New Patagonia Products of Hida Forest. A Challenge to Create Sustainable Forest and Production
World renowned outdoor store Patagonia has started a local supporting project Patagonia Provisions, aiming to work on environmental issues in the area of the food industry and to support local producers. As one of the main products in the project, Hida proudly offers a project produced with wood materials out of the local forest.
Cutlery Sets That Represent Trees and Craftsmanship Unique to Hida
Patagonia in the U.S. has the original line of outdoor cutlery sets, that come with bamboo spoons, forks, knives and chopsticks. When Patagonia Japan decided to sell the product, wishing to manufacture the product with the domestic wood materials along with the Japanese resources and technology, the Japanese headquarter went to consult Tobimushi Inc., one of the investing companies for Hidakuma, who works on Japan’s forest recycling projects. Tobimushi selected Hida as the ideal hub for developing the product due to its central location in Japan, abundance in a variety of trees, and high wood processing technology. Hidakuma has been chosen to be producer for this whole project.
There are mainly two sets of wooden cutlery available on the market – one is the type that is mass-produced overseas at low cost, and the other one is made by artists, therefore the price is set at a higher end. The dilemma for producing high quality products is that the more time and effort put in to create beautiful products, the more costly they become, and furthermore each product becomes the more or less similar as if in mass-production. In addition, not all tree types are suited for the production; some hard wood materials break easily when there is a force on the spoon. Or if the manufacturer focuses more on the sturdibility, then design may need to be compromised.
In spite of all the challenges, Hidakuma successfully manufactured a cutlery set of spoon and chopsticks while keeping a good balance between the quality and cost. With the cooperation of Hida’s various carpentry shops and craftsmen, our company went through continuous trials making the products with various types of tree materials and processing methods.
And that is Cutlery Set from Hida Forest.
Great feedback Hidakuma has received includes “it has a very sensitive and flexible touch to its products, compared to the original item from the U.S. The thinness towards the tip of chopsticks and the angle and the depth of the spoon are exquisite”.
The materials used for the set is beech. It has strong durability to survive the manufacturing process and frequent use, and also a smooth touch in its texture. Beech tree happens to be a designated tree of Hida city, as it represents the beauty of native trees as well as the richness of nature in the area.
Cutting Board, Just Like Beaujolais Nouveau
While Hidakuma is pleased that beech trees have its use as cutlery set, there are still many other trees that are not made use of in Hida. For cutlery, there are only limited types and parts of the trees that can be used. For example, knots, scratches or stains cannot be used as part of the cutlery set due to its constraints.
In order to maximize the use of various trees in Hida forest, both in type and parts of trees, Hidakuma came up with the idea of manufacturing cutting boards as the next line of products.
For cutting boards, various types of trees would suit well: cherry, magnolia, chestnut, oak, maple, cherry birch, horse chestnut, walnut and more. These many types offer customers choices, which hopefully would give them a joy of choosing. Hidakuma will make sure to offer only the varieties that are available at that time, rather than trying to expand the options of materials.
So this is what we call “Nuveau of Hida Forest”, as opposed to “Beaujolais Nouveau”. Hidakuma is hoping that this concept will provide the customers to enjoy uneveness and varieties of trees from Hidakuma forest each year as part of the uniqueness that nature has to offer.
The biggest difference from Beaujolais Nouveau is that “Nuveau” of Hida Forest uses “matured (fully seasoned)” materials.
The cutting board is so small that it has a perfect thickness and weight for outdoor activities.
Because of its thickness, the board can be made with thin and narrow wooden materials. Also uneven gain appearance even adds a fun aspect to the product.
The shape is an organically beautiful design like a dress. A hole and a string attached on the side prevents the board from rattling, and enables it to store and dry on the wall.
As it happened, Patagonia Nagoya branch was just about to have a renewal opening in March 2017, where chestnut trees from Hida was used for the store floors and counters. This made Patagonia decide to sell cutting boards made with Hida’s chestnut trees at the store, before any other Patagonia shops.
Aside from chestnut trees, there will be cutting boards made with cherry and magnolia trees available throughout Patagonia shops from May 17. They also will be available at their online shop from early June.
In conjunction with the hardwood tree project Hida city has been working on, the trees that are normally considered “obstacles” or “rival” trees (i.e., not the mainstream trees for manufacturing use) will be used for this production.
These trees are traceable with the address of their birthplace. Their types, and thickness and width vary as many of them are cut from thin trees.
It is our aim to establish a flow of developing and succeeding wood processing technology, while supporting sustainability for regional resources. As part of its aim, all processes are undertaken by the local sawmill companies, carpentry shops, and craftsmen in Hida city, and the finish is completed by the local staff members at social welfare facilities.
Change Starts By Raising Awareness of Users
Once the cutlery sets are on display for sale, many customers start asking us how to take care of the products so they can use them for a long time. Hidakuma then proposed to provide a workshop on how to take care of wooden products as well as trees to end users.
One of the workshops we had in the Yokohama shop was how to polish and finish up the chopsticks and spoons from the state of bare wood pieces. Using a hammer, the customers crashed walnuts, from which the extracted oil is used to finish up their own set. After finishing the products, the customers had a chance to try out their finished products with salmon, savory grains, and soup. The workshop ends with a toast with Long Root Ale.
At Nagoya branch, which just renewed the store, arranged a Hardwood Chopstick Workshop at FabCafe Hida. It starts with selecting your own tree materials, then moves onto sharpening, polishing, and then finishes with the varnishing process. The finishing touch to the workshop is to enjoy nibbles along with beer, trying out the chopstick that you have just made.
In this workshop, the customers go through processing steps – from choosing your own wooden materials, to processing chopsticks with your own hand. The customers get to know the wood of their choice through this process. They do not need to worry even if they overly bend or scratch the wood materials, as they can polish or varnish the product.
There is an increasing pressure for the environment and those who are involved in the production due to the escalating demand for “overly high quality” products from the customer end. Hidakuma believes that offering opportunities for customers to learn about the product materials and processes would lead to improved production and sales settings.
Wooden item workshops Hidakuma offers aim to show the joy users can find in producing, maintaining, and using the items you created, but that is not all; “alarming the environmental issues, and work towards solving them through business”, a new approach and trial to production, as Patagonia proposes.
Along with partners who have great ambitions such as Patagonia, Hidakuma will continue creation of sustainable forest and items through product development, sales, and workshops.