Kabazaiku, also known as Sakuwakawa-zaiku (Cherry Bark Work), is a unique craft that turns cherry blossoms’ bark into beautiful artworks. This is a one-of-a-kind technique fostered by the frugal yet proud warriors from Kakunodate.
Kabazaiku from Kakunodate, Semboku City, originated in the Temmei period (1781–1788) when a warrior from the Satake-kita family learned how to work with the bark of wild cherry blossoms. This technique was passed on to the people in Akita who suffered from cold weather damage. Thanks to the feudal lord’s protection and encouragement, Kabazaiku manufacturing was developed into an industry in the Bunka period (1804–1817) and established as a lower-class warriors’ side job. In the Meiji era (1868–1912), lordless samurai started creating Kabazaiku work in earnest, and the technique began to spread to other residents. Later, the putting-out system was established, and the basis of the local industry was completed. During the Taisho (1912–1926) and Showa eras (1926–1989), production of household items such as tea canisters and trays started. Such products have contributed to the success of Kabazaiku today.
Kabazaiku products have various manufacturing methods and can be classified into three categories. The base is made according to the categories; then, the bark is pasted for cylindrical Katamono and box-type Kijimono. For Tatamimono, a block consisting of many layers of cherry tree bark was sculpted. In 1976, it became Akita’s first work to become Japan’s Nationally Designated Traditional Craft Product.