Old Ryukyu (the latter half of the 12th century to 1609)

In this period, lacquerware developed greatly under the influence of China in terms of techniques and patterns. Lacquerware was made by the chinkin technique of engraving lines and inlaying gold (Photo 1) and the technique of raden (mother-of-pearl inlay) using seashells (Photo 2).

(Photo 1) Black-laquered JIKIRO with peacock and peony arabesque design in CHINKIN

(Photo 2) Vermilion-lacquered SHOKU with peony and long-tailed cock design in RADEN. 

Early Modern Ryukyu (1609 to 1879)

Under the control of Kaizuri-bugyosho (magistrate’s office), numerous pieces of lacquerware were made using the raden technique in black lacquer as tributary offerings to China’s emperors (Photo 3) and gifts to Japan’s shoguns and regional daimyos (Photo 4).

(Photo 3) Black-lacquered BON with dragon and cloud design in RADEN

(Photo 4) Black-lacquered RYOSHIBAKO (letter paper box) with flowers and birds in RADEN

From the 18th century onward, lacquer- ware also began to be produced for use within the Kingdom. Lacquerware using the chinkin technique in vermilion lacquer, the hakue technique with gold leaf decorations in vermilion lacquer, and the three-dimensional engraving-like tsuikin technique (Photo 5) was produced and used.

(Photo 5) Vermilion-lacquered TAKU (water bottle) with landscape and pavilion in TSUIKIN

Modern and Contemporary Periods (1879 -)

After the establishment of Okinawa Prefecture, following the collapse of the Ryukyu Kingdom, daily use items and souvenirs were produced in private workshops, replacing the Kaizuri-bugyosho. Lacquerware with designs of typical Okinawan styles and scenes and modern design lacquerware (Photo 6) were increasingly produced. In the period of administrative control by the U.S. Military after World War II, many souvenirs and commemorative pieces were made for American servicemen and their families stationed in Okinawa (Photo 7).

(Photo 6) Vermilion-lacquered tobacco set with playing card design in MAKIE

(Photo 7) Black-lacquered wall hanging artwork with U.S. Marine Amphibious Brigade design in URUSHIE