Kunohe Village, Iwate Prefecture. The Nambu broom made in this village is different from ordinary brooms. The distinctive "shriveled" tip of the broom is what sets it apart from other brooms.
The shriveled tip of the Nambu Broom makes it easier to sweep out fine dust and dirt from tatami mats and carpets, because it digs into the crevices. People who actually use brooms say that they are able to tangle up dust even from carpets after vacuuming….
Takakura Kogei in Kunohe is the company that grows the Nambu Broom from the seed of broomcorn. How does this one-of-a-kind broom come to be? We asked Mr. Kiyokatsu Takakura, the president of Takakura Kogei, about how the Nambu Broom was born and his commitment to broom making.
Mr. Kiyokatsu Takakura
Nambu Brooms take a year of painstaking effort to make.
The secret behind the unique "shriveling" of Nambu Broom is the environment of the village. In Kunohe Village, a cold, moist northeasterly "Yamase" wind blows from the Okhotsk sea from spring to summer. This wind causes the broomcorn, which is used to make brooms, to grow slowly, giving the broom's tips their distinctive curly shape.
The first step in growing broomcorn is to prepare the soil in the spring after the snow melts. The soil is tilled thoroughly and seeds are sown one by one to grow in the cool climate.
Because no pesticides are used, the farmers have to contend with weeds until the harvest. Weeds are picked by hand many times during the season, and by the end of the summer, broomcorns are 3 meters tall. Broomcorns are then carefully harvested one by one, boiled in a kettle to dry them thoroughly, and sorted into 15 categories according to the degree of shrinkage of the tips of the ears.
By the time this process is finally completed, it is winter. After a year of preparing the materials for brooms, skilled craftsmen carefully weave the broomcorn and silk threads one by one to produce the beautiful and practical Nambu brooms. The Nambu broom, made with the utmost care, is a gem that will stay with you in your life for 20 years.
Shrunken Ears Thought They Were "Failures"Takakura Kogei was originally a farmer in Kunohe Village for generations.
Farmers in this village have a long tradition of making their own tools. The tools they use are made by themselves. However, as time went by and life became more convenient, the traditions and skills of craftsmanship were no longer being passed down. Tokusaburo Takakura, the founder of the company, was concerned about this situation. He learned the art of broom making from scratch and started growing broomcorn. He began selling the brooms he made during the off-season to nearby general merchandise stores, little by little.
At that time, they were selling brooms with straight ears, not brooms with shriveled ears. They thought that shriveled broom ears were a "failure," so they used only straight ears. However, he could not bear to throw them away. He bundled up the shriveled ears, which could not be used for products, and made them into brooms, which he gave to his relatives. Then, an unexpected call came later.
It cleans even the smallest dust particles on the carpet so well! I have never used such a broom before!
This unexpected broom led to the creation of the Nambu Broom with its unique "frizz" that has become a major characteristic of Takakura Kogei.
Difficulty in cultivation and sincere craftsmanshipToday, Kiyokatsu Takakura, the second generation of the Takakura family, is the head of Takakura Kogei. He went to an agricultural high school and college in the prefecture with the intention of taking over the family farm, studied pig farming, and worked at a pig farm in the prefecture for three years. After returning to his hometown and working as a pig farmer for several years, he became a broom maker after discussions with his parents.
I was at a loss at first because all I had thought about was becoming a farmer," he says. I had never made a broom before.
The old craftsmen didn't teach me how to make brooms easily, so I just watched and learned how to make brooms. It took me four to five years to learn the broom-making process, and I am still learning.Kiyokatsu, who handles everything from cultivation to sales, says that the most difficult part of the process is the "growing" part.
The cultivation of broomcorn depends on the climate. Although there is no scientific basis, our experience has shown us that the colder the weather, the stronger the growth.
Every year, we try to make sure the weather is right, but in 28 years of broom making, there has only been one year when the harvest and shrinkage were good and we could say, "It worked!"
It's a difficult thing that can't be solved by experience alone. Every year, I work while saying, What to do, what to do, what to do. It may be the same until I quit.
Recently Nambu brooms have been attracting attention from overseas. Takakura Kogei has received orders from the United States, France, and Qatar. Kiyokatsu says he hopes to convey the appeal of Nambu Broom not only to Japan but also to the rest of the world.
Because there is no indoor broom culture overseas, it would be interesting if we could pass on the broom that has been used in Japan for centuries. And I believe it is my mission to make sure that the Nambu broom technique is preserved for future generations.
The Nambu Broom, a traditional Japanese craft loved around the world, will gently accompany people in their daily lives and enrich their daily cleaning.