Tsubetsu Town in Northern Hokkaido prefecture, Japan, is the location of a three-generation old furniture manufacturing company, Yamagami Mokko (mountain woodworking). The company made 5400 wooden medal cases for Tokyo Olympics. And, you’d be amazed to know that this small company has only 22 employees.
Tokyo Olympic medal cases made from Japanese ash wood
The medal cases are handmade from dyed ash wood by Japanese designer and craftsman, using a technique that is based on a perfect mix of traditional woodworking techniques with their modern counterparts.
In 2019, Yamagami Yuichiro, managing director of Yamagami Carpentry, teamed up with the designer Yoshida Ma who actively participated in bidding for the Olympic medal case manufacturing contract. And, the company won the contract for designing and manufacturing around 5000 wooden medal boxes for the Tokyo Olympics 2020.
With the aim to spread a word for “MADE IN TSUBETSU“, Yamagami said,
“Even small local companies can participate in large-scale projects. These are these times, and it can be said that opportunities are everywhere.”
After winning the contract, the company came up with a subtle but amazing design that combines both modern and traditional woodworking techniques. The medal boxes are made with local Japanese ash wood, which is dyed in dark indigo blue.
Firstly, these medal cases are formed with a CNC drill and later they were finished by hand. Around eight tiny magnets are integrated into the wooden boxes and their lid for holding the two parts.
The finished product displays wooden grain in full glory, making it a perfect case for celebrating the beauty and strength of athletes from different parts of the world.
“We just buckled down with the manufacturing of the cases. Immediately before the delivery last July, the concerns were about the humid climate in Tokyo. We had never even imagined having to store them for a year. Before they were shipped, the cases were packed into carboard boxes of 48, along with insect repellent sheets often used with artifacts from museum collections. The fact that the Organising Committee promised to ‘store them in the very best environment’ gave us peace of mind”. — Yamagami Yuichiro
Designed by Junichi Kawanishi, the medals for Toyko Olympics 2020 are made out of recycled smartphone components. The video given below focuses on the medals rather than their wooden cases, but in the last few seconds, you can see a few glimpses of the cases.
It is a sweet reminder of how many Japanese people were involved in making this event successful. While the event was overshadowed by the pandemic in 2020, it is being celebrated wholeheartedly in 2021.