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Feature CREATIVE ROOTS W APPA PROJECT Akita’s traditional industry merged with fresh creativity SHOKO OTA L OCATED in the Tohoku region of Japan, Akita Prefecture has recently been garnering increasing attention in the field of traditional craftwork. Through efforts such as the April 2013 founding of the Akita University of Art, this northern prefecture aims to foster people who can promote its local culture and traditions to the world. Odate magewappa is one of the best-known traditional crafts in Akita. Historically made in Odate City, the wa in wappa means ‘ring,’ while mage means ‘to bend.’ To form magewappa, wooden boards are soaked in hot water until they become soft enough to be bent into cylinders. Odate magewappa is made from natural Akita cedar, which has a beautiful, straight grain. The tree’s slow growth in Akita’s cold temperatures leads to the dense annual rings that result in this unique and delicate grain, going on to create the broad rings that mark magewappa’s distinctive natural design. The bent wood is then fixed in place with attractive, reddish-brown cherry bark inserted into the connecting joint. 6 | highlighting japan 1 Japanese cedar is antiseptic and has a high capacity for moisture absorption, which is useful in preventing food from rotting. This makes magewappa bins and bento lunch boxes ideal containers for rice. In fact, a recent boom in homemade bento has drawn people away from store-bought lunches, boosting sales of magewappa lunch boxes to the point that production can’t keep up with demand. In the midst of all this activity, three Akita natives have launched the Wappa Project, aiming to add new value to this traditional craftwork and adapt it for use in modern life. Takuma Ishiyama is project leader of the ZERODATE Art Project, which he established to promote local artists and creators, aiming to set the ‘date’ back to ‘zero’ and start Odate’s creativity anew. Makoto Tamiya, hailing from Akita City, is in charge of the Wappa Project’s branding and market exploration. He heads casane tsumugu, which works to highlight the appeal of local creativity by examining it from new angles, promoting projects and products both inside and outside of Odate. And Norikazu