unless otherwise noted, all photos courtesy Shinya Yoshida

Nestled deep in Northern Hokkaido is the town of Tsubetsu: pop 4400. It’s home to Yamagi Mokko, a 3rd generation family owned furniture company with just 22 employees. But size is not always an indicator of success. Back in 2019, the company won a contract to design and create 5000 wooden cases for Tokyo Olympic medals.

Yamagi Mokko’s 3rd generation president Yuichiro Yamagami bid on the contract, along with Chiba-based industrial designer Shinya Yoshida. The pair proposed a subtle yet striking design that blends traditional and modern woodworking techniques. Made from locally-sourced Japanese ash wood that would later be dyed in dark indigo blue, the cases were first created by a CNC drill and then later finished by hand. A total of eight small magnets embedded in the case and lid hold the two parts together. The final design elegantly highlights the wooden grain, and is the perfect vessel to celebrate the strength and beauty of the athletes.

The medals themselves were designed by Junichi Kawanishi are are made from recycled cell phone components. The video below emphasizes the medals rather than the cases, but towards the end you can catch glimpses of the cases being made. It’s a nice reminder of just how many people all across Japan were involved in supporting this event, which unfortunately has become overshadowed by the pandemic.

photos courtesy Tokyo 2020 Olympics Committee