Searching all of Japan for handcrafted items that express its heart and soul, our proprietor, KASHIYUKA, presents things that bring a bit of luxury to everyday life. Here she travels to Odate in northern Akita prefecture, where she visits a factory making magewappa, traditional bent woodenware, and purchases a beautiful bento box made of wild Japanese cedar.
Something that’s been on my mind ever since I started the KASHIYUKA Market is the handcrafting arts of the northern prefecture of Akita. I know people in Akita, and whenever I visit I can’t get over how clean the air is, how cheerful the people are, and how delicious the rice tastes. I’ve long wanted to learn about the crafts born of such a place.
I traveled to Odate City, a town known for its magewappa, bentwood objects made from forest-cut cedar. On entering the Shibata Yoshinobu Shoten, founded in 1966, I saw bento boxes, butter keepers, and such lining the shelves, all so amazingly light and smooth they seem to fairly adhere to the hand! They are as pleasing to the eye as to the touch; and though traditional, they’re terribly stylish. I was shown around on this day by Mr. Yoshinobu Shibata, 78, and his son, Yoshimasa.
The forest-grown cedar used is more than 150 years old. The timbers, though taller than we are, display almost no knots. Required parts are first cut from the timbers, and following that, the bending process. Watching the wooden slats being boiled was a startling sight. After heat-softening they’re rolled against a log to create a curvature, then they’re applied to the bending molds, and fixed in place – all forming is done by human hands. The craftsmanship involved in making the bindings that connect the parts together is also amazing. Thin cherrywood bark shavings are sewn, in a manner of speaking, into the object. The skill, plus the meticulous labor involved, all come together to make it seem like magic!