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. This time she visited the city of Takashima in Shiga prefecture, where she came across what is known as the Omi candle, handmade of wax that is pressed from the nut of the haze, or “wax tree”, a Japanese variety of sumac.
I love candles and often use them at home, though I’ve always been troubled by the soot they leave on walls and furniture. Then I learned about wa-rosoku (literally, “Japanese candles”) which, because they’re made from plant-based materials, leave little soot or oily smoke, and hardly any wax drips from them. That surely intrigued me.
It’s a one hour drive from Kyoto, accompanied by the calm vista of Lake Biwa. The place we visited this time was Takashima, a city in Shiga prefecture. Daiyo was established here in 1914; a place, from distant days, of many temples and thus, many candles are used in religious and tea ceremonies. For nearly a century the studio has made nothing but wa-rosoku. According to Mr. Satoshi Onishi, the fourth-generation master, “the technique for making these traditional candles seems to have been around since about the middle Edo period [1603-1868], but without adding in other ingredients, there are very few natural materials that can be used to make them. We use only wax pressed from the nut of the haze tree on the island of Kyushu. It’s quite rare, and with it we make each candle one-by-one, using the same handcrafting technique inherited from the ancient past.”
Tegake, the technique for handcrafting the candles, involves repeatedly scooping the hot, melted wax up with bare hands (!), building layer upon layer of wax, much like a tree’s annual rings. There are said to be fewer than ten craftspeople in the world practicing this technique.