30 October, 2011

Japanese Candle Making

  This week, I went to Kitano-kobo-no-machi, or Kitano Meister Garden, in Kobe to experience Japanese candle making. Kitano Meister Garden, housed in a former elementary school building includes many Kobe brand-name stores, from sweets to traditional craft work. One of these stores is Matsumoto Shoten, a store specializing in Japanese candles. The main store is in Nishinomiya city, but you can experience creating your very own Japanese candle at Kitano Meister Garden.

Matsumoto Shoten at Kitano Meister Garden

 The candles we usually see are made from paraffin, but Japanese candles are all carefully handmade from a substance called Mokuro. Mokuro is a type of wax created from the seeds of what is commonly known as the wax tree, or Hazenoki in Japanese. With a history dating back to the early Edo era, Matsumoto Shoten is the only Japanese candle store in the entire prefecture, so creating a Japanese candle there was a very special experience.  

Wax tree Seeds and Mokuro

  The candles are all hand painted. The cute paintings and bright colors were very eye-catching.

Japanese Candles

  There are 6 major steps in creating Japanese candles. At Matsumoto Shoten, you can experience step number 4, called uwagake, as well as painting the candle. Uwagake is a step to thinly coat the wick of the candle with mokuro.

6 Main Steps to Make Japanese Candle

  Like this…he makes it look easy.
                                     Melted Mokuro                            Uwagake

  But when I gave it a try, I couldn’t get the mokuro to cover the candle evenly and give the candle a proper form. It’s supposed to look much smoother than this.

But I figured what’s done is done, and I moved onto painting.
I decided to make it into Kobe’s Port Tower.

Candle After Uwagake Done by Shark

  This is a Japanese candle from Matsumoto Shoten, and what a real candle should look like. What’s unique about these candles is that because they’re handmade, the shape and size of the flame tends to change from time to time. Even as I watched, I saw the flame get round, bob up and down, and get stronger and weaker.

Japanese Candle from Matsumoto Shoten

  This is the candle made by Shark. It's supposed to be Port Tower. Obviously I could use more practice.

Candle made by Shark

  Matsumoto Shoten has been providing candles to Himeji Castle and large temples in Nara since the Edo era, and to be able to experience the art of Japanese candle making at such a well-established and historical store is a rare experience. Come and try Japanese candle making when you’re in town!

Kitano Meister Garden (Kitano Kobo-no-machi)
Address:  3-17-1 Nakayamatedori
   Chuo-ku, Kobe-shi
Access: A 15 minute walk towards north of JR Motomachi Station

Warosoku (Japanese Candle) Matsumoto Shoten
http://www.warosoku.com/ (Japanese

Painting Only
Time: 30 minutes
Fee: \1,100

Candle Making Only
Time: 10 minutes
Fee: \1,100

Candle Making and Painting
Time: 60 minutes

Fee: \1,300

Our next issue will include a report on the Busan International Film Festival by Soo. See you next time!