The Oldest Lacquer in the World Found in Japan
In the recent years, the new archaeological findings uncovered the fact the Japanese lacquer art had much older history than previously believed. It used to be believed by many that Japan did not have much sophisticated “culture” and most of the advanced technologies had come from China in Yayoi era around (BC 300 t0 AD300).
However, the Japanese lacquer art turned out to be as old as the Japanese language itself. The word lacquer in Japanese language is “Urushi.” It is said that the origin of this word is related to “uruwashi” (beautiful) and “uruoshi” (to make rich, to saturate) .
Six lacquer accessories found in the ancient archaeological site called “Kakinoshima Iseki” in Minamikayabe-cho in Hakodate City, Hokkaido, Japan turned out to be approximately 9000 years old based on the radiocarbon dating.
Moreover, a branch of the Japanese poison oak (Urushi) found at the site named “Torihama Kaizuka” in Fukui Prefecture, Japan turned out to be approximately 12600 years old which is the oldest in the world. This plant was also confirmed to be endemic to Japan. According to a NPO called Reijunkan in Japan, it takes at least 10 years of rigorous care to be able to harvest lacquer from the Japanese poison oak trees. This suggests that the ancient Japanese people were already growing the poison oak trees for the next generation to use.
Ancient Japanese Women Were Respected
The comb found in Torihama Kaizuka which shown on the cover of the book below. Numerous combs painted with red or black lacquer were found from the archaeological sites in Japan. The fact that the ancient Japanese people were making “fashion accessories” which are considered non-essential items to one’s survival show that these people were abundant enough to do so. It also means that the owners of these combs who were probably females were respected and well taken care of. It is also possible that women themselves made these items. At any rate, it is clear that the society allowed women to have fashion items. This is a clear sign of a civilization.
The Japanese lacquer art is still the integral part of the Japanese culture. Essential Japanese utensils such as chopsticks and soup bowls are made using traditional technique. Different techniques are passed down to different areas in Japan with each one having unique characteristics. In Fukui Prefecture where the 12600 year old lacquer art pieces were discovered, the type of lacquer art called “Wakasa-nuri” is still being made and it is loved by people all over Japan.