Kamakura Bori are made by carving patterns in wood, then lacquering it with layers of color. You can admire the details of the engravings in bowls, plates, chopsticks … We will tell you more in this article about the techniques and the origin of this traditional Kamakura art.
The origins of Kamakura Bori
Busshi (sculptors of Buddhist statues) invented Kamakura bori techniques around 700-800 years ago. At that time, Buddhism had just been introduced to Japan and many temples were being built in Kamakura. As a result, artisans of the city developed this technique to produce the items necessary for the decoration of these new temples. During the Edo period, Kamakura Bori artisans diversified their craft to also produce everyday objects. In the Meiji era, anti-Buddhist movements led to a decrease in the number of artisans practicing this art. Today, a few craftsmen remain and continue to perpetuate this tradition of lacquer engraving.
The techniques: carving and lacquering
Items are made by carving into the wood and then lacquering it with layers of color. The wood used varies but we often find Ginkgo or Katsura wood. The designs (often animals, flowers, or arabesques) are first carved into the wood. Then, the lacquer process begins. It can take one month to finish one item. Indeed, it takes time for lacquer layers to dry. Kamakura Bori are very resistant. And they can be passed down from generation to generation.
Craftsmen often left the marks of the tools as-is on the design. They do so to accentuate the patterns. They also use a black powder in curves to accentuate the relief of the design. Craftsmen often collaborate to create pieces, as each of them has their specialty: engraving or lacquering.
Where to buy Kamakura Bori items in Kamakura?
If you want to bring back a beautiful carved lacquered item with you, we recommend the Sansuido store. It is a shop located between Komachi Dori shopping street and Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū shrine. There, Goro Koizumi, the owner, will greet you. He will introduce his shop to you with pleasure, in English!
You will find very beautiful pieces from very affordable prices like chopsticks or small plates or bowls. As well as more substantial objects as plates with more elaborate designs. You will undoubtedly find your happiness there!
If you want to discover more about Kamakura, you can purchase our Travel to Kamakura box. It will transport you to this beautiful destination through carefully selected local shop items.