Wooden craftwork, known locally as Hakata Magemono, was originally produced solely to be used as implements in sacred rites at Hakozaki-gû, a shrine famous for the Tamaseseri and Hojoya Festivals. Over time, however, magemono grew in popularity among commoners who found practical uses for them as rice containers, lunch boxes, and so on.
Today, only two ateliers producing Hakata Magemono remain today, one of which is Shibata Toku Shôten located in Maedashi in Fukuoka's East Ward. Shibata Toku Shôten produces some sixty different types of magemono, including the popo zen tray which has enjoyed an enduring popularity over the years. Given as presents during Shichi-go-san (7-5-3) celebrations, popo zen trays are painted with auspicsious items, such as cranes and turtles. Since ancient times, the trays have traditionally been crafted by men; the pictures painted by women.
At Shibata Toku Shôten, great care is put into choosing the materials. "If the grains aren't straight, it won't make good magemono," says Shibata. "You get a sense of how it works after years of experience."
To produce magemono, slats of hinoki (Japanese cypress) are first arranged according to their measurements. Next, the part where the two ends meet is planed. "If you make the joining parts too thick, the line won't be straight," Shibata explains. "If you make it thinner, then it'll be too sharp."
After the ends have been planed, the board is soaked in water overnight. The following morning, it is soaked into hot water for about 4 hours, making the baord more pliable. Once the board has been softened with hot water, it is bent with a special machine and then assembled.
When asked what he found most pleasurable about the work, Shibata replied, "When a customer who's been using one of our products for several years comes in to have it repaired. If used with care, they can last for several decades."
Hakata Magemono which have been produced for some 300 years have been designated as an intangible cultural heritage of Fukuoka city.