Videographer : Colin Mok
Tea boxes: an excellent traditional Japanese storage tool
The tea box is a traditional Japanese household utensil that originated in the 1800s, when the export of tea from Japan to overseas began. Since tea leaves need to be kept fresh and travel across oceans, tea boxes provide excellent protection against moisture and insects.
various uses for tea boxes
Made one by one by craftsmen, tea boxes are excellent storage boxes that protect not only tea but also other important items from moisture, such as rice, coffee beans, and even daily necessities such as clothes and cameras. Born from a symbiotic relationship with nature, they are also sustainable and can be used with great care from generation to generation.
However, with the advent of corrugated cardboard and plastic containers, demand for tea boxes has been steadily declining. Combined with a lack of successors, Japanese tea box makers have been in decline.
In Kawane-Honcho, Shizuoka Prefecture, known for its tea production, tea box manufacturing was thriving, but due to declining demand and a lack of successors, factories that carried on the traditional techniques were closing one after another. Maeda box company" was one of the factories that were in danger of closing.
the craftsman of Maeda box company
Kieko Sonoda, a civil servant in this town, was on a mission to promote tea overseas in order to revive the stagnant demand for tea. 365 days a year, she spent every waking moment thinking about the town.
In 2000, Ms. Sonoda retired from public service in order to convey the town's and Japan's good qualities through tea boxes. She took over the business from "Maeda box company" which had been in business for about 75 years, and founded “Maeda kobo”, then started manufacturing tea boxes.
the factory founded in 2020
Bringing Japanese Tea Boxes to the World
Currently, Maeda Kobo is led by craftsmen in their 30s and 40s. However, Sonoda says that the path to this point was a series of hardships.
Inheriting the skills of craftsmen who have been working for decades is not an easy task. I think the master had to be very determined to hand over the work he had been doing with pride. Of course, the person taking over the business cannot do so half-heartedly.
each tea box is made by hand
It takes a great deal of skill to handle wood, which is a living thing, and to work with it without allowing even a millimeter of deviation. Each craftsman in the workshop has acquired the skills from his / her master through friendly rivalry, and the industry is being preserved as a unique tea production center.
The production of tea boxes doesn't produce any waste at all. Wood scraps are picked up by egg stores and used to spread on chicken coops, and scrap wood is taken by people who want to use it for wood stoves, leading to an environmentally friendly town development. I would like to develop the production of tea boxes in this town so that all things are used with care,
My goal is to make it the world's tea box.
Her eyes were filled with unshakable confidence as she spoke of her vision.
wood used for tea box is dried for at least two months