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Isshochi is the name of a village in the Southern part of Kumamoto with about 3,925 population with 90% of the land as forest. With largely agricultural work and forestry, this village tucked between the steep mountains receives little visitors, except for a few who love to explore nature and Japanese hotsprings, and enjoy the slow train ride in rural Japan.  The region flourished under the rule of Feudal Lord Sagara for over 700 years, and it was described as the "most culturally rich hidden village in Japan" by famous novelist Ryotaro Shiba in Japan. 

The Origin of Isshochi Bentwood Craft

During his reign, Lord Sagara brought in bentwood artisan from the famous woodcraft region Hida Takayama (Central Northern Japan), and commanded him to craft functional and beautiful objects using the abundant local timber.  With a wood shop established in Isshochi, hence the beginning of Issochi Bentwood Craft. This northern lineage has since been passed down the generations of bentwood artisans.  

Sosogi Shoji, trained under the lineage of Isshochi bentwood, is the 25th generation Issochi craftsman and is the only artisan practicing Isshochi bentwood craft in Kumamoto Prefecture.  

Shoji Sosogi

25th generation of Issochi Magemono

Sosogi first encounter Issochi bentwood craft at age 25. He was so fascinated that he started his apprenticeship with his wife's grandfather and spent 44 years making bentwood boxes.  He succeeded the heritage craft business and is still passionately making boxes by hands everyday.  With his background in construction, he uses magemono techniques to create architectural structures and artistic sculptures, and truly sees the unlimited possibility of this craft. 



Isshochi Style Bentwood Craft

To say Hakata-style bentwood is light-weight and dedicate, Isshochi-style would then be "Hearty". The wood is 5mm thick with the base and lid as xxmm.

Unlike Hakata magemono which is made with all cedar or hinoki wood, the Isshochi box is usually a mix oo both hinoki and cedar.  The bent panel is typically hinoki and the lid and base would be cedar.  

because of Hinoki, the aroma of the box is stronger than cedar boxes.  

The base board is also a thick board adhere to the bentwood panel. 

I can make an entire box using all power-tools, but I enjoy making it mostly by hands.  One should learn how to make magemono by hand in order to appreciate this craft.  And when I teach, I show students how to make the bento box by hand tools only. 

At the bottom of the boxes made by Sosogi are his succession name "Ki Shu" 喜舟

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