Magewappa traditionally means lunch box or rice container, however, modern Magewappa art is adopted to produce coffee mugs and beer mugs, plates, and lampshade, utilizing its extreme thinness and soft texture of the surface of Japanese cedar tree.
Magewappa had been made by lumberjacks (Matagi) since Nara period, around 1400 years ago. At that time, the art of making this kind of box, slicing a piece of unseasoned cedar tree and stitching it by cherry-tree bark, was already established.
At the beginning of Edo period (1603-18679), the art was encouraged to pursue by then lord of Akita domain Satake Yoshinobu to save poorness of this area. The land of Akita domain had problem with cold-weather damage and flood damage, and there was a difficulty to request support from Tokugawa shogunate since Satake Yoshinobu supported Toyotomi (Enemy of Tokugawa) during Sekigahara war.
During Edo period, the Odate Magewappa was developed to be more sophisticated. There are some magewappa crafts in Japan, but only Odate Magewappa was designated as Traditional Craft by METI (Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry) in 1980.
The characteristics of cedar tree add special advantage of sterilization and it is said that it can keep rice without becoming corrupted for two days. Because of the worldwide Bento (lunch box) movement Odate Magewappa is now drawing a lot of attention.