Kakunodate Cherry Bark Work Museum: Sharing the History of Kakunodate’s Artisanal Crafts
The Kakunodate Kaba-Zaiku Densho-Kan (Kakunodate Cherry Bark Work Museum) opened in 1978 to promote the area’s principal traditional artisanal craft, kaba-zaiku, or cherry bark work. When it opened, it was one of only three traditional artisanal crafts centers in Japan.
The museum itself is a modern building built in Kakunodate’s traditional architectural style. Besides displaying cultural and historical items, it holds demonstrations of cherry bark work, displays finished items and artwork in the exhibition room, and hosts various special cultural exhibitions.
In addition to cherry bark work, the museum also showcases other artisanal works, such as shiraiwa-yaki, a distinctive style of blue glazed pottery first brought to the area in 1771. Examples of Kakunodate shunkei,a type of lacquerware made with transparent lacquer to allow the woodgrain to show through, and itaya-zaiku, wickerwork baskets and other items made with thin strips of maple wood, are also on display. These two crafts are believed to have originated around 1790. Footwear and baskets made of straw, vine, and bark are among the attractive products of local craft available for purchase at the museum.
To help visitors better understand local craft traditions, the museum offers several types of craft workshops. Visitors can make a miniature cherry bark work wall-hanging or an itaya-zaiku wickerwork horse under the guidance of the resident experts.
- 10-1 Omote-machi Shimo-cho, Kakunodate-machi, Semboku-shi, Akita 014-0331
- Contact Info
- Semboku City Kakunodate Kaba Craft Densho-kan
Tel: 0187-54-1700 Fax: 0187-54-1701
- Traffic access
- 20 minute walk from JR Kakunodate Station
Kaba-zaiku: Crafting with Cherry Bark
Kaba-zaiku, or cherry bark work, uses cherry bark as a covering for practical and decorative items. The technique is believed to have been brought to Kakunodate from northern Akita during the Tenmei era (1781–1789) by Fujimura Hikoroku, a North Satake clan retainer who ruled the castle town of Kakunodate.
Initially it was mainly low-ranking Kakunodate samurai who engaged in cherry bark craft as an extra source of income, but after the feudal system was abolished in the early Meiji era (1868–1912), former samurai turned to the craft as a new way to earn a living.
As the industry grew and became more organized, wholesalers emerged, and techniques evolved. This continued through the Taisho era (1912–1926) and prewar and wartime Showa era (1926–1945), laying the foundation for today’s cherry bark work.
During those years, cherry bark work became known beyond Akita Prefecture’s borders through trade shows and offerings to Japan’s imperial family. In 1976, it was designated as a traditional protected kogei craft, a first for Akita.
In Kakunodate craftspeople mainly employ bark from oyama-zakura cherry trees, using three main techniques: kata-mono, where cherry bark is adhered to a wooden mold to make items such as cylindrical tea canisters; kiji-mono, a technique to make box-shaped items such as inkstone cases and tables; and tatami-mono, where many layers of polished bark are glued together before being carved and polished to make small cases, brooches, pendants, and similar items.