Thinking outside the masu box...

I remember my first experience with the masu cup from a few years back.  I was at a Japanese restaurant and a friend ordered some sake.   It was served in a glass and the glass was placed inside a masu cup.  The server continued to pour the sake until the glass overflowed and filled the majority of the box with the excess abundance of libation. 

It's tradition.  Call it beverage theater.

Fast forward to today and I thought it would be an interesting project to produce a simple fusion of the masu box with an American twist.  We don't have traditional hinoki (Japanese cypress) readily available in the Pacific Northwest, so I thought I would endeavor to build some prototypes using local materials and see how it goes.  

The history of the masu cup is interesting.  It was originally used as a measurement device for rice.  Several sizes existed but I decided to focus on the gō unit, which is about 180 mL or ~ 6 fluid ounces.

It's also unclear to me why it became something from which to drink sake.  Unless, it's just what was available and convenient.  However, it has recently fallen out of favor somewhat, simply for practical reasons - restaurants must use soap and hot water to properly clean masu cups and that's going to severely limit the functional life of the wooden cup, if not destroy it.

My first attempt was with western red cedar (also in the cypress family) and it turned out well, however, I was looking for a lighter overall texture.  So, I located some portions of Alaskan yellow cedar, to try out.  This proved to be a good choice - at least in terms of creamy texture, tight grain and aromatic presence.  It really smells great.  It *may* add too much flavor to the sake, but that's why we're doing this little expedition!  We will know soon.

The other challenge was how to assemble the boxes and have them be water tight.  It's especially challenging in this case because there is no finish to seal the wood and very little glue.  My first attempts leaked a lot.  So, I dialed in the finger joints to be more precisely aligned and most of the leaks stopped.  There seems to always be some seepage, but that's just the nature of wood.  It's just a bundle of straws placed side by side.  

 

We'll keep you posted as the experiment continues.  There may be a few up for sale at some point soon.  So, please check back if you're interested!

Be well.