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Kabazaiku: Traditional Crafts Portraying the Charm of Japanese Culture

This video, “手技TEWAZA「樺細工」KABA ZAIKU Woodwork”, was created by “伝統工芸青山スクエア” to introduce the woodworking craft "kabazaiku."

Kabazaiku, also known as Sakura-gawa-zaiku (桜皮細工, Sakura-gawa-zaiku), refers to traditional crafts mainly created in Kakunodate, Akita Prefecture of the Tohoku area of Japan (東北地方・秋田県角館, Tohoku-chiho・Akita-ken Kakunodate).
This area is also famous for its hot springs.
Although the name “kabazaiku” is used (kaba meaning birch), in actuality, mountain cherry bark is used in the woodworking process.

In Kakunodate, Akita, kabazaiku originates from the Edo period (1603 to 1868).
Therefore, kabazaiku has over 200 years of history, with its drawing point being its high quality, ensuring that products are suitable for long-term use.
There are many kabazaiku workshops in Kakunodate, where Japanese traditional culture can be experienced and exquisite products are brought to life.

In this video, we'll introduce the the crafting process of kabazaiku in detail.
Even an everyday product such as a tea caddy is crafted with great care by these expert craftsmen.

Traditional Crafts: Kabazaiku Crafting Process

First, the cherry bark is scraped until smooth (0:15).
After the surface has been scraped smooth, gluing with nikawa glue comes next (0:25).
Next, a hot iron is used to heat up the glue and fasten the pieces together (1:27).
After more polishing and perfecting it, the product is completed (3:00).
This process is comprised of various techniques incorporating the skills of the craftsmen.

The crafting techniques of kabazaiku are comprised of the mold (型もの, katamono), wood (木地もの, kijimono), and fold (たたみもの, tatamimono).
The mold refers to the skill used for crafting cylindrical items such as tea caddies, and wood refers to the skill used for crafting items such as trays or boxes.
Fold refers to the technique of manually pasting layers of wood together to craft an item.

The craftsman interviewed in the video finds that “the greatest charm of kabazaiku lies in figuring out how each differing layer of cherry bark can be utilized to it's fullest potential."
He hopes that people “will not be overly cautious with the kabazaiku products and will use them however they wish.”

Purchasing High-Quality Kabazaiku Products

Kabazaiku are exquisite items crafted from Japan’s natural materials.
Besides bigger items such as drawers and boxes, there are also tea caddies, trays, multi-tiered boxes, business card holders, tobacco cases, smartphone cases and wooden-clogs (下駄, geta).
There are a multitude of products to choose from, so do choose something that suits your fancy.
Kabazaiku products can be purchased at department stores in Tokyo such as the Mitsukoshi Department Store in Nihonbashi (日本橋三越, Nihonbashi mitsukoshi).
These products are also available through internet retailers such as Rakuten or Amazon at good prices.

At the Tomioka Store (冨岡商店, Tomioka shoten) in Akita Prefecture, there are a variety of kabazaiku products which are perfect as presents for loved ones or as souvenirs.
We also highly recommend checking out the Kakunodate Birch Textile Museum (角館樺細工伝承館, Kakunodate kabazaiku denshokan) in Kakunodate.
There, the origin and crafting process of kabazaiku is introduced in detail.
There is even the opportunity to try kabazaiku yourself, to create your very own original kabazaiku product.

Summary of Kabazaiku

Kabazaiku products, which are created in traditional workshops using natural materials, can even be said to be works of art.
These are highly-recommended items which can be used for years.
You can see the beauty of these items from the video.
Why not gain an understanding of the kabazaiku crafting process through the video, then consider purchasing some of these products?

As kabazaiku products are made from natural materials, it is recommended that you take good care of these products through ways such as cleaning them regularly with a soft cloth.

【Official Website】Tomioka Shoten
https://tomioka-shoten.co.jp/en/

【Official Website】Japan Traditional Crafts Aoyama Square
https://kougeihin.jp/en/

Written By
Sep. 15, 2020
Japan
坂崎 なお(Nao Sakazaki)
Interested in Japanese culture and traditions! I'll be introducing lovely scenery to you!
Kabazaiku: Woodworking of Akita Prefecture Utilizing the Most Exquisite Cherry Bark. Each Product Is Hand Crafted by Skilled Artisans, Using All-Natural Ingredients
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