2016 Anime Iwai Year One Collectible Item: Masu Cups
Anime Iwai sells a unique collectible item each year. For year one "Rise," we are proud to offer masu cups, the historical Japanese vessel for measuring and drinking sake. These are handmade in Japan from Hinoki cedar wood, and branded with the Anime Iwai logo. Hinoki wood is fast drying, antibacterial and highly durable.
Note to attendees: Japanese tradition involves filling your masu cup all the way to the top edge (since that's how you get the measurement) and then overflowing it a bit to show that your household is blessed with plenty. THIS CUSTOM IS NOT FOR PRACTICING INSIDE THE DOUBLETREE!
Some history: In the times of feudal Japan sake was sold in Japanese masu which was more than a simple box, it was the standard measurement unit. The most commonly used size is the so-called 1 gou masu that has an internal volume of 180ml. This was and still is the one that is most commonly used for drinking sake.
Manufacturing: Did you know that when shaving all sides of the masu cups, expert Japanese craftsmen know precisely when each side of the masu is ready by the slight change in the sound of the shaving? There’s no need to check the finished surfaces visually. The hinoki wood used for these sake cups is harvested from the Kiso District in Nagano Prefecture in Japan.
The lumber that’s used for manufacturing masu cups undergoes a process of natural drying either indoors for a maximum of 4 months or outdoors for maximum of 1 month depending on both the quality, condition of the hinoki wood and the weather of the actual season as well. The goal of the drying the hinoki is to decrease the moisture content of the wood to a level that is appropriate for the manufacturing process. The gist of the process is to create a stack of the lumber on raised foundations and dry it gradually with a continuous flow of air. The loss of moisture inevitably causes the shrinkage of the hinoki wood, so it needs to be controlled with care as too rapid drying may lead to damaging the wood. If the lumber is considered dried, then it’s ready for manufacturing.
In this step, the lumber is cut into pieces of uniform size and shape by a machine that also shaves both sides of the lumber thoroughly. Each and every piece is checked for any faults like wood knots, deformations etc. Hinoki is a relatively expensive wood. Throughout the whole cutting process craftsman aim to leave as low waste as possible.
After cutting the parts of the masu cups into the right sizes and shaving them nicely, the joinery work starts, finger tenons are cut into all of them for joining together all four sides of the masu cups. The cutting edge of the tenon cutter machine is polished every day.
The tenons of the sides of the masu cups are first glued with a food safe adhesive, and then these side pieces are placed into the frame assembly machine that presses all 4 sides together. Next the frame is checked again visually for any kinds of faults like the assembled frame being too frail, wood knots etc. and these defected pieces are removed from the production.
All the surfaces of the assembled frames are leveled using a so-called “planer disk.” In this step, Japanese craftsmen don’t need to take a look at the masu frames; they know exactly when the surfaces of the frames are perfect by the slight change in the sound of the planing. After the frames are planed, the bottom of the cups is glued to the frames to make the masu cups complete.
In this step the masu cups are briefly put into water so that the joints get a little swollen which makes the gluing hold even better and it gives the masu cups a little gloss as well. Then all four sides of the masu cups are planed once again equally to make them completely smooth using an even finer planer disk.
Branded with the Anime Iwai logo, this collectible item is definitely not something you'll bring home from the typical anime convention! Quantities are limited.