Nambu Tekki | The Enduring Craft of Japanese Cast Ironware

 

The traditional craft of Nambu Tekki ironware was founded over four centuries ago during the Edo period (1803-1868). The name refers to the domain in which it was founded, an area that lies northeast of Japan which is now known for its iron industry. As a centuries-old craft, Nambu Tekki ironwares have been passed down from generation to generation as cherished items in Japanese households - beloved for its enduring design and embodiment of Japanese ‘wa’ values.


Nambu Tekki ironware is historically traced back to the cities of Morioka and Mizusawa in Iwate prefecture. The craft is said to have flourished when the tea adoring feudal lord of the Nambu domain invited craftsmen and artisans from Kyoto to develop iron tea kettles using the abundance of resources available - including iron, sand, clay and lacquer. The iconic iron tea kettle (tetsubin) which Nambu Tekki ironware is most known for, was redesigned from the chagama - a large kettle used in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. These items were highly valued and gifted to the feudal lords as offerings at the time.

The production of Nambu Tekki ironware requires immaculate precision and patience by the skilled craftsmen. Each handcrafted piece goes through tedious layers of production to ensure rust prevention and lifelong use. The ironware is baked in charcoal several times to create an inner oxide film and a further coating is made with an urushi lacquer glaze. Built upon 400 years of technique, this labour intensive process ensures Nambu Tekki’s exceptional heat retention qualities and durability that is said to last more than 100 years.


In recent decades, Nambu Tekki ironware was officially certified as the first Traditional Craftwork of Japan. Despite facing the hardships of an ever-changing industry with shifting values, Nambu Tekki continues to overcome the adversities of modernisation to preserve the values of the craft. Today, Nambu Tekki ironware is widely recognized and cherished all over the world. Its ethos which combines practicality with artistry continues to be embodied in contemporary designs which are adapted to the modern kitchen.