Odate City, Akita - Cultural Heritage Introduction

Discover Odate’s History

Odate Magewappa

Odate Magewappa (Traditional Culture)


Traditional Odate Magewappa woodcrafts were named a Traditional Folk Craft of Japan by the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry in 1980. Magewappa even makes an appearance in the lyrics of Akita Prefecture’s Akita Ondo folk song.

Once made by lumberjacks bending thin strips of cedar wood into useful everyday objects, the craft was refined under Lord Satake of Odate Castle during the feudal era. Looking to utilize the vast cedar resources, lower class samurai were instructed to take up magewappa craft to supplant their income.

1,100 year-old magewappa

In 1999 an intact magewappa piece was unearthed from an archeological site of a buried home. The house had been buried in the ash and debris of the 915 eruption of the Towada volcano, preserving the artifacts inside including the magewappa vessel thought to be from the early 10th century.

The exact date of when magewappa was first produced still remains unknown, but from at least 1,100 years ago there were finely worked pieces in use in the region.

*Sites dating from the mid-10th century have provided very few stone and pottery pieces, leading to the conclusion that wood was adopted as a common building material.

From everyday items to works of art

Up until the 1950’s, wood was a common material for everyday household items, but began to be replaced metal, glass, and plastic. During that period, Odate Magewappa also underwent a series of changes.

Odate Magewappa artisans began producing new designs to fit modern tastes and elevating the craft from simple objects to highly regarded works of art.

Sustainable Culture

Traditionally, Odate Magewappa is made from the wood of local cedar trees over 300 years old. However, such old trees are now few and far between. To keep the tradition alive for future generations, the Odate Magewappa Forest was planted by forestry partners to provide high-quality material for years to come. Local authorities and universities collaborate to make sure the forest stays healthy and produces good timber.

Local students make their own magewappa pieces to be used during lunch time as a way to convey the benefits of the craft to younger generations.