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I've been racking my brains on this for quite a while now and would like to buy some traditional styled Japanese Lacquerware or shikki (漆器) in Tokyo.

I've tried places like Asakusa and some online shopping sites are available as well (for instance Rakuten). I'm looking for some high quality but cheaper hand made lacquerware which I can take a look at in person and select from.

I primarily wish to use it for decoration purposes and not for eating on a daily basis.

I'm also willing to travel a little from Tokyo as long as it's a reasonable distance and cost. Are they any places where I can find stuff like this?

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I'd go to Kappabashi-dori, conveniently located between Ueno and Asakusa next to Tawaramachi stn on the Ginza line. It's Tokyo's main restaurant wholesale district and sells everything you need for food preparation or presentation at low prices, Wikivoyage has a bit more info. Note that the Japanese term for lacquerware is shikki (漆器), urushi-nuri is the coating itself.

Note that lacquerware is, paradoxically, one of those things where the more you pay, the less you get, since the real thing is fragile, stains easily and is difficult to clean without causing damage. My wife only trots out her set for New Year's, and she puts a layer of plastic wrap between food and plate when she does! Plastic imitations are much cheaper (hundreds of yen vs thousands), much more practical and not easily distinguished by the naked eye, although for seriously decorative pieces (eg. the pieces towards the bottom of this article), the real thing will be your only option.

  • 2
    Goddamnit. Once, ONCE I try to write something Japanese and I get it wrong. :( Why is it so hard! :'( – Aditya Somani May 26 '14 at 2:33
  • I tried looking for stuff at Kappabashi-dori, but some shops were closed. I'll be going there next week to try again! I did find some good ceramic knives though! :D – Aditya Somani May 26 '14 at 2:35
  • (+1) I think it's also worth while to look at some of the department stores to get a comparison for price & Quality. The dep. store stuff is usually quite expensive, so not for buying, but it helps to get some understanding of the pricing landscape and design directions for comparison. – uncovery May 26 '14 at 5:39
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You should really try the "Japan Traditional Crafts Aoyama Square" (伝統工芸 青山スクエ)

It is located in Tokyo (Aoyama 1-chome station) and contain a large variety of traditional items, some being lacquerware.

Address:

 Akasaka 8-1-22, Akasaka Oji Bldg 1F.
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The place where I ended up buying most of my stuff from is called Kuroeya. They have a website in Japanese and some information in English as well and end up as one of the first results on Google when you search Shikki in Japanese.

They are situated right next to Nihonbashi on the Tozai Line. Here is an address for people who would like to buy some of their stuff.

Nihonbashi 1-2-6, Kuroeya Kokubun Buildingg 2nd Floor

Unfortunately their stuff is a little high priced and may not be a great choice for someone who just wants a memorabilia from Japan. On the other hand they only keep either pure wood or 50% melamine mixed Shikki with some exotic crafting. If you are planning to decorate your home, this might be a great option. Their stuff is much more exclusive than the stuff I was able to find in other spots such as Kappabashi-dori.

Nonetheless, Kappabashi-dori is worth a visit as well!

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A lesser known place is Aizu City in Fukushima. It makes a lovely trip if you are going to Japan. It has been a strong hold of lacquerware since about 1600. It is a castle city so you can visit the refurbished castle as well and there are lacquerware for sale at the station and around the town. The traditional forms are indeed beautiful, and I found this store which has also some English and available online in case you cannot get there: traditional Aizu Style lacquer. From that same area there are now designers who are creating original contemporary lacquer (Urushi) items, like jewelry, and other items as as well. Be warned, real, quality lacquer (Urushi) is not an inexpensive object - that is probably because of the care to detail and the time the process takes. It is a traditional craft-art with generations of techniques passed down supporting it still. Traditional techniques are still employed using the sap from the Urushi tree, so the beauty, shine, luster, hallmarks of Urushi, and somewhat reminiscent of the sheen of a pearl, is maintained through expert craftsmanship -- you would be buying a craft-art object and nothing less. You can see some examples of contemporary jewelry here Contemporary Urushi Lacquer Jewelry, which you will notice if you visit the site, is also going beyond the traditional blacks and red to include vivid yellows and deep blues. Lacquer (Urushi) is truly one of Japan's finest craft-arts and well worth learning more about and seeing the real thing! Good luck!

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