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Even the ash looks refined ”Ikeda-sumi” (Ikeda charcoal)

Even the ash looks refined
”Ikeda-sumi” (Ikeda charcoal)

Nose kikusumi
301 Shimotajiri, Nose-cho, Toyono-gun, Osaka

Easy to light, but burns long ”Kikusumi”

When we hear ”wooden charcoal,” we tend to associate with ”binchotan” (bincho charcoal) because it’s the finest charcoal we know of, but ”kikusumi” also known as ”Ikedasumi” (Ikeda charcoal) is just as high-quality charcoal as ”bincho”. It is called ”kikusumi” (chrysanthemum charcoal) because the cross section shows a pattern similar to the petals of a chrysanthemum.

The history of ”Ikedasumi” goes back to about 1000 when it was mainly used for scouring silver. The charcoal is easy to burn and the flame does not die out easily, and soon this charcoal was widely used, not only for the purpose of scouring.

The beauty of the charcoal, once favored by tea masters

How can ash be high-quality?
With Ikedasumi, even the ash looks white and pretty. So people holding tea ceremonies loved using this charcoal for preparing hot water. ”Kyuanji” (temple) in Ikeda-city presented Ikedasumi to the Imperial Court between 1145 to 1870, to be used for tea ceremonies. The temple is a prestigious temple where Hideyoshi Toyotomi held a tea ceremony to enjoy the evening moon in 1595.
Ikedasumi was used often until the Edo period. Although charcoal is essential for Japanese tea ceremonies, only a few stores carry them today. With the spread of electricity and gas, the demand for charcoal declined, and presently there are only five people who can make this type of charcoal.

The same kiln structure for 500 years

One of the craftsmen, Yoshitaka Kotani, kindly showed us the process of making charcoal. He uses a kiln that is 23 years old. There are workshops that use the same kiln for 100 years. The basic structure of the kiln used for making charcoal has not changed since 500 years ago. Soil and rocks used to build the kiln are all procured locally.
According to Kotani, the surface of good coal should look straight and tight, and the cross section should show crisp patterns. Because of its beautiful cross section pattern, some people purchase them for decorative purposes. Ikedasumi, once cherished by old tea masters, is still attracting us today with its beautiful aspects.


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