Buying trip to Japan from April 3rd to 23rd. Any orders during this period will be sent out after April 24th. Thank you for your understanding!

Meeting with a secretive artisan of incense - Mr. Tsusumi

 

It was the last day of my buying trip in spring 2022. I visited the incense craftsman Toshichiro Tsusumi in Yame village, Fukuoka prefecture. During my buying trip to Kumamoto.

I had a surprise encounter with someone who runs a forestry business at a cafe where ceramicist Loui Fukuda from Mizuho kiln introduced me.

I expressed my passion to discover a small local company producing pure, all-natural incense on Kyushu Island, but unfortunately, I couldn't find any during my trip. The forester mentioned that he supplies wood branches and leaves to an incense maker whenever he fells trees for work. This incense maker is seeking a distributor for his products. Fortunately, our schedules aligned on the final day of my trip, allowing me to meet Toshichiro Tsutsumi, the artisan behind these incense products. Crafted with no preservatives, using only natural ingredients sourced from our beloved Kyushu Island.

The Tsutsumi family has been running an incense business for 75 years now. Their home is nestled beside a gentle river, they used a water wheel to crush ingredients.

Unfortunately, heavy rainfall caused flooding in the area three years ago, damaging the water wheel and putting a pause on its operation.

A wooden wheel nearly a century old. The substance on the wheel isn't dust; it's actually the powdered incense ingredient! 

I love catching sight of such charming vintage pieces!

Toshichiro mentioned, "I love watching the way the smoke drifts. I've experimented countless times to get the perfect blend for this rich incense." 

 

The bento box from Mrs. Tsutsumi was a delightful surprise. Meeting them for the first time felt like being welcomed by long-lost relatives.

He begins by gathering locally sourced woods and leaves.  

To prevent burning the ingredients during the slow carbonization process, he seals his kiln tightly with red clay, eliminating excess oxygen. This careful method makes sure the materials are slowly carbonized to prevent any scorching. Toshichiro carefully crafted this kiln to smoke wood for charcoal production, emphasizing the significance of producing high-quality charcoal for the incense-making process.

The indoor air was filled with the sweet aroma of cedar wood. They obtained the branches and leaves from local forestry workers to make sure every part of the wood was utilized efficiently.

The air was filled with powders (though the aroma was amazing!). Breathing was quite difficult inside the room where the machine crushed the dry ingredients, turning them into powders.

The delicate powder crafted from wooden branches and leaves comprises entirely of locally sourced natural ingredients.

 

Mixing the wood powders with water resembles the process of making bread dough. (Toshichiro actually uses the bread dough mixer!)

 

After blending the ingredients, he plunges the dough into the noodle-making machine - ensuring each strand is precisely the size of ramen noodles!

Trimming the freshly made incense while it's still pliable, allowing it to naturally dry and prepare for shipment.

 

Thank you Mr. and Mrs. Tsutsumi.

Toshichiro Tsutsumi represents the fourth generation of his family's incense business. He is dedicated to utilizing local natural components and refrains from incorporating any synthetic chemicals in his products. His passion lies in crafting unique fragrances using seasonal ingredients.