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Odate City, Akita: Where Northern Japanese Traditions Come to Life

Odate City is in the northernmost part of Akita Prefecture. The city offers visitors the chance to learn more about unique traditional crafts such as magewappa (bent woodware.) You can also get to know the famous Akita dog breed, savor local produce, and experience the warmth of the people who operate the area's facilities.

Magewappa: a unique Japanese craft with strong Odate connections

A magewappa bento box

The craft of magewappa (bent woodware) has a 400-year-long history in Odate. Originally, local woodcutters and artisans used the cedar trees that surround the area to create beautiful and functional items such as trays, lunch boxes, and wooden containers for cooked rice, and the craft still survives today.

Shaping strips of boiled cedarwood

To create magewappa items, craftsmen boil thin strips of straight-grained cedar until they're pliable, then fashion the pieces into different shapes. A bottom and a wood finish are added, and the item is polished. This is, of course, a simplified explanation of an intricate craft that has been passed down through generations. Presently, around eight Odate companies specialize in magewappa.

Tradition, food, and community at the Wappa Building

The Wappa Building in Odate City, Akita Prefecture

If you're interested in magewappa, then the Wappa Building—300 meters south of the JR Odate Station—should top your list of places to visit. True to its name, the building's exterior and interior are inspired by magewappa itself, using white as a base to emphasize the rich colors of the cedar. Inside the building, a craft shop, Shibata Yoshinobu Shoten, sells magewappa pieces; S.witch cafe serves delicious tea, coffee, and assorted desserts; and Maruwwa rents out office space. These facilities respectively embody the building's three concepts of "tradition," "food," and "community."

Shibata Yoshinobu Shoten's shopfront sign

To create your very own bento box, head to Shibata Yoshinobu Shoten (the first shop on the left when approaching from the train station). Upon entering, you'll see myriad magewappa pieces that include bento boxes, trays, cups, and other items. The shop has a light and airy interior and exudes a refreshing cedar fragrance.

An array of magewappa items

Shibata Yoshinobu Shoten is operated by the second-generation owner, Yoshimasa Shibata, who uses his years of experience to teach visitors the secrets of magewappa.

Create your own magewappa pieces

Choose to make either a round bento box or a small plate

Choose to make either a round-shaped bento box (6,050 yen) or a small plate (3,850 yen—prices include both the lesson and the item itself). The whole experience lasts between 90 and 120 minutes, depending on how many people take the class. Lessons take place at comfortable tables and each seat has the tools and materials necessary for you…

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