May 17, 2023 - Akita Sakigake Shimpo Newspaper
Kaba-zaiku, a traditional artcraft of Kakunodate Town, Semboku City, is currently being sold at Japan House, a facility in Sao Paulo, Brazil, that serves as a hub for promoting Japanese culture, and is attracting local attention. A manufacturer and seller in Kakunodate hopes that the products will attract people's interest in Semboku City and encourage them to visit the city.
The Japan House was established by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from 2017 to the following year in Sao Paulo, London (UK), and Los Angeles (US) as an effort to increase the number of Japanophiles by promoting the many diverse appeals of Japan. It houses Japanese restaurants and cafes, as well as stores selling Japanese sake and products that reflect Japan's technological capabilities and culture.
The Japan House in Sao Paulo was designed by architect Kengo Kuma and features a creative design using cypress and Japanese traditional paper. Located on a main street, it has attracted a great deal of attention, with 660,000 visitors a year prior to the Covid-19 pandemic in 2019.
The stores inside sell carefully selected products, including traditional crafts from various regions. In January of this year, a kaba-zaiku tea canister, tea scoop, and single-flower vase were added to the shop. When the shop staff explain the characteristics of the raw materials and its manufacturing process, visitors take them in their hands and look at them in awe.
The shop began selling kaba-zaiku when Mr. Eric Klug, President of the Japan House in Sao Paulo, visited Semboku City in July of last year. Tomioka Shoten, which manufactures and sells kaba-zaiku, introduced its products at its store "Arts & Crafts Kazuki" on Buke Yashiki Dori (a former samurai residence street) in order to convey the traditional culture of Kakunodate. President Koki Tomioka (age 60), explained that "the more you use it, the more beautiful the luster will become as it ages," and presented a business card case as a gift.
President Tomioka visited Japan House in London in 2019 and was impressed by its ability to convey the appeal of Japanese culture. Although no business negotiations took place at the time, when the opportunity later arose, he approached the Mr. Eric Klug, President asking if they could display kaba-zaiku. Mr. Eric Klug, President, who was interested in the traditional techniques of kaba-zaiku since the Edo period and its history of coexistence with nature, was pleased with the product and readily agreed.
Tomioka Shoten has been selling products such as coffee and pasta containers for overseas markets in more than 10 countries under the company's philosophy of promoting kaba-zaiku to the world. Having established ties with Brazil, President Tomioka commented, "When people think of Japan, they think of cherry blossoms. Kaba-zaiku is made from wild cherry bark, and I think that even in Brazil, people will feel that this is an authentic Japanese product." (Shintaro Ohara)