goods that last

Goods that Last

In Japan, "Motta-inai" is a common virtue where goods should be well-crafted and made to last; If anything is worn and broken, mend it until the object can no longer serve its intended function.  When it reaches its end, even the ash from burning it serves new use.  Extending the lifecycle of an object is a norm, given resources are finite.

Japan's development of repair methods goes hand in hand with China, ranging from metal bracing to lacquer/tar bonding. Lacquering in Japan traced back to Jomon period (7000BC).  Bonding and restoring with urushi (natural tree sap) traces back to 12th century.

In the 15th century, the development of wabi-cha, (a tea-ceremony style) elevated the appreciation for lacquer repair work to an art form.  It was first established by Buddhist monk Murata Juko, therefore zen buddhist philosophy has influenced the practice; and was later succeeded by tea masters including Sen no Rikyu and Kobori Enshuu.  Enshuu-style wabi-cha is still widely practiced in modern-day Japan. 


This is an important shift from appreciation of delicate and ornate fine ceramics to rustic and modest earthen-wares. Followers started to admire the abstract "landscapes" from natural glazes and unadorned forms, including the blemishes from usage and repairs.

Edo-period ukiyoe print by Utagawa Hiroshige depicting a ghost asking a Yakitsugi Artisan to repair her broken ceramics.

(photo oldtimejapan) 

"Yaki-Tsugi, Yaki-Tsugi..."

Japan's ceramics repair practice also ties to pragmatic reasons (mend and use to maximize life-cycle of goods). "Motta-inai" is a remark which people say when something regrettably goes to waste.   This principle of "nothing goes to waste" was commonly practiced during Edo period (18th/19th century). 

There was a profession called YAKI-TSUGI specializing in ceramics repair.  These artisans used to carry their tools in big baskets, vending down the street, calling "Yaki-tsugi...". Any household with broken vessels would engage their repair service. Their unique method involved melting lead oxide, lead carbonate and borax to bond shards together. Imagine the artisan carrying a mini stove in baskets that is capable to melt the minerals  at 500-700C.  It was a rather tough job.  

As kintsugi re-gains popularity in Japan in the past years, people are also reviving the unique Yakitsugi recently. 

Reference: Kyoto City Archaeological Resea