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The Charm and History of Japanese Candles

This video, titled "Good Sign, Vol. 39 Japanese Candles|Daiyo" (Good Sign 第39回 和ろうそく 大與), was uploaded by "Good Sign."
It introduces the traditional Japanese candles made by Daiyo, a workshop in Imazu, Takashima in Shiga Prefecture.

In Imazu, a town on the northern shore of Lake Biwa in Takashima, Shiga, located in Japan's Kansai region, there is an old Japanese candle shop called "Daiyo" (大與) that has been making candles for 100 years.
Daiyo's traditional Japanese candles are among the precious candles stored at Eiheiji Temple, the head temple of the Soto sect of Buddhism.
Be sure to enjoy this video about Japanese candles, a traditional culture with a long history in Japan, while following along with the article!

The History of Japan's Beautiful Candles

Image of Japanese candles
Photo:Japanese candles

Japanese candles are traditional candles that have been handed down from one generation to the next in Japan.
Japanese candles were first produced in the 1300s.
There is mention of candles in the Taiheiki (太平記, Chronicle of Great Peace) of 1375, which means that candles have a history of at least (approximately) 650 years, making them very old.

Japanese candles are made from wax made from the fruit of the wax tree, a member of the poison oak family.
Other types of wax include soy wax made from soybeans, beeswax from beehives, and wax made from whale oil.

What Makes Daiyo's Candles Unique?

Image of wax tree fruit
Photo:Wax tree fruit

The traditional Japanese candles made in Imazu, Takashima, Shiga, have been made using handmade techniques since ancient times, and there are only about ten craftsmen in the whole country who have inherited these techniques.
It is said that it takes more than 10 years to become a full-fledged Japanese candle maker.
At present, the third and fourth generations of Japanese candle makers are working together to keep the tradition alive.
Traditional Japanese candles are truly one of Japan's representative crafts.
The raw materials used and finished candles can be seen starting from 1:36 in the video.

The Japanese candle making workshop Daiyo continues to take on various challenges in search of new possibilities.
For example, making scented candles and oils, which are popular both in Japan and abroad.
They've even tried using rice bran instead of the wax tree.
This didn't work because it wasn't possible to add fragrance to the rice bran wax.
However, Daiyo took this into consideration and made a candle that is perfect for places where fragrance is not needed.
Compared to Western candles that use petroleum, rice bran wax is smokeless and odorless, making it perfect for restaurants and other dining establishments.

In addition to being used for light, Japanese candles can also be used as common household goods, just like plates and bowls, and they are once again becoming a part of our daily lives.

The Appeal of Japan's World-Renowned Candles

The purely plant-based Japanese candle is highly regarded overseas for its environmental friendliness.
To make a Japanese candle wick, a bamboo skewer is wrapped with Japanese paper and the stems of soft rush.
Melted wax is then taken in the hand, and the wick is rolled and waxed.
The wax thickness is then adjusted by repeating the waxing.
Since Japanese candles use only Japanese paper and the stems of the soft rush, they are 100% plant-based and do not produce soot.
The flickering flame is another unique quality of Japanese candles.

Furthermore, painted candles are also very popular both in Japan and abroad.
By mixing colored Japan wax into the painted candles, they can be molded properly and have a glossy appearance.
The appeal of Japanese candles is spreading overseas as well, and they are highly valued around the world.

Where to Buy Japanese Candles

Image of a Kyo-rousoku candle
Photo:A Kyo-rousoku candle

There are very few stores in Japan that sell traditional Japanese candles.
In addition to Imazu, Takashima in Shiga Prefecture, Ehime Prefecture is famous for Uchiko candles, Fukui Prefecture for Echizen candles, and Fukushima Prefecture for Aizu painted candles.
In addition, you can buy special Japanese candles at Matsumoto Shoten in Nishinomiya in Hyogo Prefecture.

There are also stores in Tokyo and Kyoto that sell Japanese candles.
These days, Japanese candles can also be purchased online, where you can choose from a variety of products from the comfort of your own home.

A Tidbit on Japanese Candles

The weight of Japanese candles is expressed in "monme."
1 monme is equal to approximately 3.75 grams.
A 1 monme candle is about 7 cm long and burns for about 25 to 30 minutes.

Summary of Traditional Japanese Candles

Japanese candles date back roughly 650 years.
Nowadays, they are highly valued overseas, and are considered to be environmentally friendly candles.

However, it is also true that the number of candle makers is decreasing as candles have become less prevalent in modern society.
Therefore, Daiyo, an old Japanese candle workshop in Imazu, Takashima, Shiga, continues pass down the craft, despite the challenges it faces.

Discover the charm of a long-established Japanese candle shop that has been around for more than 100 years!

【Official Website】Handmade Japanese Candles - Daiyo

Written By
Last Updated : Apr. 23, 2023
岡本 修(Shu Okamoto)
A writer fascinated by Japanese architecture. I'll introduce you to buildings and food in Japan!
Traditional Japanese Candles - Preserving a Beautiful Craft
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