Craftsman of cherry bark ware Masao Nishinomiya


Craftsman of Cherry bark ware Masao Nishinomiya


I make things that I can be proud of.
This is most important to me as a craftsman.

Knives used to polish cherry bark and a metal trowel. The heated metal trowel is used to iron the cherry bark to the cylinder of a tea caddy.

I solve my problems by myself. Hard work has honed my skills.

I became a cherry bark ware craftsman about 20 years ago. I was a construction joiner, making traditional Japanese-style doors, windows, cabinets, and chests. When aluminum window sashes started to become mainstream and the traditional Japanese style started to go out of fashion, I was asked to try my hand at cherry bark ware. I kind of got taken in by someone who said to me, cherry bark ware should not be so difficult for a construction joiner like you.” However once I started working on cherry bark ware, I realised that this was not true at all – it was really hard! But, I have no regrets in stepping into the world of cherry bark ware, thanks to Mr. Keiichi Arakawa, my master. Under the instruction of Mr. Arakawa, I have achieved the level in which I can make high quality tea caddies.

It took me 10 days to pick up the method of making Katamono (cylindrical shaped cherry bark ware), and 2 months until I was able to make tea caddies. Fortunately, I was familiar with some of the tools of cherry bark ware, such as knives, as I had experience with using them when I was a construction joiner, and I did not struggle with picking up the skills that much. However, although the basics were relatively simple to learn, the subsequent learning was very difficult. Every time I encountered a new issue, the only solution was to try new methods again and again until I was satisfied. No one could tell me the answers to the issues I came across. I believe that working hard honed my skills.
The process of polishing the cherry bark needs a high degree of skill. We use a knife to smooth the knotted and lumpy surface of the cherry bark. I concentrate my full attention on this process because it directly affects the appearance of the tea caddies.

This is the process of polishing the bark. This polishing process is usually not able to be seen, even during demonstrations of cherry bark ware making.
Near the ceiling, the harvested cherry bark is drying and the wooden tea caddy molds are also arranged.

I collect the bark for my tea caddies at the risk of my life.

It is said that quality cherry bark is soft and has fewer knots on the surface. We sort the cherry bark according to the patterns or appearance of the surface, and there are about 12 patterns. It is only after the bark has been polished that I can tell what kind of bark it is, though it seems easy for professional experts who have been going up to the mountains and harvesting the cherry bark for a long time. The work of peeling the cherry bark involves substantial risk, such as falling from the cherry tree, encountering yellow hornets or bears, and so on. Because the amount of cherry bark harvested has recently reduced, it is more and more expensive for me to buy. That is why I go to the mountains and peel the cherry bark by myself. But then I don’t want to sell the objects I made with it, because I obtained the bark at the risk of my life.

Wazutsu is designed by Mr. Kaichiro Yamada, the designer of Denshiro. It is made by combining wild cherry bark, with the wood from maple, cherry, and walnut trees. Each material is wrapped around a cylindrical cast upon which kyougi (sheets of wood) have already been wrapped. It is then sliced into several parallel sections. Usually, the cover of a tea caddy will not fit its body if they were not made using the same cast. However, despite this commonly accepted understanding in cherry bark ware construction, Mr. Yamada designed Wazutsu, which uses different materials in the one tea caddy. I would not have come up with such an idea. I had not been really sure if Wazutsu would be a good product, but I decided to gamble on the new idea because I was moved by the enthusiasm of Mr. Yamada and Mr. Fujiki, President of Denshiro.

Everyone at DENSHIRO thought that Mr. Nishinomiya would be the only person who would able to make WAZUTSU.
The Nishinomiya workshop. WAZUTSU was reported about in the New York Times.

I hope that our customers will cherish my tea caddies on a daily basis.

My son, Makoto, makes the Wazutsu now. I think that the younger generation should make contemporary products. I advised Makoto during the trial phase of making the Wazutsu tea caddies until we were satisfied with the end product. Makoto made so many samples and learned through trial and error because we never gave up. Mr. Yamada also refused to compromise on his desired vision, haha. We headed for the same goal: making what we were proud of. This is what I think is the most important when making cherry bark ware. If I make something I am not confident in as a product, the product will reflect this to the customer. I think that even customers who are not familiar with cherry bark ware would be able to tell. I would also feel sorry that I sold something incomplete.

I enjoy creating things. I actually like painting and making things other than cherry bark ware as a hobby. I feel that I have gradually become able to enjoy creating things in addition to cherry bark ware tea caddies over the years. For example, I made a low cherry bark ware table for our home, painted a hawk on the fusuma (Japanese-style sliding door) in my home, and made a tea caddy which has the image of a trout on it, using diospyros. Just the other day, Mr. Fujiki showed me a piece of ebony. I was very excited because the material was so beautiful. The more effort I put into the process of making cherry bark ware items, the more the products shine. I am determined to keep making cherry bark ware, and to keeping a level of high quality.

A collection of Mr. Nishinomiya’s own creations is lined up at his home. The middle tea caddies are made of ebony.


Mr. Nishinomiya’s skills and flexible mindset, along with his sensitive and masterful works, are what continue to attract people.

Masao Nishinomiya

Craftsman of cherry bark ware

Masao Nishinomiya

Born in Tazawako-machi, Senboku City, Akita in 1944. Worked as a construction joiner since the age of 16. In 1995, he established his cherry bark ware studio. Currently, he makes cherry bark ware products, focusing on using the Katamono method, in his studio with his wife, Teruko, his son, Makoto, and Makoto’s wife, Ikuko.