Every region of Japan is very distinct and they all have their unique heritage of locally produced specialties, ranging from food to artisanal crafts. This uniqueness of each region can be attributed to many factors such as geographical separation, historical feudal factions, and distinct natural resources.
When you think of Japanese craft items, what comes to mind? In this post, let’s take a look at one of the most popular, yet commonly overlooked item: the chopstick.
Fukui Prefecture is located on the northern-western coast of central Japan and is nestled between the Sea of Japan, Wakasa Bay, and immense mountain ranges. It is this region where some of the finest Japanese lacquer chopsticks (wakasa-nuribashi) are made. Specifically, the town of Obama in this region is responsible for producing over 80% of all the lacquer chopsticks in Japan.
(Maruoka Castle in Fukui Japan pictured below)
Intricate pattern lacquering (wakasa-nuri) has been practiced in this region since the 1500s, but it was during the Edo Period (1603-1867) that it rose to prominence. What’s unique about the chopsticks made using wakasa-nuri technique is that many coats of lacquer are applied and polished to the wooden chopstick base and then inlaid with unique patterns made from adornments such as gold, pearl, pine leaves, and other natural materials. Once the lacquer dries, it is grinded until the colors and patterns of the many different layers appear on the surface. The end result is a meticulously hand-crafted pair of chopsticks yet immensely durable due to the high quality wood and all-natural varnish which has been used for hundreds of years.
Chopsticks are more than just eating utensils. They are special because they play a role as a bridge between the person using it and the natural world from which we consume our meals. Every person in Japan has their own unique pair, which lasts them years if not decades.
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Nagano is not often spoken of as a primary tourist destination in Japan. But a couple of notable claims-to-fame make Nagano a very interesting place to visit indeed.