Japan’s Spring Cleaning Tools You Will Want to Try
Hi, this is Manami from the SUNCHI editorial desk.
It’s already December. When we become adults, a year passes by in the blink of an eye. In recent years I’ve found myself thinking about the same things when December comes around. The end of the year was just fascinating to me when I was a kid. I couldn’t wait to eat ozōni, a popular mocha filled seasonal soup, or receive New Year’s gifts from relatives. For adults in Japan, however, it’s a completely different story. Adults are very busy in December writing lots of greeting cards and doing the equivalent of spring cleaning at their homes and offices as well as preparing Toshikoshi soba, a noodle dish for welcoming the new year. We often murmur to ourselves about how busy we are but really the busyness gets us excited.
Today I would like to talk about the traditional cleaning tools used for such year-end cleaning and the unique customs of Japan for this time of year.
1. Wakayama Prefecture Shuro Brooms
Have you ever used a broom at home? I don’t use one personally. The last time I used one was when I was an elementary school student – it’s common for students to clean their classroom in Japan. However, I’ve been interested in this beautiful looking shuro broom for some time. Shuro is an evergreen windmill palm tree that is grown in places such as South Kyūshū, Shikoku, and Wakayama. Since 1877, the shuro industry has grown to produce scrubbing brushes and brooms from the bark of these trees. Thus, these brooms are made of natural materials but are highly durable and long-lasting, so it’s said that you need only three brooms in your lifetime. That means a single broom can last for 15-20 years if you care for it properly.
When you hear the words “shuro scrubbing brush”, you might imagine something with stiff bristles that could damage flooring, but shuro is softer and is suitable for scrubbing any flooring material. Moreover, the unique fibrous bark can even polish your flooring over time as it lifts away dirt and hair from surfaces, even tatami mats. It’s great for cleaning your floors every day.
Shuro brooms are produced by the Takada Kōzō Company which started making shuro products in 1930. The company has a workshop dedicated to producing brooms one by one to preserve the authentic handmade quality that will keep you wanting to use yours over time. It’s a tool but at the same time it’s a beautiful craft that channels the spirit of the artisans in Wakayama.
This broom is a handy addition to your spring and daily cleaning arsenal. It also doesn’t make any noise like a vacuum cleaner, so it can be used at night without disturbing your neighbors.
Takada Kōzō Company
2 Osaka Prefecture Galvanized Buckets
A bucket and cloth are essential for cleaning in Japan. It’s harder to clean your home by hand but very gratifying to do so at least once a year. You can clean each corner of each room when you clean this way.
This bucket might not look like anything special but its galvanized material is resistant to rust and is durable. It’s not well known but Osaka has a complex for manufacturing many iron and metal products. Osaka used to be called “the kitchen of the country” and was a hub for various cultures and technologies. That is why Osaka has advanced manufacturing technologies and produces more everyday products than fine arts and crafts. This galvanized bucket is one of them. The bucket looks very simple, as if mass-produced, but it’s handmade by artisans in a workshop established in 1923. It represents the simplicity of function with its beautiful shape.
Doi Metal & Transform Corporation
3. Nara Prefecture Mosquito Net Dishcloths
I wonder how many of you replace old or worn-out household goods when greeting the New Year. I admit that I enjoy that refreshing feeling when I replace my towels, toothbrush, kitchen sponges, and even underwear with new ones. Kitchen towels also get replaced as they are often worn out from daily use. But before throwing them away, they have one last role to fulfill as spring cleaning towels.
Towels made of mosquito net fabric are really soft, so they are easy to wring out. Since the fabric doesn’t shed fibers everywhere, they are perfect for cleaning floors. There’s no need for stitching or sewing either. Made using a traditional technique, these towels are a local product of Nara. Hana Fukin, as these towels are called, are produced by the Nakagawa Masashichi Company. This is done by stitching 2 towels together into one, yielding a large but thin towel that can be used for any cleaning purposes. And the more you use them, the better looking they become.
Nakagawa Masashichi’s Hana Fukin are also used for Ominugui, a ceremony for dusting the Great Buddha statue at Todaiji temple in Nara on August 7 every year. These very towels clean the dust off that giant statue! This goes to show the high quality of the mosquito net fabric. I think your home would be honored to be cleaned with the same towel that cleans the Great Buddha in Nara.
Nakagawa Masashichi Company
Writer/ Photographer: Manami Inoue