Kadena Shikki, the predecessor of RYUKYU KAKUMAN LACQUERWARE was the long established business that inherited the history and tradition from the Ryukyu Kingdom Era. Before the Pacific War, the business was in Wakasa of Naha city, Okinawa.
Before the war, Wakasa was the only gNuimun Machih (Town of lacquerware). The founder of RYUKYU KAKUMAN LACQUERWARE and fourth head of Kadena Shikki, Mr. Heiyuu Kadena describes the town as following:
gThroughout the town, Kucha (Okinawan clay) used for foundation was dried on the dish of tile on the top of a stone wall. Roughly chopped Deigo lumber was waiting for their turn under the roof. The sound of turnery echoes from inside of the home and distinctive smell of the lacquer floats in the air.h
(From gWatashi no Sengo-Shih
At that time, the priority of Okinawan people was food, clothing, and shelter. Lacquerware was not affordable. However, we made tiny Torii shrine gates and small boxes as souvenirs for U.S. soldiers and put them on sale. Fancy Japanese-style restaurants were our first customers. We received orders for dinner trays and soup bowls. Also, the general public started to look for Toutoumei, a lacquerware memorial tablet.
Kadena Shikki received many orders for Toutoumei memorial tablet since it was a well-known store for lacquerware, as called gNuimun Kadenah which means lacquerware in Kadena and the second head, Mr. Heiki Kadena had excellent skill as master for making Toutoumei.
As social conditions in postwar Okinawa settled down, people in general bought stackable lacquered wooden food boxes and soup bowls. Mr. Heiyuu decided to expand since there was a prospect to his business.
In 1958, third-generation gKadena Shikkih changed its name to current gRYUKYU KAKUMAN LACQUERWAREh and constructed an atelier in Maejima, Naha. After that, through the reversion to Japan in 1972, the output of Ryukyu lacquerware expanded to surpass Bingata dye and pottery. At that time, the lacquerware business in Okinawa began to use gbagasseh, a synthetic wood, because Deigo Coral Tree wooden basis were unavailable. But Mr. Heiyuu was concerned about the quality difference between bagasse and Deigo Coral Tree, also the future of the traditional craft, Ryukyu lacquerware.
After 1974, he discontinued the use of bagasse. Mr. Heiyuu aspired honesty to a fault to keep making the traditional Ryukyu lacquerware and received gContemporary Master Craftsmanh as Ministerfs Award for Outstanding Skilled Workers in 1979 and Order of the Sacred Treasure, Silver Rays as recognize contribution to traditional craft acquirements. It was the first conferment in lacquer craftworks.
Mr. Heiyuu said gNo matter how old I became, I would like to keep working. Even if itfs just one, I would like to create something that will be remembered by later generations and now Ifm elaborating a plan.h
(From gWatashi no Sengo-Shih
About Ryukyu Lacquerware Ryukyu lacqueware has a long history. It is believed to be brought during the 14th to 15th centuries in the Ryukyu Kingdom Era, when trade with China was flourishing. As a distinguishing feature, lacquerware requires both temperature and humidity in order to season. Okinawa, where an average yearly temperature is 22.4 degree Celsius and average yearly humidity of 77 percent is an ideal environment for lacquerware production. From unearthed articles of excavation, it appears that lacquerware already existed in the 13th to 14th centuries in Okinawa.
The Ryukyu Kingdom was unified in the 15th century. gKaizuri Bugyoshoh was established among the royal government, which managed lacquerware production. gKaizuri Bugyoshoh appears on the record in 1612, but it seems that production of lacquerware was organized prior to the record.
The name gRyukyu Shikki (lacquerware)h was designated in May 1974, when legislation of the traditional arts and crafts industry promotion was enacted, just like Wajima Nuri, Yamanaka Shikki, Tsugaru Nuri, and Kiso Sikki. In Ryukyu, politics and religion had strong bond. In the ritual and ceremony, lacquerware or comma shaped beads decorated with lacquer were used.
The cultural heritage of the king of Ryukyu gSho Familyh includes gNuumeeusuriih which is a set of food containers, footed tray and bottle for liquor. It is designated as a national treasure and is only used on special occasions, such as ceremonies and Buddhist rituals. Also, these lacquerware have been used at the residence of the royalty, the warrior class and the locality in ceremonies and occasions of bringing gods and men together.