BIC AKITA June 2024 issue

TOMIOKA was featured in the June 2024 issue of BIC AKITA.


Nationally designated traditional craft: Kaba-zaiku
To sense changes in demand quickly

The company was founded in 1970 when my father, the previous owner, took over a birch craft wholesaler KIKUCHI. Mr. TOMIOKA became the company's representative in 2005, and at the same time moved the main store to Kakunodate and opened the select shop "art & craft Kazuki," but he felt that customer’s demand was changing. Kaba-zaiku are a nationally designated traditional craft. This is a valuable technique that is said to have been brought to Kakunodate from the Ani region between 1781 and 1789 and involves craftsmanship using wild cherry tree bark. It is characterized by its excellent resistance to moisture and dryness, as well as its robustness. For this reason, since ancient times, it has been used as a storage tool for tea leaves and medicines. Mr. TOMIOKA felt that customer’s demand was declining with the changing times and had been working on creating new products even before he became the company's president. "Through the Traditional Crafts Industry Promotion Association in Aoyama, I have collaborated with people from other traditional crafts producing areas to develop products, and I have collaborated with metal processing companies in Tokyo to make lampshades. I was looking for new possibilities for Kabazaiku, not just the conventional products.”

Overseas expansion due to the Great East Japan Earthquake and Meeting with overseas creators

The Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011 caused sales to drop, which prompted the company to turn its attention overseas. I launched the design brand "art KABA," which incorporates a modern essence by combining Kaba-zaiku with different materials such as Akita cedar and polyvinyl chloride resin. This enabled us to receive offers from global brands, which led to our expansion overseas. After that, I met Mr.Kozlowski, a designer living in France who has experience as an art director for a well-known brand, and we have become good friends. He came to Kakunodate last summer, and when I visited Paris the following month, he showed me a proposal for a new product. Mr. Kozlowski suggested residential wall panels. The target buyers are wealthy French people.” I have no knowledge about the housing situation or culture in France. I felt that this was a way to use Kaba-zaiku crafts that only a local creator could come up with.”

Finding new way for Kaba-zaiku crafts without being constrained by preconceived ideas.

Mr. Kozlowski's proposal was an accent panel to be attached to the wall of a house. Eight different designs are available, taking advantage of the unique characteristics of the birch material and the different textures that come from different finishes. All of the pieces were inspired by Mr. Kozlowski's visit to Kakunodate, and feature traditional Japanese motifs such as swords, bows, iron fans, helmets, and armor, which are suits for Kakunodate, where samurai residences are lined up. "At a domestic exhibition, a business partner told me, 'Kaba-zaiku crafts have evolved in a good direction,' and that made me very happy. The charm of Kaba-zaiku is that each one has a different expression. This product captures those characteristics well. It also reaffirmed the importance of collaborating with creators who know the local area." This new product was just officially released at a press conference in May. A new phase of TOMIOKA is now beginning.

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