Makie cannot be described in a single word. It consists of various methods including “hira-makie”, “togidashi-makie”, and “taka-makie”. The “taka-makie” is used in the Nagoya Butsudan (Buddhist altar) because of its dignified and gorgeous three-dimensional design. Compared to the “hira-makie” or “togidashi-makie”, it requires high skills and quite a number of procedures. With his extensive experiences and delicate techniques, Mr. Nagasaki handles the production of Butsudan making, ceramics and fixing lacquerware. Recently, he has expanded the horizons of makie by incorporating its techniques to design and produce items such as accessories and writing implements.
The Nagoya Butsudan is a traditional craft that represents Aichi Prefecture and has a history of more than 300 years since it flourished in the castle town during the Edo Period. It is also designated as Japan’s traditional craft. Used as a basis for producing the Butsugu (altar and equipment of Buddhism) is high-quality Kiso hinoki cypress from Kiso Gun of Nagano Prefecture. Gold foil, lacquer, and carvings are extensively used for a gorgeous and graceful finish. They are extremely functional for having a high platform for protection from flood damage and for having secret storage spaces to keep all the Butsugu. The most distinctive feature of Nagoya Butsudan production is that each procedure is divided so that each craftsman work on whatever technology they specialize in (wood grain production and carving, makie, ornamental fittings, etc.) and pass it on to the next craftsman to eventually complete a high-quality product.
In charge of the makie process which is an essential part of Nagoya Butsudan, is the makie craftsman, Hiroshi Nagasaki. Born in 1948 and currently 75 years old, he has over 57 years of experience as a makie craftsman and is well-known to those involved in this particular industry.
Makie is one of the representative decoration techniques of lacquer craftwork. Pictures and patterns are painted using lacquer and then sprinkled with makie powder (metal powder of gold and silver) before the lacquer is hardened. Since powder is sprinkled (“maki”’ in Japanese) onto the picture, this technique is referred to as “makie”. Makie developed as a technique primarily in the Heian Period and was applied to various furnishings used by the Emperor and nobles. From the fact that the word “makie” also appears in “Taketori Monogatari”, the oldest existing Japanese narrative, we can also see how makie is deeply rooted in Japanese culture.