Traditional Japanese candles are called warosoku, which directly translates to “Japanese candle.” They are handmade with wax from the nuts of the Japanese wax tree, and are completely plant-based.
Warosoku are known for having tall, wind-resistant flames thanks to their sturdy wicks. In fact, their flames are so resilient that a candle snuffer is necessary for putting them out. While the wicks of their typical western counterparts are made of cotton, which generates smoke and soot, warosoku’s wicks are made from the stalks of the common rush with washi paper twisted around them, and generate almost no smoke at all. They burn brightly and cleanly, creating a pleasant atmosphere wherever used.
Each and every part of the warosoku crafting process, from making the wicks to adding the final finishing touches, is done by skilled craftspeople who pay careful attention to each and every candle they make. Since the wax, known as mokuro in Japanese, has a low melting temperature, the warosoku artisans can handle it with their bare hands. They dip their hands into bowls of melted wax and hand-coat the wicks layer upon layer. As this process is repeated, the warosoku grow thicker with layers all the way through like the rings of a tree.
Warosoku have been used since ancient times. Although Western-style candles began being imported during the Meiji Period, Japan’s warosoku continue to be used in the traditional manner at Buddhist temples and ceremonies, and have also gained popularity for use in the home for the soothing atmosphere they create.
The Omori family have been making warosoku for six generations in Uchiko, a charming, historic town nestled amongst deep forests at the heart of Ehime Prefecture. During the 1800’s, Uchiko was a major producer of warosoku used around Japan. Though many workshops have disappeared with the introduction of mass produced candles, warosoku remain an important part of Japanese culture. Today, Ehime’s warosoku tradition is carried on by 6th-generation craftsman Taro Omori and his son, Ryotaro, at Omori Warosoku, the last remaining traditional Japanese candle shop in Ehime.
Caring for your warosoku’s flame is easy, and can be done with the use of a shin-kiri,or wick trimmer. When the wick begins to burn down significantly, you can trim it to about 1 - 2 cm while the flame is still alight. This method, which was also used for Western candles until the mid-19th Century, keeps the flame burning efficiently.
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