Maki-e cannot be done without powders. Gold powder was used since 1,400 years ago, but the powder was made by filing and it was only one size in ancient time. Today’s gold powder is sift out into more than 20 different sizes of gold, silver or gold mixed with silver called Aokin only for Maki-e. It is still an unknown secret how they sift the powder out into so many different sizes to outsiders like us. In fact the powders are made just for Maki-e art and therefore there are only two companies, who make the powder in the world, one in Kanazawa and the other in Tokyo. Maki-e relies on these powders to design, and the owner of the Kanazawa store, Yoshii Shoten told me that he will continue to supply the powders even there is only one Maki-e shi left in the world!

Kona-maki, powder sprinkling by sizes and colors are selected by Maki-shito design. They use different sizes Urushi sapped from the Urushi tress, which grow only in Asia. The trees need 10-13 years to grow and can produce about 200 grams of Urushi per tree just enough to paint 10 of regular soup bowls without lib. The tree after the Urushi sapped will be cut down and wait for another 10-13 years to have a new Urushi tree. Urushi people say one drop of Urushi one drop of blood to tell us how hard to get Urushi. Today our Maki-e shi have to pay 140 yen for 100 gram (3.52 oz) of imported Urushi and 9,000 yen for Japanese domestic Urushi, and 100 gram is enough to paint 5 of soup bowls.

The crude Urushi has to be refined and make more than 10 different oiled or oil free Urushi for different usage on Maki-e. Maki of Maki-e means sprinkling and “e” is a picture. The first thing of Maki-e is powders, including powders of gold or platinum and other precious metals and Urushi for genuine Maki-e. This sprinkled powder can make unlimited designs for Maki-e and it only belongs to Maki-e art. There are only two gold powder makers in the world and their customers are only Maki-e shi, who need it.

Togidashi Maki-e
Togidashi means burnish to shine. Togidashi Maki-e is actually repetitions of painting and burnishing till the colors are done and the lustrous is achieved. But when Urushi painted, it takes 7 hours in average to dry and the repetitions would multiply the 7 hours. The finished would be shiny and durable.

N-976,  Humming Bird by Yusai with Togidashi method.


Hira Maki-e
When Toyotomi Hideyoshi was in power, he needed a lot of Maki-e works in a short time and the Maki-e shi in order to complete the works in time, they Maki-e by shortcut just painting without burnishing called Nurippanashi and polished called Hira Maki-e.

N-975,  Humming Bird by Yusai with Hira Maki-e method.


Taka Maki-e
Togidashi Maki-e is durable but flat, and Hira Maki-e is much easier but flat, too. When they saw all flat they need something more to look different and they began to make the designs dimensional by raising part or parts of the design. The part raised called Taka and Taka Maki-e was born.

GK-1036, 100Kids by Kosetsu. All one hundred kids are done by Taka Maki-e method.


Shishiai Togidashi Maki-e
When even they felt Taka Maki-e still missing something, they finally combined Taka Maki-e method with Togidashi method to be Shishiai Togidashi Maki-e. To burnish on flat surface is rather easy, but burnish on dimensional surface is very difficult.

H-005G, Sakura Meets Rose by Kosdtsu with Shishiai Tolgidashi Maki-e method on all roses.


Carving on Urushi painted surface, and fill the carved lines with Urushi. When the Urushi was going to dry, then the Urushi is covered with gold foil or gold powder to complete the design. They also use colored Urushi powders instead of the gold powder to make the designs more colorful.

GK-1031, Toki by Katsuhiro Nishi.


“Ra” of Raden means shells and “den” means inlay. Generally they use rather thick shellcalled Raden , while use thin shell called Aogai-nuri. Those shells include Yakogai (green snail or a marble turban) or Tamamushigai (a kind of abalone imported from Mexico). The techniques of Raden have Umekomi (bury), Oshikomi (push down) and Horikomi (inlay). They also use eggshells, various semi precious stones such as lapis, malachite or coral.

N-977, Butterflies and Sakura by Kogaku.


N-976, Humming Bird (Togidashi Maki-e) on Takumi Pen
N-975, Humming Birds (Hira Maki-e) on Takumi Pen
GK-1036, 100Kids (Taka Maki-e) on Genkai Pen
H-005G, Sakura/Rose (Shishiai Togidashi Maki-e) on Genkai Pen
GK-1031, Toki (Crested Ibis) Chinkin on Genkai Pen
N-977, Butterflies and Sakura on Takumi Pen