Types of Japanese Lacquer (Urushi)

Japanese lacquer varies in color, surface texture and quality.  Lacquer is clear or has pigments added.  Traditional pigment colors are black, red, yellow, green, off-white.



  • Shin nuri – smooth black shiny surface.  Many layers of lacquer are applied, sanded and smoothed to achieve this effect.
  • Kaki-awase nuri – Lowest grade of black lacquer.  One coat of seshime-urushi (with lamp-black incorporated) is applied.  This hardens the surface of the wood and stains it black.  Then one good coat of joohana-urushi or joochin-urushi is applied.  This style originally was primarily produced in Tokyo area.  It is also known as kuro-shunkei (black shunkei) from the name of its inventor.
  • tame nuri – use of clear lacquer applied on base material.  This allows the beauty of the base material to be visible.
  • tatakinuri (叩き塗) – Has a matte finish and rough “pebbly” texture.  To achieve this texture, different materials are mixed into the lacquer such as: crushed eggshells, tofu, and okara (a pulpy material left over in the tofu manufacturing process).  The mixture is applied with a sponge using a tapping (tataki) motion.  The surface is then smoothed with a roller.  This technique creates a strong surface and has also been used on Japanese body armor.
  • Tsumakure – Red accents on lacquered items.  Often seen on the edges of tana.  Literally means “red fingernails.”