When did you first start working with Urushi lacquer?

I was born in the Yamanaka area of Kaga where my grandfather was a Maki-e craftsman and my father was a Urushi craftsman; so I was raised in a lacquer workshop. I would get scolded for using lacquerware as toys and was taught how to make the tools, so Urushi has always been a familiar presence in my life.

When I was about 20, I decided I was going to become an Urushi craftsman and I started touring different regions, going to exhibitions and the like. That’s how I ended up seeing artisans in Kanazawa, and I was shocked at their amazingly high level of skill. Artisans in Kanazawa have a history of polishing their craft under the sponsorship of daimyo. When I saw this technique that had been cultivated over many years, I knew that this was what I wanted to do; and I knocked on the door of an Urushi master.

What do you keep in mind when creating Urushi lacquerware?

Not to have a fixed mindset. When taking on a request, I refuse to consider it impossible but instead start by thinking “How can I do this?” Even really difficult orders can be accomplished through a process of trial and error. I conduct research day after day and then one day, I suddenly realize how to do it perfectly, and that’s a really good feeling.

That’s why I get a little excited when somebody gives me a job which I feel “It’s a little bit difficult.” For the Urushi dial I agreed to make for this job, a process of baking the first coating is required to bring out the deep black you can see in the picture, and finding the right temperature and timing for this required trial and error. It took quite a lot of testing to find the best method, but when I did I was really pleased.

You seem to be a deeply curious person. You must enjoy a challenge.

Although the lacquer dial for the Presage is still in production, I have already made many prototypes in order to get a unique Urushi feel. It will take several months to perfect the method, such as polishing it to the appropriate thickness and the layering process.

At the moment, I have delegated the coating procedures to other craftsmen. However, the final processes such as rubbing and glazing, and the numerous final checks on things such as the thickness, coloration, and whether there are any scratches or pinholes, are my responsibility. Even working together with fellow artisans, the entire process is extremely time-consuming, taking about three weeks.

Do you have any preferences when it comes to Urushi?

I like lacquerware that is seen as a luxury item due to its age yet was also used as an everyday item. The most famous example must be Japanese Inro (a traditional Japanese case for holding small objects). I’m sure everybody can recall a scene from a TV program where somebody proves their standing by revealing an Inro with their family’s emblem. This kind of scene is one of the reasons why lacquerware is seen as a kind of status symbol for many people.

Wristwatches are loved throughout the world and their production is rich with history. They can be used as a decorative accessory but are also a necessary item for telling the time. I think the combination of traditional Japanese Urushi lacquer and wristwatches has a great synchronicity. I think the product we are making is something that people can use for a long time without tiring of, and will become well loved. It reflects the ‘made in Japan’ spirit and I sincerely hope it will become a part of a rich and fulfilling life.