September 14, 2014


Discover Japan: Traditional Lacquer Ware

Active Connector with the mission of bringing more diversity in Japan to realize global scale innovation, the team had a meeting with one of the traditional Shikki maker, Lacquer Ware maker called Yamada Heiando.
Yamada Heiando opened its first lacquer ware boutique back in 1919. Their quality lacquer ware has been acknowledged by many people and Yamada Heiando has been purveyor of tableware to the Japanese Imperial Households. Their products are also favored by many embassies located in Japan.

Active Connector staff and Active Connector Intern had casual gathering with the owner of Yamada Heiando over Sushin in Nihon-Bashi to learn about Yamada Heiando strategy of how it is expanding its service global. We also share our ideas about the bright future of Shikki. The meeting was arranged by Mr.Kawaji who is a founder of Nihonbashi Friend, NGO that aims to revitalize Nihonbashi, which is full of traditional makers and restaurants.

New and Old: Innovation in Tradition

Yamada Heiando cherishes the rich tradition of lacquerware but at the same time, they dedicate themselves to many new innovative products that capture the values of contemporary life. For example, one of the successful innovative works they have done is with Chopard, Swiss-based luxury watch, jewelly and accessories company.
Chopard presents a collection of watches technically supervised and designed, painted and adorned with gold dust by the Yamada Heiando Company. Each meticulously painted and unique model reveals new elegance of luxurious watch and presents great work of ‘East meets West’. You can see more about the story here:



Here is the interview with the student who participated the casual meeting with Yamada Heiando Owner: he shared his thought about what he learnt from the meeting.

Voice of Active Connector Intern: Artem from Russia

Q: How was the meeting?

Active Connector Intern, Artem: I enjoyed a unique chance to talk to the president of Yamada Heiando, the famous Japanese Shikki maker. I studied about Japanese culture and history in my University back home (Russia) but I had neve learnt about Shikki before in school. More I learnt about it, and also from the Owner of Yamada Heiando, I got very interested in the beauty of Shikki as well as many potentials they have.
For those who do not have any idea of what shikki craft works are, I recommend to look at Yamada Heiando website
and check it out. In simple words, shikki craft works are traditional Japanese interior pieces covered with urushi laquer. This technique originated thousands of years ago and is still popular in Japan. Recently, Japanese shikki makers have started thinking of penetrating foreign markets, however effective market invasion strategies are yet to be produced. Today during a very casual meeting we talked about what is necessary for successful promotion of Japanese craft works abroad.

Q: What do you think the challenge is for such traditional Japanese craft makers in global market?

Artem: I personally believe that there are a lot of important conditions under which Japanese traditional craft works should be promoted internationally. There are definitely a huge cultural gap between Japan and other nations worldwide. One of the things that may be important is to explain to the western consumers the real value and originality of Japanese traditional craft works. I think many people still do not have good idea of why the Japanese craft works are so special.

Q: What is your expectation about Shikki future?

Artem: I think that with right promotion strategy, shikki and other Japanese craft works are potentially suitable for the western markets. And I am hoping that the products will be widely favored all over the world. In Europe, Americas and also my country, Russia the interest in everything Japan has been growing steadily over the past 10 – 15 years. You can’t miss this change.
Also, even if people do not have any particular interest in Japanese culture, simplicity and originality of Japanese design might be appealing ever. I hope that in 10 years time there will be more people in the West, who will be frequently getting in touch with Japan through it’s magnificent craft works and will admire this beautiful country as much as I do at the moment.

Artem (second right in the photo above):  currently studying in The University of Tokyo,
Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Area Studies. He is currently in the second year of Master degree.

Yamada HeiandoWebsite:

“Yamada Heiando opened its first lacquerware boutique in 1919. We are proud purveyor of tableware to the Japanese Imperial Household, and our products feature regularly in Japan’s international embassies.Yamada Heiando cherishes the rich tradition of lacqurware as well as the skills ad universal aesthetic sensibility that we have inherited from traditional artisans. At the same time, we dedicate ourselves to the design of new products that capture the values of contemporary life” (From Yamada Heiando Website)

You can see the interview of the owner of Yamada Heiando here:

Urushi Craftsman from Hirokazu KISHIDA on Vimeo