Itaya-zaiku (Itaya maple tree weaving), such as winnowing baskets, winnowing machines, seedling containers, and storage boxes, were essential everyday tools in the agricultural community. The technique was reportedly developed in the Kansei era (1789–1810) as a side business during the offseason for farmers. However, no accurate record or material about the origins of Itaya-zaiku remains.
They used to be manufactured all over Akita, but the main production sites today are concentrated in the Kumoshikari region in Kakunodate, Senboku City, where Itaya-zaiku has been popular since the Edo period.
The production of Itaya-zaiku begins with vertically splitting the green branches of the Itaya maple tree that have a diameter of 4.5 cm to 10 cm and are 80 cm–130 cm long. Two operations follow this process.
First, the divided timbers are chamfered by a special knife called a Katcha Knife (katcha in the Akita dialect means upside-down) to make the band-like material or Kusa. Next, the Kusa and the vines of the Japanese wisteria are interwoven. It takes a day and a half to make one winnowing basket, as everything is done by hand.
Itaya-zaiku products include winnowing baskets, Kakkobe (waist bags to put seedlings), and small storage boxes. However, they are not limited to utility goods. Toys are manufactured as well, such as the Itaya Fox, made by simply sculpting a small Itaya maple wood piece, and the Itaya Horse, made by weaving ground Itaya.