This photo shows the Sakura bark at different stages in the polishing process. The left side shows the bark close to its natural state and the right side shows the final, burnished finish.
Sakura bark caddies are valued for their humidity controlling properties and their natural beauty. They are made from natural materials, using techniques developed over 200 years ago.
The bark used for these beautiful pieces comes from one of two kinds of local cherry trees.
"Ooyama-zakura" or mountain cherry is found at a high altitude and is highly prized for making top-class items.
"Kasumi sakura" grows lower down the mountain and has long horizontal grains running parallel to each other.
The bark is pared from the tree trunk in thin horizontal slices. A good craftsman can tell at first glance what the bark will look like once it has been polished, and how it should be used to show it off to its best advantage.
Once the bark has been selected, it is scraped with a special tool and then polished to a burnished sheen.
The body of the tea caddy is made out of the Beech tree which is also found in the locality. Thin slices of bark are attached to the caddy using glue made of natural ingredients. Great care needs to be taken at this stage to produce a smooth surface, free from air bubbles or bumps. A special tool is heated and applied to the bark, pressing down in circular motions to ensure a perfect finish.
A good quality Sakura bark product will have aligned seams and cleanly finished edges. Each piece has its own original bark pattern, which may be slightly textured or relatively smooth according to the type of bark used. Finishes also differ from the very simple, to highly ornamental pieces decorated with cherry blossom motifs or inlaid with mother-of-pearl.