Maeda Kobo / Interior Tea Box Club

Bringing tea box culture to the world!
From the crisis of decline to new possibilities

2021.12.1

Videographer: Colin Mok

"Tea box" that you rarely see in modern times.
I think some of you may remember that when you were a kid, a large wooden box was stored in the closet.

The tea box is a traditional Japanese living tool that was born at the end of the Edo period when tea exports began. Since it crosses the sea while keeping the tea leaves fresh, it has excellent moisture and insect repellent effects .

The tea boxes made by craftsmen one by one are not only tea but also rice, coffee beans, clothes, cameras and other daily necessities. A storage box that protects important things from moisture

It is also excellent as t37> . Born from coexistence with nature, is a sustainable product that can be used carefully for generations without changing its function or shape even after 100 years. ..

Photo: Hitomi Sato

However, with the advent of corrugated cardboard and plastic containers, demand is steadily declining. There are only 6 tea box factories nationwide. Coupled with the shortage of successors, the tea box continued to decline.

Pyzar Masumi, the representative of "Interior Tea Box Club", and Kieko Sonoda, the representative of "Maeda Kobo", are working to add new value and leave it in the future, recognizing the charm of such tea boxes. is.

We asked the story of two people struggling to protect the tea box culture with both supply and demand and to make it fly to the world.

From the encounter with the interior tea box to the survival of the tea box

Mr. Masumi Pyzar met the tea box 22 years ago. When she went to visit her American mom friend's house, she saw a nice box at the front door.

When you ask "What is that box?", You will be told that it is a "Fabric Covered Chabako" that you can put your favorite cloth on and make it into an original storage box. She is a craft that is popular among foreigners living in Japan.

Use a tea box as a tea set holder or chair Photo: Hitomi Sato

Mr. Pyzar is

Until then, the tea box was an image in the closet. I was surprised that the tea box was reborn so nicely. At the same time, I thought it was a waste for Japanese people to not know that foreigners are enjoying Japanese culture.

Say

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As my friends teach me how to make interior tea boxes and I enjoy them as a hobby, people around me gradually start to ask me to teach them. In 1999, we set up a classroom on Hatanodai, and in 2004 we established the "Interior Tea Box Club".

What sprouted in Pyzar's involvement with tea boxes was the sense of crisis about the decline of tea box culture.

Isn't it possible to protect the tea box by delivering the charm of the tea box to many people?

In addition to the lessons, we started selling the product under the name of "Interior Tea Box", and at the same time, we started activities for the survival of the tea box.

I want to protect the declining tea box and convey its charm

In Kawanehon Town, Shizuoka Prefecture, which is known as a famous tea producing area, tea boxes were actively manufactured, but due to a decrease in demand and a shortage of successors, factories that inherit old-fashioned technology have been closed one after another. I was

Maeda Seikansho, which has been indebted to the purchase of tea boxes since the beginning of the classroom, is also one of the factories whose survival is in jeopardy. Every time I heard about the plight of the tea box industry from my master, Mr. Maeda, Mr. Pyzar was wondering if he could make a way to leave the tea box.

Mr. Maeda

Tea boxes are a supporting role in life, but they are a traditional Japanese culture. It's too wasteful to lose Japan's proud work from the world. The tea box can be used both as a storage and as an interior, so it should be world-class.

, Pyzar thinks. However, no one showed an understanding of the activity to leave the tea box.

"Is it worth leaving an old box?" And even the people in Kawanehon-cho responded, "Did you still make tea boxes in this town?"

The gap between my beliefs and those around me was so big that I was wondering why this charm couldn't be conveyed. However, I was convinced that I could leave the tea box. No matter how much I say it, I can't convey it in words, so I decided that I had to show it.

, says Pyzar. By placing the tea box in your daily life, you can feel the spirit of valuing things, the warmth of people , and the joy of putting the real thing close to you. And if you decorate it into an interior tea box, it will become a thing that colors your living space . I hope that one day I will bring the charm of this tea box to many people and make them happy.

The belief that has survived many adversities begins to move forward greatly from the encounter with Ms. Kieko Sonoda.


Hina dolls can be displayed and stored in a tea box Photo: Colin Mok

The beginning of a three-legged race for the survival of the tea box

Mr. Pyzar thought that training of craftsmen and cooperation of the town were indispensable for the reconstruction of tea boxes as an industry. I put the desire to leave the tea box in the petition and sent it to the mayor of Kawanehon Town.

It goes around and arrives at Mr. Sonoda, who was the manager of the Planning Division and Town Development Office at that time.

Mr. Sonoda, who was working on community development, had a mission to send tea overseas in order to revive the sluggish demand for tea. He is said to have spent 365 days thinking about the town, whether he slept or woke up.

The delivery of the petition to Mr. Sonoda, who has a deep love for such a town, may have been a guide to his destiny.

Mr. Sonoda says.

Actually, before I received the petition, I saw a beautiful interior tea box at Maeda Hakosho.The petition arrived just before I thought that I had to bring it with the interior tea box in order to disseminate Japanese tea culture overseas.

In order to liven up the town, we must leave the tea box as a special product of the town to the future as much as tea.

Mr. Sonoda, who resonated with Mr. Pyzar's feelings, retired from a civil servant to take on that role. In cooperation with the Interior Tea Box Club, we inherited the business from "Maeda Hakosho", which has a history of about 75 years, and started tea box manufacturing as "Maeda Kobo" in 2020.

Kuwanoyama Shinkobo

, which started operations in January 2020


Bringing Japanese tea boxes to the world

Currently, Maeda Kobo mainly manufactures craftsmen in their 30s and 40s. However, Mr. Sonoda says that the road to get here was a series of hardships.

Business succession is not easy because it inherits the skills of craftsmen who have been working for decades. I think the master had to be quite prepared to give up the work he had been proud of. Of course, the recipient cannot feel half-hearted.

It is said that skillful skill is required for work that does not allow a 1 mm deviation while handling a tree that is a living thing . The techniques inherited from the master are learned by each craftsman in the workshop, and protect the industry unique to tea.

Tea box manufacturing does not generate any waste. Wood chips are picked up by an egg shop and used by laying them in a chicken coop, and scraps are taken by people who want to use them for a wood stove. It also leads to environmentally friendly community development. . I would like to develop a tea box making in this town so that all things are used carefully.

says Mr. Sonoda.

The two wheels of Mr. Pyzar, who conveys the charm of the tea box, and Mr. Sonoda, who connects the skills of craftsmen, are bringing new possibilities to the tea box.

The goal is to make tea boxes around the world.

The eyes of the two who talked about the outlook with

were full of unwavering self-confidence.

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