Akita Cedar Barrel

A delicate woody texture and a beautiful rose-colored bark with fixed-width growth rings – the barrel is an example of woodwork that evokes the grace of cedar. Its warmth and elegance enriches modern life.
Barrel-making using Akita cedar has a long history. Their side and bottom plates, presumed to be from the late Heian era (794–1185), have been excavated from Akita castle’s ruins. Barrels were necessities for ordinary people to store water in the medieval and early modern ages. Therefore, they were mass-produced all over Akita under the feudal clan’s encouragement.
The demand grew from the Meiji era to the end of the Second World War, and the barrels were treasured to store Japanese sake or soy sauce and to prepare vinegared rice for sushi and salted vegetables. Demand fell in the 1950s because plastic products became prominent. However, the virtue of handcrafted products has been rediscovered in recent years, and new products with new uses are being developed. The Akita cedar barrel’ is mainly produced in Odate City, Noshiro City, Gojyome Town (South Akita district), and Omori Town (Yokote City). It became Japan’s Nationally Designated Traditional Craft Product in 1984. Its types include oke and taru depending on the shape and use of barrels. Oke uses wood pieces with straight grains cut into strips and are lidless. They are used temporarily. On the other hand, taru uses edge-grain wood. They are usually used to store or carry something, so they come with fixed lids. The manufacturing process has six stages, including the timber process to cut out timber using a curved hatchet and hooping process to bind a barrel with hoops. As none of the steps use machines, they require expert skills.