Kokontozai: KASHIYUKA’s Shop of Japanese Arts and Crafts /[CAST-IRON KETTLE] | カーサ ブルータス Casa BRUTUS

Kokontozai: KASHIYUKA’s Shop of Japanese Arts and Crafts /[CAST-IRON KETTLE]

『カーサ ブルータス』2019年8月号より

Searching all of Japan for handcrafted items that express its heart and soul, our proprietor, KASHIYUKA, presents things that bring a bit of luxury to everyday life. She travels to Morioka this time, the capital of Iwate prefecture, to view the Tohoku region’s 400-year-old Nanbu Tekki ironware craft, and in search of a beautiful, hand-cast iron kettle.

For three generations Kamasada has stood in the Morioka neighborhood of Konyacho, where streets are lined with old merchant houses. At the front of the studio is the shop, with its cast-iron kettles and pots, ashtrays, bottle openers, and even some western-style cookware. “There are many modern designs as well,” says our shopkeeper KASHIYUKA. “The lidded ashtray seems like it would also make a great vase.”
Ferociously hot, slow to cool; solid reliability alloyed with modern beauty; I think the cast-iron kettle is emblematic of the sort of tool that brings “a bit of luxury to everyday life”. Above all others, the Nanbu Tekki ironware of Morioka in Iwate prefecture has been, since the early 17th century, among the most prized by lovers of craft. I wanted to witness the traditional method of pouring molten iron into sand casts, and so I visited the 130-year-old Kamasada Nanbu Tekki ironwork studio.

“Nanbu Tekki came into being because a feudal lord of the Nanbu domain, who happened to be a devoted practitioner of the tea ceremony, prevailed upon his workers to make a kettle dedicated to it. The region was abundant in the three elements needed: high-quality iron, sand, and charcoal fuel. The kettle was made smaller, spout and handle were added, and it became the one we know today,” third-generation Kamasada director, Mr. Nobuho Miya, told us.
Purchase No.17【CAST-IRON KETTLE】A tool for living from the North Country that articulates iron’s strength and beauty.
He showed us the studio, which is said to be the same as it was when the business was established; where the smelting and mold-making is done, and where the walls and ceiling have long been black with soot. What surprised me was being told, “we make every kettle from one fundamental cast”. But since each time it’s executed it’s unique, the results are truly one-of-a-kind. The small projections on the surface, called arare, are formed one-by-one by hand.
The handle is hard-tempered by a smith.
Work desk of an artisan in charge of making casts.
It is a unique feature of the Kamasada studio that one worker makes each pot from start to finish.

“It would be more efficient if we divided up the work, but it’s much more interesting to make an item from A to Z. Though the work is hard, the artisans experience a joy in making that makes them want to go on,” Mr. Miya said. This is something I understand well. To be involved at every step pushes you to cultivate the skill and beauty of the work because you’re responsible for the whole, and out of this a feeling of engagement and accomplishment is born.
The kettle is rapidly rotated over a high charcoal heat while applying the glaze, which forms a bond with the surface.
A mixture of urushi lacquer and iron oxide powder is applied as a waterproof glaze.
“After the kettle is removed from the cast, it will be immediately tempered in a charcoal fire at about 900 degrees Celsius, which creates an interior coating of black iron oxide. This “black rust” coating serves as a shield to inhibit the formation of red rust in Nanbu Tekki.”

In the final stage the kettle is again fired in charcoal, and the surface glazed in urushi lacquer. The same care is applied to the unseen areas as to the visible ones, in the end creating a kettle that is beautiful, won’t rust, and lasts for a very long time.
“The intricate, decorative knobs on the lids, shaped like bells, plum blossoms and such are fantastic,” says KASHIYUKA.
A local weed grass called kugo is used as a brush to apply the lacquer glaze.
The purchase I chose this time is a traditional design known as Odare. The knob on the lid is shaped like a pine cone.

“In all, there are about 200 cast-iron kettle shapes. Some are from my grandfather’s time, and artisans came up with new ones from time to time. None are the work of a ‘designer’, but the styles emerged naturally along the way, and therefore, were continued.”

It’s actually very good to learn that they can be used on an induction range. This cast-iron kettle, imbued with a universal beauty, informed by antique wisdom, is well-suited to our modern life.

Cast-Iron Kettle by Kamasada

Right/Iron kettle with traditional Odare design. Can be used over direct flame and with induction systems, ¥38,500 Left/Nanbu Tekki Western-style pot. Handle can be removed for oven use. Perfect for gratin or ajillo. From ¥5,500. Kamasada / Konya-cho 2-5, Morioka-shi, Iwate tel 019 622 3911 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Closed Sunday.


Yuka Kashino, known as KASHIYUKA, is a member of the electro-pop group Perfume. Her favorite modern artist is Hiroshi Sugimoto. To support the best album Perfume The Best “P Cubed,” scheduled for Sep. 18th, Perfume will hit the road on the nationwide 4 major dome tour in Feb., 2020.www.perfume-web.jp