Japanese Lacquerware Artisans Graduate After 2-month Delay; Graduation Held in Kanazawa as Wajima Institute Remains Closed

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A lacquer box Hino created as his graduation project

KANAZAWA — The Ishikawa Prefectural Wajima Institute of Lacquer Arts, based in Wajima, Ishikawa Prefecture, held its graduation ceremony on Tuesday in Kanazawa, two months later than usual due to the Jan. 1 powerful quake that hit Wajima and its surroundings.

Wajima is home to one of the nation’s major centers for the traditional craft of lacquerware, and the institute trains aspiring artists and craftsmen. However, it suspended classes due to damage the institute sustained when the Noto Peninsula Earthquake struck. Those who attended Tuesday’s ceremony moved to different locations to work on their graduation projects.

“I had enjoyable and demanding days in Wajima solely studying lacquer work,” said Yuki Hino, as he delivered a speech on behalf of the 14 graduates at the ceremony. “What I learned at the institute will be a great guideline for my life.”

Hino, 34, studied at the institute’s course for maki-e, a decorative technique using powders of gold, silver and other colors. He grew up watching his father Takuya, 61, a maki-e artisan. After graduating from university in Tokyo, Hino started working at a TV station in Ishikawa Prefecture. However, his desire to learn maki-e led him to enroll in the training institute in 2019, just before he turned 30.

At the training institute, established in 1967, students can learn from instructors such as Kunihiro Komori, a 79-year-old living national treasure and director of the institute. They teach the techniques of woodworking, undercoating and overcoating, as well as maki-e and chinkin, another decorative technique.

Hino first studied the basics for two years, before moving on to the maki-e course, which lasts for three years. For his graduation project, he had been preparing designs and wooden boxes for more than a year. However, the earthquake hit the peninsula on New Year’s Day, when he was just about to start the maki-e work for the project.

His house-cum-workshop, which was located along the street on which the Wajima Morning Market was held, was destroyed in the fire that engulfed the neighborhood. Hino and his family took shelter at a relative’s house in the city of Kaga in the prefecture. Since classes were canceled at the institute, its 37 trainees have moved to their parents’ homes and elsewhere.

Hino and two other trainees from the maki-e course continued their graduation work at a university in Kanazawa, which the institute introduced them to. He completed his own work in early April: a lacquer box with its surface decorated with maki-e designs of bivalve shells from Noto.

Hino will start his career as an artist while helping his father, who is creating his work while currently taking shelter in Komatsu, Ishikawa Prefecture.

“I hope that the young generation like us will help boost the [lacquer] industry,” he said. “Someday I will return to Wajima to continue making lacquerware.”

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Yuki Hino receives his diploma from Ishikawa Prefectural Wajima Institute of Lacquer Arts director Kunihiro Komori during a graduation ceremony in Kanazawa on Tuesday.