Akita Cedar Cooperage
Elements of tubs dating from the 15th and 16th centuries have been discovered at the former site of Akita castle. Records dating from the beginning of the 17th century kept by one of the old families of the Akita clan, make it clear that tubs were being used at a sake maker within the present-day district of Ogatsu-cho.
There are also 19th century examples of different types of barrels and tubs preserved by the Aoyagi family of another district, Kakunodate-cho. They have a coating of lacquer and both copper and bamboo bands were used, and the shapes are the ones which are followed today.
The wood from natural stands of local cedar has a fine straight grain and besides having a wonderful scent, it is not prone to distortion as the wood moves so little. The superb quality of the wood contributes to the warmth of this craft and brings both charm and a sense of quality to the lives of those that use these tubs and barrels. The scent of the wood is especially contributive to the value of such items as Japanese bath tubs, tubs for sushi, beer tankards, sake flasks, and rice tubs. Flower vases, too, benefit from the wood in a different way, as do candy tubs and umbrella stands.
Natural Akita ceder, in addition to its fine annual tree rings, natural beauty, rich scent, is resistant to stretching and shrinking, which prevents deviations in the finished product, making it an excellent crafting material. Akita ceder wooden pails use this wonderful material to bring a rich warmth to everyday life.
How to make
The method of production is divided into six primary stages. The individual slats of the barrel, “kure”, are made using straight-grained narrow boards of wood. A special inner lathe and outer lathe is then used to shape the boards into the barrel shape. After the kure slats are stood in the shape of a barrel, the outer bamboo hoops are bound, and the bottom and top are set. The wooden base is then polished, and finished with a coating of combined resin or persimmon tannin.