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Beyond Wooden Bento Boxes, Unique Bentwood Objects

Updated: Mar 4

With love and support from all of you so faraway, within a month of our previous post, almost all the wooden bento boxes are sold out!

It is disheartening for us to type "Discontinued" on each listing, knowing that puts an end to an object that has been made by the ShibataToku family for centuries. But happy to know these beautiful handmade objects are being appreciated and finding new homes. And thank you for the many kind words sent to us, we will pass along to Ms. Shibata.

How's your experimentation using this skewed-shape wood bento box? Playing with food tangram or using it to store your special goodies?


Each time we walked in to ShibataToku's shop, there are fewer items in the tatami room. It used to be Ms. Shibata's painting room and "storage" for all the newly made pieces brought from the wood shop at the back.

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ShibataToku workshop. Mr. Morita made new boxes from the back of house would be brought to this tatami room.
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"Ceci n'est pas une théière." This is not a teapot.

We promised to showcase some more unique objects made by Mr. Morita and Ms. Shibata, as a large part of their works are commissioned by local shinto shrines and tea-ceremony practitioners. Before bentwood objects became bento boxes for the commoners, they were ritual-wares made to serve Shinto gods, and tea utensils for the elite tea ceremony masters, including the famous chanoyu teacher Sen no Rikyu.

Master Rikyu designated many bentwood objects in his teachings for tea-ceremony and he particularly like the raw-finish (uncoated) cedar wood.


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Wood clips to make round bento boxes




We have just set up the ShibataToku Gallery.


Please visit and check back from time to time, as we will continue to update it with more unique objects. It has been fun for us to discover history and usage behind some of these items that were initially made centuries ago!











WHAT'S NEXT?


Bentwood craft cannot be revitalized without artisans. We have discussed with Ms. Shibata about her industry network and researched thoroughly throughout Japan. We are very surprised how few bentwood heritage artisans are remaining, mainly in rural regions. Few bentwood bento boxes can be found in lifestyle and home goods stores in Japan though, but many are outsourced oversea and mass-produced . Japan's artisanal bentwood boxes made with locally-grown cedar and cherry tree barks are done only by a handful of specialty heritage shops, and the number continues to decline as artisans retire like Mr. Morita. Occasionally, we came across 1 or 2 young woodworkers making bentwood bento boxes as side gig to their primary woodworking business.


Our journey on bentwood craft is not coming to any end soon, we hope to bring new story and revitalize this craft. Please stay tuned!


Oh, and keep sending us comments and words for Shibata, and we will pass the message!


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