"Magemono" is a woodwork technique that has been in use in Japan since ancient times. It is also a generic name for containers made using thin sheets of wood such as Japanese cedar, cypress, and fir, which are bent and fastened into circular and polygonal forms.
Magemono containers exist in both our ordinary daily lives and as sacred items specially crafted for use in a ritual or festival setting.
In the Edo period, the Magemono technique mostly used to craft bento boxes, rice containers, trays, cake boxes, flower stands, and tea ceremony items. In the present, it is mainly a technique of crafting bento boxes which has been preserved.
Following the footsteps of Haori Cup, we have once again united two traditional Japanese crafts together, “Hasami yaki” from Nagasaki and “Hakata Magemono” from Fukuoka, to introduce you to our new tumbler that is double the size of the Haori Cup.
During the Haori Cup project, we received many inquiries and interests of many people wanting a bigger sized cup. Also, after the manufacturing stages of the Haori cups, we have reviewed and refined the making process of Hakata Magemono and developed a new processing method enabling us to produce at a larger scale while refining the quality and the accuracy, and now we are ready to deliver our product to more supporters around the world.
This time, we have designed two types of tumblers. One for daily use drinking coffee, juice, water, tea and so on and the other one strictly designed for beer. Now please allow me to explain what the differences are between the two.
- You can select the tumbler type in the survey after the end of funding.
The porcelain cups designed for beers are fired without the inner side of the cup being glazed so it has a very small uneven surface finish by purpose. As a result, the cup has a matte finish on the inside, which is the key point.
These very small uneven surface on the inside helps deliver quality beer foam when you pour your beer in. Feels just as if it was poured right out of an industrial beer tap. Now you can enjoy the taste of beer at a bar right at home. This is something you will not be able to experience with a regular glass of cup with smooth surface.
A great toast of bread in the morning makes a good start of the day. But I had something that concerned me every time I would toast a bread. The moment you remove the toast out of the toaster and put it onto a plate, the temperature difference between the plate and the toast builds up condensation and the bottom surface of the toast gets soggy. It really bugged me.
So, I decided to design a bread tray that makes full use of the functionality a coniferous solid wood has, which will help keep the bread’s crisp texture for a extended period.
The main material used for Hakata Magemono are coniferous trees such as cedar, cypress, and fir trees. These coniferous trees are composed of tissue in which about 95% of the structure is a pathway for water movement called tracheids. These tissues contain many hollow layers inside, which makes coniferous trees very light and also making heat transfer to each other difficult.
Coniferous trees, which are porous materials, have a humidity control function that absorbs and exhales moisture in the air. In Japan, for keeping cooked rice in a delicious state for a long time, bento boxes (lunch boxes) and wooden container for cooked rice made with Magemono craftworks were mostly made from coniferous trees. Even today where less expensive plastic lunch containers has become widespread, Magemono lunch boxes are very popular because they keep the rice inside moderately moist which helps keep the rice’s delicious state. There is no substitute material out there that can perform like this.
The Hakata Magemono wooden bread tray absorbs the moisture made when placing freshly toasted bread onto the plate. Compared to a plate made from pottery, this wooden bread tray keeps the toast’s crisp texture for a extended period. It can also be used as a general tray for anything besides toasts.
The corners of the wooden bread tray are bent with traditional techniques called "Hikimage". It is a technique, in which a craftsperson makes shallow cuts into the wood in intervals, and then heat treat them to bend the wood. It is said that this technique was first introduced with Hakata Magemono.
The previous Haori Cup project greatly exceeded the imagination of my team and myself. At first, our initial target was getting 200 orders. Finishing at 10 times more than our initial target, we were very excited at the same time confronted with the reality of how difficult and challenging the manufacturing process were.
From the beginning of the project, we knew that there has always been a gap in the production efficiency of "Hamasamiyaki" and "Hakata Magemono", but we always had in mind of "Starting a new project, meaningful in both functionally and culturally and something we can pass on to the next generation, by coming up with a new product fusing two traditional crafts that has been around for more than 400 years”. This mindset of ours helped us decide to launch this whole project.
Hakata Magemono was inferior to Hasami-Yaki in terms of production and the previous Haori Cup project was the first step towards the goal of mass production of Hakata Magemono, to at least match it up to the production speed of Hasami-Yaki.
During the production stage of the Haori Cup, I felt that there were two fundamental issues in Hakata Magemono working together with the craftsmen. One was the severe shortage of skilled craftsmen. The other was the fact that the manufacturing process has not changed for over 50 years.
Unfortunately, the issue of severe shortage of craftsmen is not a problem that can be solved in a year or two in today’s world where there are less and less younger generations who wish to become a skilled craftsman.
So instead, I looked into improving the manufacturing process as it was something that I could possibly put my hands on immediately. The first thing I did was to replacing anything that may lead to lack of precision such as replacing the actual wood working machinesitself and switching the blades on tools to a more precise one. If the precision of processing is poor in quality, it takes a lot of man-hour for correcting the work in a later process, and these were the major factors that did not lower the manufacturing costs.
Next thing was to developing our own tools to improve the precision of the bending process and improvement of the yield rate. We started by designing our own machines and had them manufactured at a factory who were willing to cooperate with us. I spent about 2 years improving the environment of my workshop and I have finally came to the point where I can show you the results!
As of 2019, compared with the previous Haori Cup project, we are now 4 to 5 times more efficient production wise.
Unlike mass-produced resin and metal products, we handle natural wood material. And even though the manufacturing process has improved a lot, many processes still consist of craftsmen's manual labor, so we cannot exactly say that it is inexpensive, and there are still a lot of issues to be improved. However, this will be our second step towards connecting the traditional craft of Hakata Magemono to the next generation, with our newly improved manufacturing line which enables us to produce product with high quality and precision. We are looking forward to delivering our new product to everyone around the world.
With the retirement of craftsman Mr. Tokugoro Shibata in 2017, Mr. Taizo Morita and myself are the two responsible for the main manufacturing. Mr. Morita has been a craftsman working under Mr. Shibata for 20 years between the age of 20 to 40 years old, and he was also the number one disciples out of the many others Mr. Shibata had. At the age of 40, Mr. Morita completely left from the world of Hakata Magemono but with the news of retirement of his teacher Mr. Shibata, he decided to return to the workshop. Despite being over 3 years from the last Haori Cup project, the discussion on how to survive in this world with severe shortage of craftsman and workshop still goes on today.
Through this tumbler and wooden bread tray, we will continue to further advance our efforts to improve production efficiency and try to spark interests of the younger generation to the world of craftsmanship. To connect the tradition that has been around for more than 400 years to the next generation, I would like to take in new technologies and actively develop and introduce new products and in order to make this happen, we need your support!
Hakata Magemono is made from coniferous trees such as cedar, cypress, and fir tree. For the previous Haori Cup as well as the tumbler from this current project, we have chosen cedar and for the wooden bread tray, we have chosen fir tree for the material. Both very commonly used for Hakata Magemono crafts.
Among the coniferous trees of Japan, the tree that most represents Japan is the cedar tree. Within the Japanese history, there are many buried cultural assets found throughout the country, many from the late Yayoi period to the Kofun period. And among those buried cultural assets, most of the curved wooden crafts were made from cedar. The reason why Japanese cedars are commonly used for bending crafts is that they grow nationwide throughout Japan, and more than anything, the bark of the tree is very good and has beautiful straight-grain, as well as being very suitable for processing bent craft goods.
However, materials that are generally distributed on the market, such as wood knot, are easily broken and damaged during the bending process. In addition, rough wood grain materials are also easy affected during the bending process, and is not suitable for bent crafts.
Cedar materials used for bent crafts are not something used for general building materials and interior materials. It is called "Meiboku" which translates to “precious tree” and is the highest-grade material with full of grain and knot free. In Japan we have various mountains and forest industry areas with branded cedar tree such as Akitasugi (Akita prefecture), Tateyamasugi (Toyama prefecture), Yoshinosugi (Nara prefecture) Obisugi (Miyazaki Prefecture) and Yakusugi (Kagoshima Prefecture).
This time I have collected cedar wood from various parts of Japan and tested them. Comparing each property and supply stability, I chose Yoshinosugi from Nara prefecture as a choice of material to deliver the products to everyone around the world. This Yoshinosugi is very suitable for bending in various viewpoints such as the clogging condition of wood grain, hardness, oil contained in wood, and more than anything, the bark of the tree looked most beautiful when it is planed.
Whether stable supply is possible or not is very important for traditional industries. On that point, the land of Yoshino has been logging for more than 250 years, and continues thinning and planned logging today, and already has the system to circulate stable supply of these precious trees. That was also a major factor to choosing Yoshinsugi as the material.
This time, we have also undertaken the wooden bread tray production with fir trees with beautiful white wooden bark. The woodgrain is quite similar to cedar, but the color of the wood bark is more white and has a more “finer” look. In Japan, fir tree materials are mainly used as a material for the grave post (a long thin plate used to support the deceased), and stands for placing goods used for official engagement events. From ancient times, this fir material has been used in places related to traditional Japanese ceremonial occasions because of its beautiful looks.
This time we were lucky enough to get our hands on fir trees with large diameters so we have decided to use this material to make the wooden bread tray. The bad news is, it is getting more difficult to collect fir trees with large diameters so as of now, we cannot promise you that we will be able to continue producing wooden bread trays using fir trees in a couple years from now.
Do not miss this chance to get your hands on one of these very beautiful magemono crafts made from fir materials.
Risks and challenges
Every traditional craft we manufacture are made by processing natural materials, so you may not expect uniformity like resin and metal products. Porcelain and bent wood crafts may not all come in the same exact sizes due to the materials we use. Each of the material used for bent wooden craft will also have different wood pattern and shade.
It has been more than 3 years since the last Haori cup project, which was launched back in 2015. With every one of your support, we were able to end the project successfully although the production of the cup were delayed from the schedule we initially had in mind.
With the experience of the Haori Cup, we have learned many things from arranging the resources and materials to putting them in the production line, and packing and delivering each product.
This time, we have learned from our previous experiences, and have set up a system to ensure delivery in a timely manner. However, we also understand that we cannot control every single process including the manufacturing part. If we do experience a delay, we will make sure to make an announcement and communicate with every one of you supporters and do our best to meet your expectations.
If you received your item and believe it to be defective, or arrives damaged, don't worry. We will get you taken care of by offering you a replacement. Simply reach out to us within 7 days of the delivery date of your order with photo evidence you may have showing the damage or defect.
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