Magemono (bentwood work) (曲物)

"Magemono"or "wagemono" is a container made by bending a shaved lumber of Japanese cypress or Japanese cedar, and by sewing its joint with the bark of birch or Japanese cherry. The craftsmen who make magemono are called "magemonoshi" while those specialized in bending are called "mageshi."


Magemono is said to have been used as a daily commodity since ancient times.

For instance, the paintings from the Heian period through the Kamakura period, such as 'Senmen Koshakyo' (ancient sutra manuscripts on a fan), 'Choju Jinbutsu Giga' (caricatures of frolicking birds, animals and humans), 'Shigisan Engi Emaki' (picture scroll depicting the stories about Mt. Shigi), 'Obusuma Saburo Ekotoba' (picture scroll of the Kamakura period), the Koan version of 'Kitano Tenjin Engi' (history of Kitano Tenjin Shrine), and 'Tohoku-in Shokunin Utaawase-emaki (Touhoku-in poetry Contest among persons of various occupations), depict 'oke' (wooden bucket); judging from the periods when these paintings were produced, these oke are not 'yuioke' (wooden bucket with a bottom) which were developed after the Kamakura period, but are 'mageoke,' which suggests that the 'oke' in a form of magemono was used on a daily basis after the Heian period.

In addition to these 'oke,' magemono is also said to have been used as 'izutsu' (wooden frame around well) in ancient times. These are called 'magemono-izutsu,' which had magemono on the inside of a well to prevent the sidewall from collapsing. Although izutsu is often made of ishigaki (stone wall) of nozura zumi (laid with mostly unprocessed natural stones), it was made of wood materials in ancient times, including magemono-izutsu, which is also considered to have been used in ancient times. Examples of magemono-izutsu were found in the Jike site and the Takaza site in Ishikawa Prefecture (Medieval period), the Suzaki site in Akita Prefecture (end of the 13th century), and the Ochiai site in Iwate Prefecture (Kamakura period).

The following are the examples of magemono found as a result of excavating and researching archaeological sites.

In excavation and research of the provincial capital of Izumo Province in Shimane Prefecture, magemono containers were found in a well as the remnants of a ritual site during the Nara period.

In excavation and research of the Aoya-Kamijichi site in Tottori Prefecture, magemono and a variety of woodworks were unearthed.

In excavation and research of the Korekawa-nakai site in Hachinohe City, Aomori Prefecture: the unearthed 'lacquered barky containers' were assessed by the city's board of education as 'magemono with a lacquered lid' made about 3,000 years ago during the beginning of the late Jomon period.

In excavation and research of the Heijo-kyu Palace site in Nara City, Nara Prefecture: magemono containers were unearthed in a well.

These magemono went into a decline over time and replaced by 'oke' in 'yuioke' and 'ishigaki' in 'izutsu,' but they were used as lunchboxes, trays, and bowls for confectionary, flower arrangement and tea ceremonies, and are still produced in quite a volume today.

Production Area

Due to various alternative products and the difficult situation in which to procure materials, magemono are produced in limited amounts.

At present, the following regions designate magemono as their artifact, local product or specialty:

Magemono of hiba (type of Japanese cypress) in Fujisaki-machi, Aomori Prefecture
Mage-wappa (bentwood) in Odate City, Akita Prefecture
Mage-wappa in Hinoemata-mura, Fukushima Prefecture
Menpa (lunchbox) in Kuni-mura, Gunma Prefecture
Magemono products in Tsubame City (former Yoshida-machi), Nigata Prefecture
Magemono in Utsunomiya City, Tochigi Prefecture
Magemono in Nakano Ward, Tokyo Metropolis
Magemono in Shiojiri City, Nagano Prefecture
Magemono in Narai-juku, Kiso
Ena Magemono products in Nakatsugawa City, Gifu Prefecture
Ikawa Menpa in Shizuoka City, Shizuoka Prefecture
Owase Wappa in Owase City, Mie Prefecture
Wooden works in Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture
Magemono in Osaka City, Osaka Prefecture
Hakata Magemono in Fukuoka City, Fukuoka Prefecture
Menpa in Hinokage-cho, Miyazaki Prefecture

Magemono in Narai-juku, Kiso

It is a traditional craft produced in Shiojiri City, Nagano Prefecture and designated by the governor of Nagano Prefecture.

It is a container with a lid and base on its side made by bending a thin lumber of Japanese cypress or Japanese falsecypress produced locally into a circular or oval form, and by sewing its joint with the bark of Japanese mountain cherry; it is used as a rice cooker, lunchbox, tool for tea ceremonies and soba (buckwheat noodle) dish, and seiro (wooden frame holder with reed base used to steam food over a pot).

In an oval lunch box with a lid, the point of contact between the lid and the box differ in position depending on how deep the lid is; when it has a deep lid, the point of contact is displaced in order to avoid friction with it.

It was introduced as 'magemono in Narai' in the early Edo period.

Designated by the governor of Nagano Prefecture as a traditional craft.

Traditional Techniques and Methods
Hegi (a strip of wood split-off)
Lumber is thinned by stripping it along the wood grain with a hegi-hocho knife.

The thinned lumber is bended after immersing it in hot water for softening.

[Original Japanese]