'Small Bird on Weeping Cherry Tree'

This artwork by Hiroshige reveals a specific pairing of a small bird and cherry blossoms that have served as the foundation for a tradition that continues into the present day, endowed with symbolic importance beyond their outward beauty. The beauty of Japanese art resides in its capacity to communicate a feeling of impermanence with the continuous cycle of nature, such as how spring returns with its blooms each year.


The Process

Chinkin (沈金) is one of the ornamental styles of Urushi art used all over Japan. Chinkin lacquer art involves carving the urushi surface and filling them with gold powder. The patterns that emerge will be enhanced, prolonging the gold designs' longevity and producing lacquerware art that thoroughly captivates the observer's attention. 


1. Hori (彫り)​​
The engraving of lines (線彫り) such as outlines and fine dots (点彫り) to form patterns and the varying angles and depths of the carved grooves give the finished product a precise, three-dimensional appearance. Unlike Makie, another well-known ornamental style of Urushi art, there is no space for error since a cut cannot be rectified once it is done.

2. Urushi-Ire (漆入れ)
Urushi is applied and rubbed into the carved area. 

3. Kin-Ire (金入れ)
The design is liberally covered in gold powder, which is then rubbed into the surface. Chinkin, which may be loosely translated as "gold-inlaid lacquerwear," has its roots in this.

4. Shime (湿め)
In a "Shime-Buro," the damp box that is meticulously kept at a specific temperature and humidity, Urushi is dried and hardened.

5. Finishing (仕上げ)
The Master Chinkin employs traditional Japanese washi paper to remove any residual gold to provide an impeccable finish once the Urushi and gold have both set.


No other substance can match the incredible depth that Tamenuri gives. Urushi has the ability to transform and change hues over time. Unlike other materials, it does not fade when exposed to light but instead subtly changes color thus giving Urushi its distinct property.

When it comes to Urushi, the type and quantity of pigment, weather, and the season will all have an impact on the lacquer. The thinnest section of the coating, such as the edges the box, appears to have stunning transparency that is typical of Tamenuri. The process involves hand-applying layers of red Urushi (shu-urushi), followed by many layers of transparent dark brown Urushi (shuai-urushi) over the red base.

Given time, tinted lacquer loses its color and becomes more transparent, allowing the color used for the base of the coating to seemingly float in relation to the surroundings.  The areas where the dark brown Urushi (shuai-urushi) is thinnest at the edges, the red Urushi (shu-urushi) color peeks through, and the red will become more brilliant with time. In the case of Tamenuri, the same hue cannot be precisely duplicated, resulting in a one-of-a-kind product.


Multiple artisans, each with a distinct area of expertise, are engaged in the creation of this Chinkin box. The box is first made by "Sashimono-shi," a master of wood bases. Without the use of a single nail, the wooden components are put together precisely. After that, a "Nu-shi" paint master applies many coats of Urushi to the sculpture to harden it up for the final decoration stage. Finally, a professional gold inlay craftsman named "Chinkin-shi" engraves and applies gold to express a refined and intricate design.

One of the artisans that worked on our product has been in the trade for more than 200 years, commencing in the Edo era when the local samurai lord served as their patron. Since then, they have remained committed to the founder's creed, "Our store is for our customers." The eighth generation of the family is currently attempting to maintain the lovely Urushi-ware tradition by adding new methods and concepts and creating goods that the future generation would appreciate.