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An Inconvenient Reality. Lights-off at a Japanese traditional craft shop.

Our goal has always been telling stories of important traditional crafts in Japan that deserves more attention. We build close relationships with local artisans, deep-dive into their history and crafts, and truly understand their day-in and day-out in the world of Japanese traditional crafts.

ShibataToku is a very special friend and neighbor to us, when we first moved into old town Hakozaki district, we knocked on their door and poked our nose into the little shop filled with bentwood objects. Today, we share the news of their halted production.

bentwood, japanese craft, wooden bento box, japanese wood craft
ShibataToku bentwood craft

Over the past 3 years, when most of us were home-bound (or locked-down), living that collective life of solitary, we connected you all to this small wood shop in the old district of Hakata/Fukuoka Japan. To date, over a thousand beautifully-made bentwood objects have reached all over the world, and we hope that brought some simple pleasures to you all.

We talked a lot about social challenges in Japan, and its population has been declining for 16 years straight with low birthrates. Some of the rural towns have over 50% of population at age over 65 and, some smaller villages simply disappear. Many Japanese has to work way beyond age 80. Sociology and urban planning experts in Japan have been discussing and forecasting how the country should evolve and survive in the coming decades, whether to consolidate the remaining population to large cities for ease of governance, or to create small pods of satellite towns spread out throughout the country in order to protect its food-growing capability. The thought of this is appalling, sounds like preparing for apocalypse.

Working in the field of traditional craft, we do witness this inconvenient reality in real-time. In April this year, Ms. Shibata, the 6th generation owner of Hakata bentwood shop, told us their master artisan Mr. Morita has decided to retire. For 2 months now, her cheerfulness and energy just perished, replaced by stress and anxiety. One can only imagine the pressure of being the last successor of an important traditional craft (*her late father / predecessor Mr. ShibataToku Goro helped Hakata Bentwood craft to achieve Fukuoka-Designated Folk Craft status).

Read the full story of ShibataToku's An Encore comes to an End from our sister site We are gathering comments and words of encouragement from readers who like our story.

Last but not least, we found a small video clip from a conversation with Ms. Shibata. We were discussing an ordinary-looking pair of old scissors that she has been using for 10 years which was designated as a traditional craft of Hakata. A hand-crafted pair of scissors of 700-years of history, known to be as sharp as a samurai's sword.

Hence, we do what we do. We want to share these little-known, real-life stories and support important crafts outside of heavily invested Tokyo and Kyoto.


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