nuri chopsticks, which have supported the Japanese food culture through chopsticks.
*To make a reservation for the sharpening experience, please call TEL 0770-52-1733 at least one hour before closing time. Reservations can also be made via e-mail form up to 2 days prior to the day of your visit.

There are 3,000 varieties ranging from daily use to handmade by artisans of national treasure!

A whopping 3,000 varieties of chopsticks are available in the Chopstick Furusato Museum WAKASA. Colorful and beautiful Wakasa-nuri chopsticks are lightweight and not bulky, making them ideal as souvenirs. They range in price from a few hundred yen to tens of thousands of yen.

Where do the price differences come from?

The expensive Wakasa-nuri chopsticks, including those made by traditional craftsman Masahiro Furui, are made from all-natural materials such as wood lacquer without using artificial materials, and are also handmade.

Wakasa-nuri, also known as "variegated lacquering," is a process in which several coats of lacquer of different colors are applied to the processed wood, and in the process shells, eggshells, pine needles, gold leaf, etc. are applied. The traditional technique requires a lot of time and effort for several coats of lacquer and polishing.

Different colors of lacquer are applied many times, and each coat must dry completely. It is inevitably more expensive. (Imai).

Wakasa-nuri originally began as luxurious, high-end lacquerware

At the time of its conception by Sanjuro Matsuura, a lacquer craftsman (nushi), Wakasa-nuri was used for Wakasa trays, writing brushes, writing brush boxes, Hanami lunch boxes, and other items. The lord took a liking to it and protected the industry, which led to the perfection of various techniques such as "foil stamping" and "polishing" as well as mother-of-pearl inlays and maki-e lacquerware. It is said that it gained a reputation as high-class lacquerware.
However, Wakasa-nuri, with its gorgeous patterns, was not something that everyone could use with pride during the Tokugawa period, when frugality and thrift were the order of the day. It was basically made to order, or custom-made, for a few noble families, samurai families, and wealthy merchant families.
At that time, Wakasa-nuri chopsticks were considered "a prize of high quality. After the war, "Wakasa-nuri chopsticks" spread across the country, probably because the common people continued to admire the beauty of these chopsticks.

Bringing the beauty of Wakasa-nuri to the tables of the common people!

In recent years, quick-drying paints have become widespread and mass production has become possible. It is important that people use chopsticks. In order to bring the glamour and beauty of Wakasa lacquered chopsticks to the tables of the common people, we have always aimed to produce chopsticks that meet the needs of consumers. (Imai)

Wakasa lacquered chopsticks now account for 80% of the total production share of lacquered chopsticks, ranking first in Japan!

Nuanced colors and dishwasher-safe lacquered chopsticks are also available!

Recently, in addition to the evolution of paints, they have been making full use of film transfer technology and other techniques to create a wider range of designs. Each store that makes lacquered chopsticks is aiming for originality and developing products with design in mind.

Wakasa-nuri chopsticks displayed at each store

The lineup includes lacquered chopsticks that suit a variety of lifestyles, such as dishwasher-safe, left-handed, and non-slip. There is a wide variety of shapes, including hexagonal and octagonal, as well as square. We hope you will find the lacquered chopsticks that fit your hand comfortably.

We hope that the number of successors will increase, as this is an industry that still has room for growth. We are expanding globally to further promote the Wakasa brand overseas by opening stores at trade fairs in Shanghai and Milan. (Imai)

Enjoy the fun of making and choosing

Wakasa-nuri chopsticks, born of the beauty of the Wakasa seabed, are tableware that adds color to Japanese food culture. It is a fun time to look at the many chopsticks in front of you. After learning how to make chopsticks at the "Hands-on Experience Corner," you will be able to appreciate the beauty of the patterns of Wakasa lacquered chopsticks lined up in the museum.

Wakasa Lacquered Chopsticks Cooperative Association, Chopstick Furusato Kan WAKASA

Address 8-1-3, Fukuya, Obama City, Fukui Prefecture
Hours of operation Weekdays 9:00~17:00
Sundays and holidays 9:00~17:00
Closed Year-end, New Year's, Thursdays
The museum is open on Thursdays that are national holidays, August 4, and August 13-16.
(However, if Thursday is a national holiday, the museum is closed on the following Friday.)
Parking lot Yes
Access 10 minutes by car from Obama Station on the JR Obama Line
10 minutes drive from Obama IC on Maizuru-Wakasa Expressway
Admission Fee Admission free
Sharpening experience 1,100 yen (tax included)
For inquiries, please contact Phone: 0770-52-1733 (Weekdays 9:00-17:00 / Sundays and holidays 9:00-16:00)
URL https://wakasa-hashi.com/