The art was developed and produced particularly in Kakunodate area in Akita prefecture, northern part of Japan, even though wild cherry trees are seen anywhere in Japan. The origin came from further northern Akita, Ani area and was brought by Northern Satake family (Satake Hokke) to Kakunodake area in the end of 18th century.
You may know the beauty of cherry bark, as the people lived more than 200 years ago, so Northern Satake family protected the art and encouraged as a side job for samurais in peaceful era. After Meiji started (1868-1912), the craft making became an important industry for people in Kakunodate area.
The bark which has bared many cold winters is usually pealed by naturally grown wild cherries little by little by a specialist. The bark is then cut for desired product and soaked wet. While the surface is extended by a smoothing iron, the surface grow its shine. Then the bark is processed by glue and dried. Some are put on a mold to shape the desired form, and then fixed by glue. Others are pasted on wooden base also by glue. The pasting require high skill since the surface is easily wrinkled.
Although the cherry bark itself has its own shine and beauty, some artisan add extra decoration inlays of cherry flower shape. The look is exactly expressing the spring in Japan.
Kaba Zaiku is used to be adopted to produce cigarette holders (called “Doran”) and pill cases (called “Inro”). The name Kaba is thought to represent cherry or tree barks in old days, but the truth is unrevealed.
Currently, in addition to the traditional goods like tea canisters and plates, protectors for smartphones are also popular. Kaba Zaiku was designated as Traditional Craft by METI (Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry) in 1976.