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. The find this time was Matsumoto hōki, in continuous production in Matsumoto, Nagano prefecture since long before Japan’s modern era. They’re gorgeous, handcrafted brooms of hōki morokoshi, a variety of sorghum sometimes called broom corn, grown by the crafters themselves.
Large and small Matsumoto hōki line the wall at Yonezawa Hōki Kōbo. Third-generation director, Mr. Motonao Yonezawa, even makes a slim version to fit the contemporary lifestyle, yet maintaining the traditional shape and fabrication techniques. “It takes a lot more labor than I’d imagined. I now get why folks wait up to two years for one,” says our shopkeeper KASHIYUKA.
When one hears hōki, one thinks of cleaning tatami mats. Or so I thought, and then I heard that they’re good for all types of flooring, which inspired my interest in Matsumoto hōki, made in the folk arts-focused town of Matsumoto. Their characteristic feature is the material they’re made of, the supple stalks of the sorghum bicolor strain known as hōki morokoshi. It has a lush green color, springy and soft to the touch.
Purchase No. 29 [Matsumoto Hōki] A supple, sturdy broom from a town known for its folk arts.
“I still use a broom my grandfather made more than 40 years ago. The color of the stalks has turned to amber, but that hasn’t hampered its ability to sweep, and I’ve lost only a rare few stalks to breakage. It’s a tribute to the quality of Japanese products,” says Mr. Motonao Yonezawa, the third-generation head of Yonezawa Hōki Kobo. There were once more than 300 fields full of hōki morokoshi, and over a hundred houses engaged in broom making in this area, but now only Mr. Yonezawa and his parents can cultivate the sorghum that makes up these brooms. There are only 600 of these rare Matsumoto Hōki made each year, and they’re so beautiful you almost want to just keep them on display.
The bundled stalks are tied with hemp strands, robust and beautiful.
“Yotsudama”, gathering and tying strands together in four bundles, is the traditional style of Matsumoto hōki.
“If you find the broom beautiful it’s fitting to hang it on a wall, say, in the living room. It’s easily at hand when you want to clean up,” Mr. Yonezawa says. Handmade brooms can be found throughout Japan. For instance, there are Kanuma Hōki are from Tochigi prefecture, Nambu Hōki from Iwate prefecture, and each has its own weaving method and material.