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. A vast range of products is still being made by 10 nationally recognized Master Craftsmen, who are among the 60 employed by the 9 firms in and around Odate. 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.