JOBOJI urushi; special resin made from trees in JOBOJI district, Japan
JOBOJI is a famous district locates northern part of Japan, belonging to the Ninohe City, where special resin production named urushi.
Urushi is a resin similar to lacquer but it is completely different material from lacquer which is made from petroleum these days. See “What is urushi” at our web site. Talking in short, urushi is sustainable resin from natural plants and has harder surface than artificial material of lacquer. We say simply “urushi” for Urushi resin here after.
You might say you don’t know it nor you haven’t seen it, but you might know Maki-e style crafts, embedded gold or embedded mother-of-pearl style crafts in Japan. Those beautiful crafts are made of urushi. You might know Kinkaku-ji temple, many wooden Buddhist statues in Japan. Those golden cultural properties have foundation being coated by urushi under the golden leaves.
Japanese urushi wares had been so famous for its beauty and precision that japan has come to represent the urushi wares themselves, however East Asian countries also had produced urushi wares.
JOBOJI urushi has the number one quality and the finest natural resin all over the world.
Historical evidence of utilization of Urushi resin in Japan
Ornaments with urushi coated strings were found at the graveyard of Mesolithic Period known as ‘Site of Kakinoshima B’ in Hakaodate City in Hokkaido island of Japan. It is said it’s the oldest historical evidence of utilization of urushi. The researchers estimated that it was made about nine thousand years ago and we call this era by the name of JOMON.
They say, JOMON people had made a community by the stream and had planted urushinoki trees and tochinoki trees, shinanoki trees around them. Tochinoki trees/ a variety of marronnier had been planted for their main nutrition, shinanoki trees/ a variety of linden Baum had been planted for textiles.
JOBOJI urushi production has been inherited for several thousand years as same as JOMON people did.
National treasures of cultural properties and Urushi
Important wooden properties had been preserved by urushi coating in Japan, and some of those properties have been registered as a World Heritage, such as so called Kinkaku-ji temple, Nikko-toushou-gu shrine, and Tyuson-ji temple so on.
These cultural properties have been maintenanced by Japanese high quality urushi of JOBOJI urushi.
Urushi wares for daily life contemporarily
There are not a few people who love to use urushi wares in their daily life instead of lacquer wares, such as bowls, chopsticks, boxes, trays, etc., and almost all the things at the altar of Buddhism are urushi wares.
Urushinoki tree growing area
Urushinoki trees grow in China and Korea, and in these countries they can collect the sap of urushinoki trees and there have been urushi ware industries. In Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia, they can harvest similar resin from trees but it is absolutely different thing from urushi.
Reproduction of Urushinoki trees
The artisans cultivate soils and plant and grow urushinoki trees every year, and collect the sap from matured trees. More than 200,000urushinoki trees have been planted at JOBOJIl since they awarded the shortage of the urushinoki tree’s resource middle of 1970s.
Application fields forUrushi
Urushi is mainly applied for the maintenance of very important cultural property such like national treasures. It is also applied for the coating of house hold goods and is even able to be applied for drawing art and adhesive because urushi wares luster and urushi has hardness as a solid.
For example in medieval era urushi had been provided even for the coating on the armors of samurai however they had used it daily for the house hold goods, and since ancient time, they had applied them for the adhesive to attach arrowheads etc. to shafts.
Urushinoki tree has flowers and nuts, they had been utilized them for the honey production and wax production. When collecting the sap was ended they use the trees for fuel for the fire and they even utilize it for the floats for the net of fishery.
Production ratio of Refined Urushi in Japan
JOBOJI urushi has a domestic production ratio of refined urushi by 60% in Japan, JOBOJI urushi is high quality and so precious that JOBOJI urushi should be applied only for the final decoration of urushi products. Therefore it is very rare case that you can find urushi products made only by JOBOJI urushi, without using Chinese urushi for the foundation.
Collecting Urushi process at the harvest year
When urushinoki tree matured to collect its sap after about seven years past since being planted, we harvest urushi during warm season before winter comes.
At the aspect of planting nursery trees is held after autumn.
1 ) Putting scars on the trunk
First step of collecting sap of urushinoki tree is putting scars on the trunk of it. To avoid the damage to the tree, they start to put a very short scar and after the tree doesn’t astonish being put the scar, they put longer scar to the trunk from bottom to the top. The allowance of the incision has to be two centimeters in depth.
2) Collecting sap
The urushinoki tree got scars produces sap for curing by it. They collect this sap; urushi from June to October. The harvested urushi is divided into three grades according to the season to be collected as follows, Hatsu (beginning), Sakari (medium), and Sue (ending). Sakari has the best quality of both coating strength and transparence.
3) Storage/ Preservation of urushi
Collected urushi is stored in wooden barrels for preservation. A barrel containing 18.75 kilograms of urushi is now popular one, however they had been fond of larger barrel containing 37.5 before.
4) Additional scars on the trunk and go to the process 2)
After collecting sap they go next round. That process above continues until autumn. And after collecting all the sap, urushinoki trees should be cut down and give their beds to the next generation of nursery tree being planted.