The Intricate Traditional Art Of Bachiru

Bachiru is stained ivory with design engraved (using a method called Hanebori) through the color. Yoshida Fumiyuki (who died in 2004, National Treasure) rediscovered this technique from the Nara-era (710-784), during which time it disappeared.

According to an ivory specialist, “Japanese Bachiru work of dyed and carved ivory, achieving fine gradation of color tones down to the natural ivory, is marvelous.”

Yoshida Fumiyuki (1915-2004). Bachiru is a craft using ivory. Elaborate patterns are engraved into ivory, and dyed in colors such as red, green, or indigo.

Sometimes, engravings are also colored. The artisan restored this work of art, which had been long lost.

Ivory is polished in three steps from rough, to medium to fine, with a different whetstone used each time, while shaping the work into the final form.

Ivory is not an easily dyed material but can be dyed if boiled with colorants. Since over-boiling deteriorates the material, it is boiled, put in water, and boiled again after it cools down.

This process is repeated several times. It had taken the artisan years before he finally came up with this method.

© City of Ota

Ivory is dyed in the color and is engraved with a knife. Since a sketch cannot be drawn directly on the smoothly-polished surface of ivory, the artisan draws the same image on a piece of paper over and over until he captures the full image and can reproduce it on the material.

Colors are added to the engravings, where the ivory’s ground color is exposed with a fine brush.

Carving knives used for bachiru carving were all conceived by the artisan. Other tools include brushes used for coloring.