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~Past Event ~
2007 Information

Wa-rosoku Demonstration & Workshop
by Yasukazu Matsumoto

(Photo courtesy of Matsumoto-san)

About Wa-Rosoku (Japanese candles)
Wa-rosoku uses pith wicks from reed grass, and the oil of sumac (haze) - called tree wax (mokuro) as raw materials. Mokuro is pressed from the outer shell of sumac nuts. Wa-rosoku was introduced from China in the late 16th century and had peak popularity during the Edo Period (1603-1867). These candles have a close relationship to traditional Buddhist culture. The "E-rosoku (flowered candles)" with seasonal flowers painstakingly painted onto them one by one by artisans have long been used in such colder regions as the Tohoku and Hokuriku in lieu of regular flower offerings at home Buddhist altars. From the later 19th century onward, the introduction of western candles using paraffin (hydrocarbon-fossil based) led to their steady decline. However, in recent years they are getting serious new attention as interior decorations, and today some 30 shops nationwide are manufacturing wa-rosoku by traditional methods.

Tree wax has unique viscosity and other physical properties not seen in paraffin or other waxes. It also has a safetiness that complies with Japan's Food and Health Regulations. Other than in wa-rosoku, it also is being used in a variety of ways, such as in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, colored pencils, crayons and pastels. It is gaining high regard abroad as "Japanese wax" or "vegetable wax."

(Haze no mi)

(Mokuro / Tree Wax)

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About Matsumoto Store, Inc.
(Photo of Matsumoto Store, Inc)

Founded in 1877, the Matsumoto Store Inc. specializes in manufacturing and sales of "wa-rosoku" (Japanese candles). It is also the only store in Hyogo Prefecture inviting customers to observe and learn about the traditional candle making process.

At the Matsumoto Store, Japanese candles are manufactured by two methods. The traditional method is called shojo kigake - free forming by hand without molds adding wax layer by layer. A second method is katanagashi - pouring wax into molds.

Shojo kigake refers to "candles hand made with plant wax as the raw material", a method that has been traditional since the 17th century. First, a long bamboo stick is inserted into the wick (reed grass wrapped around Japanese paper). The tree wax is heated to a temperature of 40ºC~42ºC. The wax is then applied to the wick repeatedly allowing a drying/solidifying step between applications until the desired size is achieved. Finally, after applying an outer coating of tree wax with a higher melting point (52ºC~55ºC), the wick is exposed at the top, the candle is pulled off the bamboo stick and the length is made uniform by "bottom cutting".

Traditional wa-rosoku formed in this way have some special properties such as: 1) suitable for use outdoors even in strong winds, 2) produce less soot than candles made of other materials, and 3) burn evenly and cleanly with little drip due to the use of wax with a higher melting point on the outside layer.

Matsumoto Store, Inc.
Tel: 81-798-36-6021
FAX: 81-798-26-1338

(Kigake Process)

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Mr. Yasukazu Matsumoto - Profile
Following tradition, Mr. Yasukazu Matsumoto worked for five years in the banking industry to gain experience outside the family business. At the age of 28 he assumed the responsibility of leading the Matsumoto Store, Inc. into the 4th generation as a family operated business while continuing the traditional wa-rosoku craft.

To make the art and crafting of wa-rosoku known to more people, he conducts demonstrations at department stores in Japan. And, in 1995 he exhibited at a traditional crafts fair in Taiwan. Matsumoto san continues his efforts to introduce this traditional art-form abroad. His appearance at 2007 Aki Matsuri was his first trip to the USA.

(Photo courtesy of Matsumoto-san)

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