Our Factory: Akebono Kogei in Fukuyama, Japan

By Ray Suzuki | April 2nd 2024

#factory #history

Akebono Kougei is located in Fukuyama, Japan. Based in the Bingo region, it is known for its Bingo Kiri-bako style box making practice, spanning over 300 years.

Akebono Kougei is currently run by 桑田真由美 (Mayumi Kuwada). She took over the business from her father 桑田實 (Minoru Kuwada), a skilled craftsman who ran the factory from 1972 to 2003.

In the Edo period, from 1600 to 1868, the Bingo region grew: with a burgeoning industry producing paulownia furniture.

Bingo was known for 桐 (kiri) furniture due to the area’s indigenous growth of some of the highest quality paulownia, along with Aizu Kiri from Fukushima and Nanbu Kiri from Iwate.

The craft was created through the surrounding environment’s context and natural materials, which has been passed down from one generation to the next.  Hiroshima, enfolded in the mountains of the Chugoku Range, possesses by a mild climate that delicately passes through seasons in which Paulownia thrives: and the region expanded through the furniture’s production. The practice of kiribako originated as a result of a kind of craft legacy: the boxes were born from repurposing scraps from the paulownia timber used for the furniture.

As a small island with limited resources, Japan conceived the concept: もったいない “Mottainai”. もったいない is a phrase that means  “what a waste”: it conveys a regret of excess, expressing the feeling of remorse for an object losing its original essence. embraces the utmost respect for all forms of matter. This anti-waste philosophy is what gave kiribako their beautiful material, as well as meaning.

When we pay respect to all forms of matter, even the most banal of objects can transform into something sacred… The making of kiribako expresses sustainability in so many ways, from their material to their origin.  Over centuries the craft has been nurtured and perfected into what it is today.

Photography/Videography by
Yusuke Maekawa
Takuya Maekawa