Shioyasu Kobo

Mr and Mrs Shin’ichi Shioyasu standing on the right of the core of the workforce—showroom staff in purple and workshop staff centre and left.
In Pursuit of Excellence
The Shioyasu Kobo is one of the bigger true lacquer workshops and pervaders of true lacquerware in Wajima, with a history going back some one-hundred and fifty years.  It is a large enough organisation to be a focus for tourist buses bringing people who are on tours of Wajima and the surrounding Noto Peninsula.  It is therefore little wonder that there is everything from chopsticks to tables and accessories to grand true lacquered screens in the expansive showroom, with a band of dedicated staff ready to help customers with their purchases.

Pieces to wow the public take pride of place in the showroom.
But the mini-tour of the premises begins at the doors to the workshops, which occupy the back of the building.  Although many of the Japanese tourists who come know a good deal about the origins of true lacquer and how it is used, there are a surprising number who know little more than contact with this refined sap from the lacquer tree can cause a skin rash.  In fact some even think that inhaling the air heavy with its scent may also be harmful.

One of several old design manuals to fall back on when necessary.
On the day back in June when I was working under Masahiko Sakamoto, I was genuinely taken aback by how limited the average person’s knowledge of true lacquer was.  Mind you, of course a good many people were much more interested in why a bearded foreigner was in a workshop that was usually the exclusive domain of Japanese craftspeople.

With the workshop tour over, the visitors move into the showroom to be astonished by some of the trophy pieces on display and then generally buy at least a pair of chopsticks or perhaps a soup bowl or two.

Chased and engraved pine motif for a collection of items to ceremonially bring in the New Year. 
Photo Courtesy of Shioyasu Kobo
Dolls associated with Hina-matsuri, the Girl’s Day celebrated on 3rd March each year.
Photo Courtesy of Shioyasu Kobo
But as a commissioning body, Shioyasu Kobo contracts out work as necessary to any number of other craftspeople rather than completely relying on those working on the premises on Route 249 leading south out of Wajima.  There are those who turn the wooden core of many of the items, as well as specialist decorators on hand to provide just the right set of skills to complete a job and satisfy the needs of the customer.  And, strictly speaking, the desire to satisfy the customer is very high on Shin’ichi Shioyasu’s agenda.  In fact, the situation is the same whether one or many craftspeople are involved in the completion of a product.  It must be of the highest possible quality and can in no way be questioned as to its degree of excellence.  That, in actual fact, is the core of the Japanese work ethic in a nutshell.

Accessory to please those with a contemporary taste in true lacquer work.
Photo Courtesy of Shioyasu Kobo
Stereo speakers with a true wow-factor.
Photo Courtesy of Shioyasu Kobo

To view some of the other products on offer from Shioyasu Kobo access www.shioyasu.com, which is in Japanese, so click on the fourth tab from the left for a product gallery.

Bill Tingey Photo © Copyright

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