Odate Bentwood Work
Satake Yoshinobu was a military commander who fought with Toyotomi Hideyoshi at the battle of Sekigahara in 1600. Hideyoshi was vanquished and Satake was ordered by the Tokugawa Shogunate to move from his former domain of Mito to Akita in the extreme north of Honshu. He found the people there were very poor and some did not even have enough to eat. As castellans of Odate castle, the western branch of Satake family set about trying to relieve the poverty of their people by using the rich supplies of timber to be found in the fief.
First, low ranking warriors were ordered to make bentwood goods on a part-time basis. Then, instead of paying their annual tribute in rice, the people were made to fetch the wood required for this bentwood work down from the surrounding mountains. There was soon enough work to sell in such places as Sakata, Niigata and far off Edo and its environs.
Full advantage is taken of the grain and scent of Akita's own supplies of cedar wood, which is also highly flexible. Exemplifying the concept of simple is beautiful, this craft makes the most of the fine grade timber with its fresh red and pale yellow coloring combined with its beautifully tight grain and lightness. They produce tubs for rice, water jugs, trays of various kinds, bento boxes, and even coffee cups and beer tankards. All are beautiful examples of a simple craft.
Natural Akita ceder is renowned for its fine straight wood grain, rich scent and strong elasticity. The light wood, neatly lined up bright red and pale yellow annual tree rings of the wood grain all combine create a product abundant in simple, elegant beauty.
How to make
Natural Akita ceder is first either peeled by hand or using a saw mill, and the peeled wood is placed in hot water. Once the wood has softened, it is taken from the water and wrapped around a roller to curve the wood. The overlapping wood is then fastened, and the piece is allowed to dry naturally. After the wood has dried, overlapping flaps are fastened with glue, the fastening holes are opened, and cherry bark is used to sew the pieces together. The lid and bottom are then inserted and glued to finish the product.