Off-the-Eaten Path Food Experience in Japan. "Meet the People and Places behind your Plates! "

Friday 25 November 2016

Learning about wood bucket (oke桶) in Kumano Kodo

Mingei translated as folk crafts, is dairy necessities such as lackerware, kitchen tools, dishes or furnitures for living, which is also described as "beauty of usage", not fine arts or expensive antiquities.

We are traveling to learn traditional knowledge from ground mothers and fathers in rural villages - processing foods, also about variety of land lace crops, handicrafts, and so on.

This time, I visited okeya, a wood barrel artisan in Kumano. He is the only one artisan (called shokunin 職人 in Japanese) producing oke until now in Wakayama prefecture.

taru 樽 and oke

Shokunin making taru and oke are different.

Oke 桶: wood bucket
The bucket is used for containing rice, noodles, miso, tsukemono, and also for taking bath in sento (public bath). The type of wood (cedar or cypress trees) used for making oke should be less prone to transformation (strait grain).

Taru 樽: wood barrel
This is for presearving liquid like sake, shoyu, for a longer term compared to Oke, which is more for daily usage. The wood should have high water-tightness, and cross grain is used.

Okehama in Kumano, Wakayama prefecture

Okehama 桶濱 is located at Nonaka shuraku (village community) in the middle of Kumano Kodo path.

The sign of "okeya" is well posted at the road side.

The atelier is surrounded by pieces of woods.
Hamaji san was almost hidden by wood staffs.

"Wood is breathing. It absorb moisture inside bucket and exhale to outside. Never does the other way around. When it is hot, wood adjust as it is. That's a virtue of wood"

Wood is living.
Put tsukemono into oke in summer, wood can adjust moisture and temperature, as it is breathing...

Hamaji san explained to us.

He is over 80 years old, and  continuously working without taking break every day in the morning until now. 

Making oke is a dairy chore, not a labor for him. It is as a part of his life, a way of his living.

Rice is used for glueing woods in btween. It is a traditional wisdom.

Hamaji san gained the grand prize at "the second over 60 national smile contest",  which had more than 1600 candidates in 2015.

Is he smiling today as usual?
Sometimes, I visit Kumano, and whenever I pass by Nonaka village, I saw him making oke.
He produces every day, all the time even in the rain and wind, which make me feel warm and relieved.

He has a direct shop in his atelier in Nonaka village.
Why don't you have tailor made oke for you to preserve foods?