A day of enchanting wood grains and touching nature with Yamanaka lacquerware [Journey around pottery vol.11]

The Uchiru editorial staff travels to the production areas of pottery all over Japan.

This time, we visited Kaga City, Ishikawa Prefecture, the production center of Yamanaka lacquerware.

The traditional culture that has been nurtured along the Daishoji River, which flows through the middle of the town, along with the beautiful nature and cityscape, has evolved into something easier to use with the times.

On this trip, while touring interesting spots in Yamanaka Onsen town, we visited Shirasagi Mokko, a company that has been making the "wood base" for Yamanaka lacquerware for three generations.

Experience crafts with CRAFTOUR

It was a beautiful autumn day in early November!

Although it's still a little early for the autumn leaves season in Ishikawa Prefecture, we head to "CRAFTOUR" first, looking forward to seeing the trees starting to change color.

First stop was "CRAFTOUR".
When you enter the store, you will find many crafts, mainly Yamanaka lacquerware, lined up in a sophisticated atmosphere.

It's a fusion of old and new, stylish and cool.
We also have some Shirasagi woodware that we will be talking about.

CRAFTOUR is not just a select shop.

As the name of the tour suggests, we offer tours that require advance reservations to see the production site of Yamanaka lacquerware.

You can choose from three tours: ``Wood turning'', ``Lacquer painting/Maki-e'', and ``Molding/Painting''.
In the woodturning course, you can also see Shirasagi woodworking!

Spice curry lunch at "Yamanaka PORTAL"

The next destination is right next to CRAFTOUR! This is the cafe "Yamanaka PORTAL".

Yamanaka PORTAL, which just opened in November 2020, is a popular cafe for takeout fruit sandwiches and Maritozzo.
A lunch menu is also available on weekdays only.

The inside of the store is small but has an open atmosphere.
Secondhand tools and dried flowers are displayed, creating a nostalgic atmosphere that makes you feel like you've stepped into a movie.

I'm glad that there are counter seats where you can relax by yourself.

The lunch plate is a set of grilled sandwiches.
I chose spice curry from the menu.

The tender chicken melts in your mouth with the flavor of ethnic spices.
It was delicious and I ate it all in one go.

Now that our bellies are full, we finally head to Shirasagi Woodworking!

Shirasagi Mokko, a woodworking shop that has earned the trust of production areas nationwide

From the center of Yamanaka Onsen, drive towards the mountains.
At the end of the narrow road was Shirasagi Woodworking.

The first thing you see when you arrive is a large factory where you can see wood chips and powder everywhere.
From the back of the factory, you can hear the sound of machines cutting wood.

Is the tableware being made in this factory? I felt excited as I listened to the scent of wood.

Across from the factory, there was also a gallery and direct sales store that was newly opened this year.

Our guide on this day was Chiharu Suehiro, the daughter of Yoshiharu Toda, the third generation owner of Shirasagi Woodworking.

Mr. Suehiro is mainly in charge of planning and designing the in-house brand "SHIRASAGI", which was launched about five years ago.

"The main point is that it is easy to use on a daily basis. I would like people to actually pick it up and try using it."

Actually, I am also one of the people who use SHIRASAGI's "Iroha Bowl" at home.
Not only is it cute, but it is also lightweight and easy to hold, making it a natural addition to the list of utensils you use every day.

Shirasagi Woodworking is a woodworking shop that specializes in making the base wood for pottery.

Shirasagi Mokko's wood base is used not only for Yamanaka lacquerware, but also for pottery production areas all over the country.

Up to now, while making many shapes of wood from various manufacturers, he has realized that simple shapes are the ones that fit in the hand and are easy to use.

A major feature of the wood made in the mountains is the "vertical wood cutting" method.

In other production areas, most of the wood is taken horizontally along the direction of the tree.
It is said that horizontal wood cutting is more efficient as it allows you to get more vessels from one tree.

Even so, the reason why people from all over the country order their wood from Shirasagi Mokko, which handles vertical wood cutting, is because of the durability of the wood as it follows the original grain of the wood, the beauty of the visible wood grain, and the high level of technology.

There are logs lying around outside the factory.
This log becomes that beautiful vessel.

Now, we will finally take a tour of the site where the special wood base is made!

The first thing I saw when I entered the factory was a large machine that moved slowly and made loud noises.
Log logs are sliced ​​into rounds.

A line ``mark'' the size of the vessel was drawn on the sliced ​​wood.
This work requires many years of experience, as it involves positioning the wood according to the grain characteristics of each tree.

The grain of the tree's annual rings has already become a beautiful pattern.

After cutting according to the markings and chamfering with a bandsaw, the work of carving on the potter's wheel finally begins!

Set the piece of wood into the machine (lathe) with a click.
First is the process of carving the outside.

Once it started moving, it was quickly carved into the shape of a bowl at an amazing speed!

In another room in the factory, a large number of unfinished vessels were stocked with orders from all over the country.
They are all original and have different shapes.

After drying thoroughly for 1 to 3 months, the shape is finalized.
The rough shape is made by machine, but the final finishing touches are done by hand.

Years of experience and sense create uniform and beautiful vessels.


Each craftsman devises the cutlery used for sharpening to suit his/her ease of use.

It seems that even if you use the same machine and the same tools, the cutting method, speed, and finish of the pottery will not be the same.

While valuing the characteristics of Yamanaka lacquerware, Shirasagi Mokko creates new products that suit modern needs and the environment.
They are still planning new products.

Mr. Suehiro also said
``People have introduced stylish ways to use the product on social media that we would never have thought of, and we have received many inquiries from people who saw it.The voices of the users are the most important. I think that's why I want to incorporate it more and more.''
He said.

We had a very fulfilling time visiting the gallery, touring the factory, and hearing many stories.

The scent of freshly cut wood pulls my hair back as I head to the next spot!

Walk along the promenade along the river, Kakusenkei

After experiencing the gourmet food and crafts in the Yamanaka Onsen area, let's go enjoy nature and the cityscape!

Yamanaka Onsen is an area where hot spring inns and shops are lined up along the Daishoji River. A bridge shaped like a cradle, ``Ayatori Bridge'', spans the river.

There is a promenade along the river, so you can walk along the river.
The valley is called "Kakusenkei" and is a popular fall foliage spot in Ishikawa Prefecture, where many people visit every year.

Climbing up Kurotani Bridge from the promenade along the river, you will arrive at your next destination, Higashiyama Bonheur.

Have a relaxing and gentle cafe time at "Higashiyama Bonheur"

Higashiyama Bonheur is a cafe restaurant that opened in 2010 in a renovated building that used to be an inn.
Judging from its appearance, it is a shop that piques your interest even when you pass by, saying, ``It has a nice atmosphere,'' ``I'm interested,'' and ``I want to go inside.''

Bonheur means "time of happiness" in French.
As the name suggests, the scent that wafts through, the atmosphere inside the store, the food and cakes are filled with happiness.

The restaurant is often fully booked for lunch even on weekdays, so we recommend making a reservation before coming to the restaurant.

On this day, I sat at the counter on the second floor and had a set of ``Forest Cake'' and coffee.

The forest cake filled with lots of dried fruits goes perfectly with rich coffee.
Coupled with the view from the large window, it was very delicious.

An hour passed by in the blink of an eye as we spent a happy time sitting next to the large window and being soothed by the greenery.

After taking a breather, it was time to head to the parking lot.
On the way back, let's cross Kurotani Bridge and take a walk through the town of Yamanaka Onsen!

Yamanaka Onsen town full of charm both on the main street and on the back street

The back streets of Yamanaka Onsen are a residential area where people in the mountains live, with a series of traditional shopping streets.
As you exit through the back streets and reach the main street, you will find a line of soyu (public baths in the center of the area) and restaurants, giving it the feel of a tourist destination.

Yamanaka Onsen's main bath, ``Kiku no Yu,'' is a public bath that has inherited the hot spring that first sprang up in Yamanaka Onsen 1,300 years ago.

Around the public bath, local people were chatting and tourists were taking photos, spending their time as they pleased.

It's a warm place. Next time I come, I'll take a relaxing bath in the hot springs. Feeling relaxed, I headed to the parking lot.

A trip to experience the town and nature of Yamanaka Onsen and traditional lacquerware

This time, we encountered the tradition and skill of Shirasagi woodworking, and explored the Yamanaka Onsen area where this tradition was nurtured.

Although it is called Yamanaka Lacquerware, the craftsmen are not only woodworkers like Shirasagi Mokko.

A single piece of pottery is completed through the hands of many workshops and craftsmen, including those who apply the lacquer and those who decorate the lacquer with shells and gold leaf.

Furthermore, the Yamanaka Onsen area is a production area for not only lacquerware but also Kutani ware.
I want to experience the charm of traditional crafts in the mountains even more! It was a place that made me think.

You can also see the Shirasagi Woodcraft vessels that we visited this time.

Shirasagi Woodworking List Page

Please take a look at the simple and easy-to-use shape and beautiful wood grain!